Jul 13, 2021 - Economy

United Airlines, Mesa Air Group to buy 200 electric planes

An airplane in the sky

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

United Airlines and the regional carrier Mesa Air Group this morning announced conditional plans to buy 100 planes each — and an option for more — from the electric plane startup Heart Aerospace.

Driving the news: The two airlines are also investors in a $35 million Series A funding round for the Swedish startup that hopes to bring a 19-seat electric plane into service by 2026.

Other investors include Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Lowercarbon Capital.

Why it matters: Air travel is a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions, and electric, hydrogen and other clean fuel technologies offer the potential to address the problem — if they can be successfully commercialized.

The big picture: "Tuesday’s deal is the latest in a series of bets on new aircraft concepts yet to be tested but that United said could help it reduce carbon emissions," the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • The airline industry is increasingly staking — and announcing preliminary orders — for various kinds of electrified flight.
  • United is backing the vertical takeoff and landing startup Archer, and American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic recently invested in the U.K.-based Vertical Aerospace.

Reality check: These investments and preliminary purchase orders are the early stages of plans to electrify flight, hardly a guarantee the models will be built or incorporated into the airlines' routes.

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