United Airlines has entered the race to shuttle passengers to the airport using an all-electric aircraft.
Archer Aviation, an electric aircraft company, and United Airlines recently announced a partnership that would see customers ferried from a heliport in lower Manhattan (found near Battery Park on Pier 6) to Newark in one of Archer’s four-passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, which look like small planes but move more like a helicopter. It’s a partnership that will make getting to the airport faster (by car, it typically takes an hour or more depending on traffic) and greener. The goal is to have the route up and running by 2025.
“Once operational, electric air taxis will fundamentally change how United customers experience comfort, convenience, and efficiency during their commutes to the airport,” stated Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, United’s corporate venture fund designed to help the company reach net zero emissions by 2050. “Archer’s New York to Newark route marks another important benchmark towards providing a carbon-neutral and safe commute that drastically reduces the travel time and produces a fraction of the sound emitted by helicopters.”
So far, details on price, how many times the shuttles will run per day, how guests can book, and where else they hope to connect haven’t been released.
The United–Archer pact is the second partnership announced between a major airline and a electric aircraft company this year to offer an electric air taxi service. In October, Delta announced an alliance with Joby, another all-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft company. Their program, slated to roll out in 2024, will initially be offered in New York City and Los Angeles. However, information on where customers will be picked up and which airports will be available as destinations hasn’t been announced. United and Archer are the first duo to provide more concrete pickup and drop-off points.
United sees big potential in the electric air taxi market. In September, the airline invested in Eve Air Mobility, to buy 200 of its four-seat electric aircraft, which will also be used for an air taxi service.
“United has made early investments in several cutting-edge technologies at all levels of the supply chain, staking out our position as a leader in aviation sustainability and innovation,” said Leskinen in a press release. “Our agreement with Eve highlights our confidence in the urban air mobility market and serves as another important benchmark toward our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050— without using traditional offsets. Together, we believe our suite of clean energy technologies will revolutionize air travel as we know it and serve as the catalyst for the aviation industry to move toward a sustainable future.”
A move toward electric air transportation is the latest in planned efforts for major airlines to offer more sustainable travel alternatives. In 2021, United also announced it was buying 100 19-seater, zero-emission electric planes from Sweden-based Heart Aerospace to be used on short, domestic flights by 2026. In May 2022, Hawaiian Airlines disclosed a partnership with Boston-based Regional Electric Effect Nautical Transport to bring electric-powered sea gliders to its interisland fleet as early as 2028. Last year, all of the major U.S. carriers committed to a goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.