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United first US airline to pledge 50 percent GHG emissions cut by 2050

United Airlines, Inc., has made history by becoming the first US airline to publicly commit to reducing its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2005. The airline will continue to invest in the company's ongoing environmental initiatives to support this commitment, including expanding the use of more sustainable aviation biofuels, welcoming newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft into its fleet and implementing further operational changes to better conserve fuel.

United Airlines has pledged to reduce its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent by 2050 by the use of biojet fuel as well as investing in fuel-efficient aircraft such as Boeing’s 787. To mark the announcement, United will carry out the longest transatlantic flight to date with a 30/70 blend of biojet fuel on September 14 (photo courtesy United).

Announced on September 13, United’s pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent relative to 2005 represents the equivalent of removing 4.5 million vehicles from the road each year, or the total number of cars in Los Angeles and New York City combined and further strengths the carrier’s ambition to be “the world’s most environmentally conscious airline”.

At United, we believe there is no point in setting challenging and ambitious goals without also taking tangible steps towards achieving them, especially when it comes to securing the health of our communities and our planet. While we’re proud to be first US carrier taking such an ambitious step, it is a distinction we look forward to sharing as the rest of the industry catches up and makes similar commitments to sustainability, said Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines.

Sustainable aviation biofuel flight from San Francisco to Zurich

To celebrate this significant milestone, United will operate flight 44 on September 14 from its hub in San Francisco (SFO) to Zurich (ZRH), Switzerland with the carrier’s most fuel-efficient aircraft – the Boeing 787 – via a blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supplied by World Energy’s California-based AltAir Fuels.

The airline will use 16 000 (US) gallons (≈ 60 566 litres) of biojet fuel at a 30/70 blend with conventional jet fuel for the flight to Zurich, representing the longest transatlantic flight to date – and longest by a US airline – powered by a biofuel volume of this size.

United has sourced more than 2 million gallons (≈ 7.5 million litres) of SAF since 2016 and says that it is responsible for more than 50 percent of the airline industry’s commitments to biofuel. According to United, its commitment to reduce GHG emissions represents yet another first for the airline in an “extensive list of innovative initiatives” undertaken to reduce its impact on the environment.

Several of United’s most significant environmental achievements include:

  • Becoming the first airline globally to use sustainable aviation biofuel on an ongoing daily basis, marking a significant milestone in the industry by moving beyond test programs and demonstrations to the everyday use of low-carbon biofuels in ongoing operations.
  • Investing more than US$30 million in California-based SAF producer Fulcrum BioEnergy, which remains the single largest investment by any airline globally in alternative fuels. United’s agreement to purchase nearly 1 billion gallons (≈ 3.784 billion litres) from Fulcrum BioEnergy is the largest offtake agreement for biofuel in the airline industry.
  • Becoming the first airline to fly with Boeing’s Scimitar winglets, which reduce fuel consumption by an additional 2 percent; United is the largest Scimitar winglet operator today, with nearly 400 aircraft equipped with these winglets.
  • Becoming the first US airline to repurpose items from the carrier’s international premium cabin amenity kits and partnering with Clean the World to donate hygiene products to those in critical need.
  • Eliminating non-recyclable plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks on aircraft and replacing them with an environmentally-friendly product made of 100 percent bamboo.
  • Continuing to replace its eligible ground equipment with cleaner, electrically powered alternatives, with nearly 40 percent of the eligible fleet converted to date.

United Airlines was the first airline to fly with Boeing’s Scimitar winglets, which reduce fuel consumption by an additional 2 percent and is the largest Scimitar winglet operator today, with nearly 400 aircraft (photo courtesy United).

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