Fuel is the airline’s single largest expense. United says it has already improved its fuel efficiency by 32 percent since 1994 through programs such as improved flight planning, single engine taxiing, lighter products onboard and use of ground power instead of the onboard auxiliary power unit to save fuel and reduce carbon emissions while aircraft are parked.
The airline is also investing in a fuel-efficient fleet to replace older aircraft. In 2012, United ordered 150 new Boeing 737 narrowbody aircraft powered by fuel-efficient CFM engines.
In addition to purchasing new aircraft, United is also improving the performance of its current fleet. The airline was the launch customer for the new Split Scimitar winglet, which is an advanced and improved winglet for the 737 next-gen aircraft and helps the aircraft consume up to 25 percent less fuel per seat than the 737-500 aircraft the company is retiring. United already has other winglets installed on more than 300 of its aircraft, including its entire Boeing 737 fleet and many of its 757 and 767 aircraft. Winglets reduce drag on the aircraft, ultimately reducing fuel burn and carbon emissions by up to 5 percent.
United says its fuel savings initiatives are part of the company’s larger commitment to environmental sustainability under its Eco-Skies program.
In 2011, United operated the first US passenger biofuel flight powered with a mixture of renewable algae-derived jet fuel and conventional jet fuel, and has signed letters of intent to negotiate the purchase of more than 50 million gallons of sustainable biofuels.
Last summer, United Airlines joined the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, an industry working group that aims to accelerate the development and commercialization of aviation biofuels.
More than 24 percent percent of United’s ground equipment fleet is electric or alternatively fueled.
During the last six years, United recycled more than 20 million pounds of cans, paper and plastic items from waste generated inflight and at its facilities resulting in a net reduction of 28,700 metric tons of carbon emissions.