United Airlines, in association with five corporate partners, has introduced an investment vehicle to support start-ups working on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production and research.

The new United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund would emphasise investment in new technology, proven producers, and advanced fuel sources.

It is aimed at scaling up SAF supply and expediting the push for aviation decarbonisation. 

United Airlines Ventures will move certain existing SAF investments to form the new fund portfolio.

Along with its inaugural corporate partners JPMorgan Chase, GE Aerospace, Honeywell, and Air Canada, United will initially invest more than $100m in the new fund.

Open to investment by corporations across different sectors, the fund will support start-ups identified by United.

One can view a flight’s carbon footprint estimate via a search on United’s website and app.

Travellers can contribute to the fund when purchasing a ticket, with the first 10,000 contributors securing 500 MileagePlus miles each.

The default option for customers’ contributions is $3.50.

United CEO Scott Kirby said: “This fund is unique. It’s not about offsets or things that are just greenwashing.

“Instead, we’re creating a system that drives investment to build a new industry around sustainable aviation fuel, essentially from scratch. That’s the only way we can actually decarbonise aviation.”

The latest development builds on United’s existing efforts in the SAF space.

The carrier has so far invested in the future production of more than three billion gallons of green fuel, which is said to be the highest by an airline globally.

It anticipates a 100% reduction in its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

Last month, the carrier, along with Tallgrass, and Green Plains, set up a joint venture, called Blue Blade Energy, for SAF technology development using ethanol as feedstock.

SAF consumption results in reduced GHG emissions than the use of conventional jet fuel alone.

It is currently being made from used cooking oil and agricultural waste, and in the coming days can be sourced from other feedstocks such as forest waste and household trash.