United becomes first to fly passengers using sustainable fuel

Posted on Dec 06 2021

CHICAGO—United Airlines flew last week an unprecedented flight that will serve as a turning point in the industry’s effort to combat climate change: for the first time in aviation history, a commercial carrier flew an aircraft full of passengers using 100% sustainable aviation fuel.

Also last week, United announced the second round of corporate participants in the airline’s Eco-Skies Alliance program to collectively contribute toward the purchase of SAF.  

SAF is an alternative fuel made with non-petroleum feedstocks. SAF has the potential to deliver the performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a fraction of its carbon footprint, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the country’s vast feedstock resources are enough to meet the projected fuel demand of the entire U.S. aviation industry.  

United already has agreements to purchase nearly twice as much SAF as the known agreements of all other global airlines combined.

“United continues to lead from the front when it comes to climate change action,” said United CEO Scott Kirby, who flew aboard yesterday’s historic SAF flight. “Today’s SAF flight is not only a significant milestone for efforts to decarbonize our industry, but when combined with the surge in commitments to produce and purchase alternative fuels, we’re demonstrating the scalable and impactful way companies can join together and play a role in addressing the biggest challenge of our lifetimes.” 

The demonstration flight—which departed Thursday with more than 100 passengers from  Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and landed at Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport—used a new United 737 MAX 8 and 500 gallons of SAF in one engine and the same amount of conventional jet fuel in the other engine. 

United’s Eco-Skies Alliance program was launched in April 2021 and now has collectively contributed toward the purchase of more than 7 million gallons of SAF this year alone. (PR)

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