Archer Aviation and United Airlines announced a partnership today to launch a commercial air taxi route in Chicago. The companies plan to open the flight path between downtown and O’Hare International Airport in 2025.
Besides being United’s headquarters and largest hub, Chicago’s airport commute makes it an ideal testbed for flying taxis. For example, the drive to or from O’Hare, in the western suburb of Rosemont, can take anywhere from 35 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic; even in one of the city’s elevated trains, it can take around 45 minutes. But Archer estimates a flight in one of its air taxis will only take 10 minutes to travel from O’Hare to its destination at a downtown helipad. The program will initially be limited to the mainline O’Hare / downtown route, but the companies eventually plan to add smaller paths to surrounding communities.
Archer describes the upcoming route as “cost competitive” for passengers without going into specifics. But even if it’s initially limited to deep-pocketed business travelers, the program should be good for the environment. Archer’s air taxis use electric motors and batteries and don’t produce emissions. “This exciting new technology will further decarbonize our means of transportation, taking us another step forward in our fight against climate change,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “I’m pleased that Chicago residents will be among the first in the nation to experience this innovative, convenient form of travel.”
The partnership is the latest in United’s aggressive investments in flying taxis. Last year, the airline ordered at least 200 electric flying taxis from Eve Air Mobility; that followed a $10 million deposit it placed with Archer the month prior.
In addition to Chicago’s (ground-based) taxis and ride shares, the city has a robust public transportation system built around elevated trains and buses, the latter of which the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has committed to converting to electric by 2040. (The CTA already deploys 23 electric buses.) If all goes according to plan, the flight path will help decrease emissions and traffic congestion, something most Chi-town residents can get behind.