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

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving

By The Hub team, July 02, 2020

By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.

United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.

Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.

A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.

United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Celebrating Juneteenth

By United Airlines, June 18, 2020

A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group

Fellow United team members –

Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.

Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.

Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."

Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.

To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.

Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.

Thank you,

UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)

Leadership Team

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