United Airlines shares plan to become ‘100% green’ by 2050

Dec 10, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It’s impossible to operate a global airline in 2020 without negatively impacting the environment. But with United Airlines’ latest sustainability plan, that hopefully won’t be the case forever.

Over the next three decades, United plans to go “100% green” — primarily through the use of a technique called “carbon capture and sequestration,” or CCS, which could prove to be far more impactful than the industry’s current “carbon offset” approach.

Carbon offsets typically provide funding for projects that reduce our carbon footprint through the use of environmentally friendly practices, like building wind farms or planting trees. While those programs may play a part in United’s overall plan, they won’t move the needle to the extent the airline truly needs.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!.

Through a series of investments, United will help provide the funding necessary to build CCS plants, which can then capture carbon from industrial sources like power plants — or even directly from the air — and store it underground, so it’s unable to enter the atmosphere.

From there, the carbon could even be used to help extract oil, through a technique called enhanced oil recovery, helping CCS plants turn a profit — and, ultimately, making it possible for United to monetize its investment.

While it might not seem like the ideal time for United to be making new financial commitments — considering the carrier’s steep pandemic-related lossesCEO Scott Kirby says the recent crisis has served to highlight the need to take action.

While new aircraft investments help, they don’t move the needle enough. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

“The pandemic has, if anything, emphasized the importance of what we’re doing. While we were planning to invest in this, work on this project before the pandemic, what has become clear during the pandemic, even more starkly, is that we are a part of a global community, and everything that happens everywhere around the globe affects us.”

Kirby has also pledged to continue to invest in alternative fuels, which could help reduce emissions as well, though he acknowledged that electric and hydrogen propulsion aren’t feasible solutions for a long-haul airline like United.

Investing in newer planes won’t have a significant enough impact, either. While long-haul aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner help reduce emissions by employing lighter materials and other design improvements, they still contribute a significant amount of carbon to the environment.

Kirby hopes United’s latest move will get the industry thinking about CCS as a potential solution as well. “It’s easy to think ‘I’m doing my part,’ by using traditional carbon offsets,” Kirby said. “I want to encourage them that that’s not enough, and to do more. And if we all do that, we really can solve this problem.”

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.