A Quarter Century Connecting Puerto Rico with the World - United Hub

A quarter century connecting Puerto Rico with the world

By The Hub team, September 15, 2016

In 1991, the very first United Airlines flight destined for Puerto Rico departed from Washington Dulles International, headed to Luis Muñoz Marìn International Airport in San Juan. Twenty-five years later we're still connecting the mainland to Puerto Rico and its rich tourism and manufacturing industries. To celebrate both our silver anniversary and the start of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), a recognition of the rich heritage and contributions made by Americans of Hispanic descent, we're looking back on the early days of United in San Juan, recalling the important role the Puerto Rican routes have played for our customers, our employees and our airline over the past quarter-century.

When Laurie Mendez decided to leave her job as a teacher for a career as a flight attendant, United didn't have a presence in her hometown of San Juan. “I saw an advertisement that said [United] was accepting applications," Laurie said, “but pursuing an opportunity with the airline meant moving to the mainland at that time." Eager to see the world and experience life outside of the island, Laurie decided to take the leap and ended up being hired as a flight attendant based out of Newark. Shortly thereafter, not long after United started service to San Juan from Washington- Dulles, Laurie had the opportunity to be part of the inaugural flight to San Juan from Newark.

“That was the highlight of my career," she said of that first trip. “I was so happy to be on the flight that opened a new route to my home. When we landed in San Juan, you better believe I made sure that I was the one who got to make the arrival announcement. In fact, the entire inflight crew was Puerto Rican; after we touched down no one said a word, we just hugged each other. It meant a lot to us all."

In subsequent years, Laurie flourished in her airline career, working her way up to a supervisor role while earning her MBA in human resources management. That's not surprising, considering that aviation is in her blood. “Years ago, my grandmother was a Pan-Am flight attendant, flying on DC-2s," she said. “My father, brother, sisters and uncle all worked in the airline industry as well."

While she enjoyed management, Laurie missed life in the air with customers and eventually returned to her first love – being a flight attendant. Nowadays, she flies between Newark and Madrid and Barcelona, occasionally mixing it up and taking turns to Panama, Mexico and Costa Rica. And, every now and again, she'll pick up a flight back home to San Juan. “Spain is my favorite place to fly to, but Puerto Rico will always be home and I love going there," Laurie said. “It's so unique. It's part of the United States, but there's still a huge influence from our mother country, Spain. Even when I'm living in New Jersey, I cook rice, beans and plantains almost every day, just like when I was there."

Laurie credits United with opening doors for Puerto Ricans, both those living on the island and those on the mainland. “We are a bridge for Puerto Ricans to access the rest of the world. Our airline connects not only people, but also precious cargo from Puerto Rico's pharmaceutical industry which is so crucial to life there and around the world. And just as importantly, United has brought jobs to the people, my people."

United Airlines Expansion in Puerto Rico

Beginning December 18, 2016, United will increase widebody service between San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport from one to six flights weekly. The route will operate with Boeing 777 aircraft offering customers 344 seats. So visit united.com or use the United app to start planning your getaway to Puerto Rico.

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On November 27, United Airlines became the first commercial airline to safely deliver the first batch of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine into the U.S. thanks to a coordinated effort between United's cargo, safety, technical operations, flight operations, regulatory and legal teams.

Now as the entire shipping and logistics industry bands together to widely distribute vaccines, United is leveraging all of its flights, including cargo-only and those carrying passengers, to transport millions of vaccines to destinations throughout our network, including Honolulu, Guam and Saipan – the first of any carrier to do so.

United Raises Miles for Dozens of Non-Profits that Rely on Travel

Airline and its customers use crowdsourcing platform - Miles on a Mission - to donate more than 11 million miles for charities like the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, College to Congress and Compass to Care
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CHICAGO, Dec. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- United is inviting MileagePlus members to give back on Giving Tuesday and throughout the holiday season by donating miles to nearly 40 non-profits through United Airlines' crowdsourcing platform, Miles on a Mission. Non-profits like Thurgood Marshall College Fund, College to Congress and Compass to Care are attempting to raise a total of more than 11 million miles to be used for travel for life-saving health care, continued education, humanitarian aid and more. United will match the first 125,000 miles raised for each of these organizations to help ensure they meet their goals.

United Raises Miles for Dozens of Non-Profits that Rely on Travel

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In October 2019, we launched a first-of-its-kind airline miles donation platform, Miles on a Mission. In the inaugural year, MileagePlus members donated over 70 million miles, with United matching over 20 million miles, to 51 organizations. These miles have allowed for these organizations to do important, life-changing, life-saving work in the communities we serve around the globe.

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