United Airlines operates first commercial flight with 100% Sustainable Fuel

Dec. 3, 2021
It operated the flight in partnership with Boeing, CFM International, Virent and World Energy

United Airlines operated the first commercial aircraft using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and to Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport on Wedneday.

The airline company operated the flight in partnership with Boeing, CFM International, Virent and World Energy. Executives of each of those firms were present on the flight, which carried 100 passengers.

The new United 737 MAX 8 used 500 gallons of SAF in one engine and 500 gallons of conventional jet fuel in the other engine, demonstrating that there was no operational difference between the two, setting the stage for scalable uses of SAF by all airlines.

SAF is an alternative fuel made using non-petroleum feedstocks such as waste products. The U.S. Department of Energy says the SAF’s performance is the same as petroleum-based jet fuel but only has a fraction of its carbon footprint, although currently airlines are only permitted to use a maximum of 50% SAF on board.

"Today's SAF flight is not only a significant milestone for efforts to decarbonize our industry," United CEO Scott Kirby said, "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."

Meanwhile, United Airlines also announced a second round of participants in its Eco-Skies Alliance program. The new participants include Microsoft, Salesforce, Zurich North America, Biogen, Bolloré Logistics, Palo Alto Networks and more.

The program was launched in April 2021 and has contributed to the purchase of 7 million gallons of SAF in a year. The fuel can reduce GHG emissions by nearly 80% compared to conventional jet fuel.

The SAF flight is in line with United Airlines’ goal to become 100% green by 2050 without relying on carbon offsets.