Customer Reunites with his United Heroes - United Hub

Customer reunites with his United heroes

By The Hub team, May 04, 2016

At the end of her automated external defibrillator (AED) training, Melanie Molek, a customer service representative at Washington Dulles International Airport, asked instructor Bill Huston how often he'd needed to use these skills in the 40 years he's been certified.

"Never," replied Bill, who is a lead customer service representative at the airport.

Melanie assumed she never would, either.

The next day, customer Jim Bowles' plan was to connect to Orlando, Florida through Washington-Dulles, but the flight was canceled due to weather. Unsure of how far he'd have to walk to find assistance with rebooking, the 51-year-old man, who'd felt fatigued the night before, grabbed the luggage cart at the end of the jetbridge and put his bag on it.

Not since Harry Potter arrived at Platform 9 ¾ has a cart proven so magical.

"I was at C9 finishing work on a flight to Tampa, Florida, when a coworker asked me if I'd heard a noise," Melanie recalled. "I hadn't, but she said a man with a cart had fallen over by C11 not far from Chef Geoff's. She finished boarding the flight and I went to check out the situation."

Mr. Bowles had suffered a heart attack.

Richard Horil, the general manager of Chef Geoff's, a police officer and Melanie were the first to tend to Mr. Bowles. While Mr. Horil and the officer started CPR, Melanie sprinted to C20 to grab the AED. Since she'd finished training the day before, she was well aware of where she could find one.

"Without the cart falling," Melanie said, "we wouldn't have heard him and who knows how much longer it would've taken to get there?"

When Chris Woods, a supervisor at Washington-Dulles, got the call that a customer had suffered a heart attack, he instantly thought to find out if Customer Service Representative Ali Mahboubi was at work.

In his free time, Ali is a volunteer medic with a local fire department. Luckily, he was at work that morning and rushed to C11 after getting a call from Chris.

"When I saw Ali coming, I felt so relieved," Melanie said. "I thought to myself that this guy is going to make it."

Nine minutes after Mr. Bowles suffered the heart attack, paramedics arrived. He was airlifted to Reston Hospital and eventually transferred to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where his outlook swayed between hopeful and grim for about two weeks.

But Melanie's feeling was right – Mr. Bowles made it through.

If Washington-Dulles Customer Service Representative Abeer Husary hadn't suggested CPR training be made available, if Bill wasn't able to administer classes, and if Melanie hadn't decided, on a whim, to drive 90 minutes to the airport on her day off to take the class, Mr. Bowles might not be alive today. The same serendipity prevailed. He happened to pick up the cart, Ali was at work that day, and Inova Fairfax Hospital is one of America's best heart hospitals. The list of things Mr. Bowles needed to go right – that did go right – went on and on.

Last week, Mr. Bowles, well on his way to recovery, along with his wife, his sister and his two teenage daughters, drove from their New Jersey home and reunited with Melanie, Ali and Mr. Horil at the airport.

The group spent a few hours recollecting that day and the uncertainty that followed and getting to know each other's life stories. There were hugs, tears and laughs, but above all, there was gratefulness for how everyone reacted that February morning, for the moments they were sharing together and all of the moments Mr. Bowles and his family would still be able to have together in the future.

"I've cried so much thinking about this," Mr. Bowles said as the group stood at C11, exactly where he'd suffered the heart attack. "You don't get too many second chances in life, but these guys helped make sure I got one. It's surreal to be back here and meet with my heroes."

As they walked away from C11, before the Bowles family was off to the older daughter's college lacrosse game and college visits with their younger daughter, Mr. Bowles had one last message for Ali, Melanie and Mr. Horil: "It's so great to have you all in my life," he said, "and to have my life because of you guys."

Entertainment for all

By The Hub team, August 04, 2020

Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.

Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.

"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.

"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."

Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.

"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

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