Sustainability takes flight at United

Alexander Vanryckeghem, Sales Manager Belgium and Luxembourg, United Airlines

Aviation is an important economic engine which drives trade and tourism across the globe. It generates business opportunities and enhances quality of life in both developed and developing regions of the world. However, aviation produces approximately two percent of human-caused CO2 emissions and addressing greenhouse gas emissions requires a global approach. Chicago-based global carrier United Airlines is one airline which is committed to reducing its emissions and plans to be 100% green by 2050.

As the leader of one of the world’s largest airlines, United’s Chief Executive Officer, Scott Kirby, recognizes the airline’s responsibility in contributing to the fight against climate change and its need to be part of the solution. The airline is not just investing in new technologies to meet its own sustainability goal, it is also driving positive change across the industry, to help every airline eventually play its part in dealing with climate change. There is a limit to what a single company can do alone, which is why United continues to seek opportunities to collaborate with other industries to develop a coordinated approach to achieving carbon neutrality.

In 2018, United became the first US airline to publicly commit to a carbon emissions reduction target. Since then, the airline embraced the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050. United will advance towards carbon neutrality by committing to a multimillion-dollar investment in revolutionary atmospheric carbon capture technology known as Direct Air Capture, rather than indirect measures like carbon-offsetting, in addition to continuing to invest in the development and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The Eco-Skies Alliance, a first-of-its-kind program, enables leading global corporations to work with United to help power flying in a more sustainable way. Sustainable fuel is made from renewable resources, byproducts and waste. It has up to 80% fewer carbon emissions than conventional jet fuel, making it an effective way to reduce emissions.

United has made significant investments in a modern, fuel-efficient fleet, including the purchase of 270 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft. This means United will replace older, smaller mainline jets and at least 200 single-class regional jets with larger aircraft, which the airline expects will lead to significant sustainability benefits: an expected 11% overall improvement in fuel efficiency and an expected 17-20% lower carbon emission per seat compared to older planes.

Most recently, United Airlines announced a commercial agreement with Denver-based aerospace company Boom Supersonic. The deal aims to add Overture, a supersonic aircraft, to United’s global fleet and also includes a cooperative sustainability initiative. Once operational, Overture is expected to be the first large commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from day one, optimized to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). It is set to roll out in 2025, fly in 2026 and carry passengers by 2029. United and Boom will also work together to accelerate production of greater supplies of SAF.

At the core of United’s culture is innovative thinking. United is committed to reaching its goals and reducing emissions. The airline understands there is much more work to do and plans to get there, not with flashy, empty gestures, but by taking the harder, better path of actually reducing the emissions from flying.

About the author

Alexander Vanryckeghem, Sales Manager Belgium and Luxembourg, United Airlines

Alexander is a sales professional with a deep knowledge of business development within the aviation industry and an interest in creating positive, sustainable solutions for air travel to the US. He has a proven record of executing sales strategies that have resulted in revenue growth and exceptional customer experience.