United Airlines believes that within a few years, many big-city customers will pay $100 or more for a one-way trip to the airport in a four-seater electric, air taxi.
The Chicago-based airline said Thursday that it has invested $15 million in a start-up manufacturer, and has signed a “conditional” agreement to buy 200 small planes with options for 200 more.
United said it expects to receive the first taxis – which will take off and land vertically, like helicopters – from Eve Air Mobility by 2026.
It is difficult to judge United’s commitment to the deal, as he will not provide conditions for the order. A spokesman said the terms are standard when buying an aircraft that has not been approved by regulators, and they cover “a number of United’s business objectives”.
The stake in Eve is less than 5% of United’s stake 2nd Quarter Earnings.
Mike Liskinen, head of United’s venture finance arm, said the eVTOLs – the electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft – would be ideally suited for the traffic-clogged cities where United flies, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. He said air taxis would be faster than driving to the airport and produce fewer emissions, and trips would cost $100 to $150 each way.
“It will take time for consumers to embrace it. People will have some hesitation at first,” said Liskinen. “It will sound a lot like riding in a helicopter, it might be intimidating to some, but it will change the way we work and live.”
The Eve aircraft is expected to have a range of 40 to 60 miles. The future designs may be slightly larger than the four-seater plane currently planned, but they won’t replace any planes United flies from one airport to another, so they won’t reduce the carbon emissions the airline’s regular fleet produces.
Eve Holding Inc. It is a publicly traded company established this year through a combination of a special purpose acquisition company called Zanite and a unit of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. It is headquartered in Melbourne, Florida.
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