United Airlines Invests $15 Million in 200 Air Taxis — How They Could Change the Future of Travel

Sunrise at the United Airlines Gate stock photo
Art Wager / iStock.com

As major airlines continue to recoup losses incurred from the pandemic-induced travel slow down, some new ideas are starting to take flight. This week, American Airlines announced they are eliminating first-class seats in international flights to focus on the plane cabin’s business tier. Meanwhile, United Airlines has an even more novel idea — air taxis.

In September, United announced they had invested $15 million in Eve Air Mobility, a Brazilian-based “electric aviation startup” (per Verve) that is operated by aircraft manufacturer Embraer. The deal is part of United’s order of 200 electric air taxis that look and feel like helicopters and are meant to provide a service to busy commuters in the country’s most traffic-congested cities.

According to Verve, these electric air taxis seat four passengers and do vertical takeoffs and landings where they are able to “fly from rooftop to rooftop.” The investment in Eve Air Mobility mirrors a similar chunk of change that United put forth in a similar electric aviation company called Archer in 2021, with a reported $10 million payment, according to CNBC.

Though these aircrafts have yet to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, United sees promise in the prospect of air taxis, and the move is likely part of its mission to be the “biggest airline in the world” as United CEO Scott Kirby told employees last year, as reported by Live And Let’s Fly.

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“What we’re doing in the next couple years is going to really solidify our position as the leading global airline in a way that no one else could ever catch up with us,” Kirby said, in part. Though, as of now, United ranks third in operating revenue, behind competitors American and Delta, per Statista.

There are several benefits for electric air taxis, according to experts, such as reducing carbon emissions and eliminating the need for more gas-powered vehicles on the road, as well as reducing commute times. And, for the airline, these quick trips could really add up in profits.

A one-way trip to the airport from a city center, for example, could cost around $100-150, said Michael Leskinen, United Airlines Ventures president, as noted by CNBC. United Airlines Ventures is the division leading the investment, and has a goal of “reaching net zero emissions by 2050 without the use of traditional carbon offsets,” according to Verge.

United anticipates being able to roll out the service as of 2026. Though, simulations of the trips are already being tested in Chicago, where United Airlines is headquartered, the Chicago Tribune stated.

In a city like Chicago, one expert that spoke with the paper believed there could be a fleet of 240 aircrafts that could take around 150 routes — and that’s just one city. The paper also reported that regional airlines like Skywest and Republic are also interested in Eve’s aircrafts, which are reported to have a range of 60 miles, meaning there could be healthy competition in the marketplace.

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