American Express, Groupe ADP, Boston Consulting Group, Aramco, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue have joined airline operator United's sustainable aviation fuel fund.

United Airlines commuter jet in flight above the clouds
Photo courtesy of United Airlines, Inc.

Air carrier United Airlines hiked its Sustainable Flight Fund to almost $200m in size yesterday, attracting new backers that included several corporate investors.

Payment services firm American Express’s Global Business Travel subsidiary was among the new limited partners, as were airport operator Groupe ADP, consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, oil and gas provider Saudi Aramco (through Aramco Ventures) and airline carriers Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue, which contributed through JetBlue Ventures.

United subsidiary United Airlines Ventures launched the fund in February this year with $100m and a mission to invest in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) suppliers and technology developers.

SAF is a hot topic right now, as airlines look to get the supply infrastructure in place so they can meet a plan by trade body International Air Transport Association to reach net-zero carbon emissions for passenger aviation by 2050.

Three airlines were part of a $50m round last month for CleanJoule, which is working on a form of SAF from agricultural waste. Nova Pangaea Technologies, which has developed a similar fuel, received backing from airline group IAG earlier this week, while JetBlue Ventures is among the airline units that have also invested.

The Sustainable Flight Fund is a multi-corporate vehicle anchored by United, which has moved existing SAF investments by United Airlines Ventures over to the fund. United says SAF makes up 0.1% of its current fuel but believes increased use will be a key part of its decarbonisation plans.

“Our new and inaugural participants demonstrate the impressive commitment within aviation and beyond to reduce our carbon footprint and combat the threat of climate change,” United Airlines Ventures president Michael Leskinen said yesterday in a release announcing the expanded fund.

“As companies across the globe are increasingly looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact from flying, the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund presents a unique opportunity – instead of fighting over the current limited supply of SAF, with our partners, we’re working collaboratively to help scale the SAF industry itself, and to get an equity stake in groundbreaking technology while doing it.”

The new backers, which include speciality finance provider Tokyo Century’s Aviation Capital Group and Bank of America, join existing LPs such as Air Canada, Boeing, Honeywell, GE Aerospace and JPMorgan Chase.

Robert Lavine

Robert Lavine is special features editor for Global Venturing.