Our environmental strategy

United Airlines is the first global airline to commit to achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2050, without relying on the use of voluntary carbon offsets.

United is committed to redefining the future of air travel with environmental responsibility and sustainability at the forefront. We believe that it is critical, now more than ever, to continue to serve our purpose of connecting people and uniting the world, and we are committed to finding solutions that foster a future of more sustainable air travel. We believe that it is our responsibility to take tangible steps to mitigate climate change impacts from our operations and we will continue to engage with partners across the aviation landscape, seeking new ways to reduce our environmental impact in the air, on the ground and at our facilities to benefit our employees, customers and stockholders.

To meet our 2050 goal, United also committed to a mid-term target of reducing, compared to 2019, its carbon emissions intensity by 50% by 2035. This intensity target is intended to align United’s net zero goal with the Paris Agreement and provides a nearer term benchmark towards our long-term goals. This 2035 target received independent validation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in May 2023.

Our strategy to achieve our climate goals is centered around four key pathways:

Emitting less by using less

Reduce our fossil jet fuel consumption and GHG emissions by introducing more efficient aircraft, operational efficiency and investments in lower carbon alternative propulsion technologies

Adopt more sustainable alternatives

Help to scale, commercialize and adopt sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) within aviation through demand signals, investment and procurement

Improve operations beyond flights

Reduce our GHG emissions on the ground by seeking to embed more sustainability across our enterprise

Collaborate with partners

Work with policy leaders, airports, communities, employees and other stakeholders across our value chain to advance the future of a more sustainable flight

1. Emit less by using less

A primary objective is to reduce the emissions from United’s current conventional jet fuel consumption, which is the single largest contributor to our environmental footprint. To do so, we are improving the fuel efficiency of our aircraft and reducing GHG emissions from fuel burn throughout our operations. Through our United Next program, we are working to replace existing aircraft with new aircraft, reducing United’s per-seat carbon emissions by approximately 20% compared to the older models being replaced. United is also enhancing operational efficiency, including implementing operational and procedural initiatives to drive fuel conservation and investing in early-stage climate technology companies that focus on lower-carbon alternative propulsion technologies.

2. Adopt more sustainable alternatives

United’s objective is to help scale and commercialize and adopt sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), an alternative to conventional jet fuel that can reduce emissions by up to 85% on a lifecycle basis compared with conventional jet fuel. SAF is ‘drop-in’ ready, which means it can be used in current operations with existing aircraft technology on a blended basis. We believe SAF is the most promising technology solution in development today that can abate emissions from our flight operations on a lifecycle basis and will be a critical component in meeting our climate ambitions.

However, the current SAF supply is constrained and, according to industry estimates, represents far less than 1% of global commercial aviation fuel usage. Additionally, the purchase of SAF today comes with a price premium, compared to conventional jet fuel, to account for the additional costs of scaling and producing this early-stage solution. United is leading the industry in working with strategic partners to scale and commercialize the use of SAF globally. As a result, the total volume of SAF United used in its operations in 2023 was less than 0.1% of its total aviation fuel usage.1 United is an industry leader in working with strategic partners to help scale and commercialize the use of SAF globally. As part of these efforts, United has launched two innovative funding mechanisms to support the SAF demand signal and investments in emerging SAF technologies: Eco-Skies Alliance, enabling the purchase of SAF today through partnership with corporate customers, and the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund, coupling our investment dollars with other corporate investments in future potential SAF-enabling or supportive technologies.

3. Improve operations beyond flights

We recognize that our responsibility to address our environmental impact extends beyond the emissions generated from our flights to the broader operations across our business. We are focused on embedding sustainability throughout our operations through electrifying our ground service equipment, replacing onboard products with sustainable alternatives and introducing new recycling initiatives, all to reduce GHG emissions. Our goals will be achieved through strengthening collaboration and creating cross-functional teams to foster innovative thinking that drives sustainable programs throughout our operations while maintaining efficiency.

4. Collaborate with partners

Recognizing that our journey towards achieving our climate targets is a collective effort, United is working hand-in-hand with our customers, employees, airports, suppliers, cross-industry partners and policymakers to advance sustainable solutions for aviation. Our collective goal is to expand the supply of SAF, invest in scalable decarbonization technology solutions and reduce our environmental footprint.