United teams up with LAX to deliver a ‘Flight for the Planet’

August 21, 2019

Airports big and small, far and wide joined in the celebrations of the World Environment Day (WED) on the 5th June 2019 with a panoply of environment-minded activities. We particularly admired the bold project coordinated by United Airlines together with Los Angeles International Airport, designed to push the boundaries of environmentally-friendly flight to its present technological and supply-chain limits.
The ‘Flight for the Planet’, as United called it, departed from Chicago O’Hare and landed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the airline’s ‘eco-hub’ for sustainable operations. 
United Airlines flight 310 was carried out on a Boeing 737-900ER with a special Eco-Skies livery. This first of its kind commercial air service combined the following key actions to reduce its impact on the climate: 
  • Use of sustainable aviation biofuel
  • Achieve zero cabin waste
  • Carbon offsetting of remaining emissions from fuel combustion
  • Enhance operational efficiencies, including through all-electric ground handling equipment
The eco-hub designation comes in part from United’s recent commitment to continue buying and utilizing sustainable biofuel for all of its departing flights at LAX over the next two years. The use of biofuel blend, which is made from sustainably sourced agricultural waste feedstock, achieves more than a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis compared to conventional jet fuel. It is considered a “drop in” fuel, so no infrastructure or aircraft engine modifications are needed. It is therefore one of the best result-driven solutions to reduce emissions from flights.
Zero cabin waste was achieved through the following actions across all the travel classes. In the Economy cabin, United swapped traditional snack options with a complimentary plated service featuring fully recyclable or compostable service ware, including recyclable-paper, hot beverage cup. In the Premium cabin, United is continuing to use reusable service ware and swap plastic lids for beeswax food wrappers. 
United has offset the remainder of the flight’s emissions via the airline’s new carbon offset provider, Conservation International. 
In terms of operational carbon savings & environmental wins, the ‘Flight for the Planet’ demonstrated single-engine taxiing, Air Traffic Control prioritization and a continuous descent approach into Los Angeles, which saved fuel while also reducing noise impact to the city. 
LAX’s continued work to reduce the carbon intensity of its operations & that of its business partners has earned it its current Level 3 ‘Optimisation’ accreditation in 2017. The airport has succeeded in retaining this second to highest level of carbon management within Airport Carbon Accreditation ever since.