United Airlines investing $15M in air taxi startup

United Airlines thinks that in a few years, many big-city customers will be paying $100 or more for a one-way ride to the airport in a four-seat electric air taxi.

The Chicago-based airline said on Thursday it had invested $15 million in a start-up manufacturer and signed a “conditional” deal to buy 200 of the small planes with options for another 200.

United said it expects to receive the first taxis — which will take off and land vertically, like helicopters — from Eve Air Mobility as soon as 2026.

It’s hard to judge United’s commitment to the deal as they wouldn’t provide conditions for the order. A spokesperson said the terms are standard when purchasing an aircraft that has not been certified by regulators, and cover “a number of United’s business objectives”.

Stake in Eve represents less than 5% of United second quarter profit.

But the deal fits United’s trend of announcing its interest in startups trying to build and win regulatory approval for air taxis, like Archerand supersonic aircraft, such as Boom.

Mike Leskinen, president of United’s venture capital funding arm, said eVTOLs – electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft – will be ideal for the traffic-congested cities where United flies, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. He said air taxis will be faster than driving to the airport and produce fewer emissions, and rides will cost between $100 and $150 each way.

“It will take time for consumers to adopt this. People are going to have some hesitation at first,” Leskinen said. “It will look a lot like a helicopter flight, it might be scary for some, but it will change the way we work and live.”

The Eve aircraft should have a range of 40 to 60 miles. Future designs could be slightly larger than the currently planned four-seater, but they wouldn’t replace any aircraft United flies from airport to airport, so they won’t reduce the carbon emissions produced by United’s regular fleet. the airline company.

Eve Holding Inc. is a publicly traded company created this year by a combination of a special-purpose acquisition company called Zanite and a unit of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. He is based in Melbourne, Florida.

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