Google, Air New Zealand and More Join United’s Sustainable Flight Fund

united airplane on tarmac with the future is SAF on the side

(Credit: United Airlines)

by | Feb 16, 2024

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United has added several new corporate partners to the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and drive production of sustainable alternative fuel by investing in startups.

Among the new members are Aircastle (a Marubeni and Mizuho Leasing company), Air New Zealand, Embraer, Google, HIS, Natixis Corporate & Investment Banking, Safran Corporate Ventures, and Technip Energies. The fund now has 22 corporate members in total, which come from across the aviation industry, including airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers, fuel producers, engineering and technology experts, financiers, travel management and more.

The fund has received $200 million in commitments since its inception in February 2023. It is the first and only venture fund backed by a broad limited partner base and created to find startups focused on delivering SAF, according to United.

SAF is an alternative to traditional jet fuel that has the aviation industry buzzing for its potential to reduce emissions in the space. One recent report pegged the SAF market potential to reach $16.8 billion by 2030. However, despite the excitement for SAF, it has yet to reach wide-scale production levels. Currently, SAF can be mixed with jet fuel, but Virgin Airlines became the first commercial airline to complete a flight run on 100% SAF last year, attempting to promote the fuel’s ability to successfully reduce emissions without compromising on flight quality.

According to United, it has invested in the future production of more than 5 billion gallons of SAF, which is more than any other airline.

“SAF is the best tool we have to decarbonize airplanes, but we don’t have enough of it. To create the fuel supply we need for our fleet, United recognized that we would have to help build a brand-new industry from scratch — like wind and solar in previous decades,” said Andrew Chang, managing director of United Airlines Ventures. “As part of our effort to build a new sustainable aviation ecosystem, we recruited a group of partners with the industry expertise to support our startups with both financial and strategic capital, to help them navigate the entire process from conception to commercialization.”

The venture fund also enables consumers to take part, with the United app giving an option to contribute $1, $3, or $7 before check-out. The airline said more than 115,000 people have contributed nearly $500,000 since February 2023.

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