Heavy maintenance by the numbers - United Hub

Heavy maintenance by the numbers

By The Hub team, March 09, 2016

Heavy maintenance, the task of keeping United's giant fleet safe, reliable and flight-ready is no easy feat. It takes the combined efforts of thousands of people across the globe, and though you may rarely see these dedicated employees at work, heavy maintenance is full of spectacular stats and facts.

One of over 700 United aircraft being maintained


Collectively, the 12,400 men and women of Technical Operations are responsible for the safe and reliable performance of our entire mainline fleet. These dedicated employees repair everything from interior components and mechanical parts to our ground service equipment. Tech Ops is remarkably diverse in the types of jobs, the backgrounds of the employees, the locations and the solutions.

And with any massive-sized operation facility, success is completely dependent on solid planning and ongoing project management. And that's where the Technical Operations planning group comes in. These professionals are dedicated to juggling the week's workload to keep up with or stay ahead of changes in the operation alongside others who are figuring out which aircraft need to be where for what work as much as five years down the road.


United runs maintenance operations all across the globe, from engine testing facilities and fleet upgrade centers to Emergency Maintenance services and Technical Operations. Tech Ops alone is made up of multiple divisions and departments, including Maintenance Operations, the largest by far. We have quite a number of facilities and many provide highly specialized solutions to maintain our fleet.

For example, the San Francisco Maintenance Center featured in the latest episode of Big Metal Bird covers 125 acres and has 2.9 million square feet of working space. This includes airframe hangars, component shops, and an engine/landing gear overhaul shop. On top of that, we have the only engine-testing cell in North America (outside of the manufacturer) that can accommodate the massive 20,000- pound, 112-inch PW4000 engines used on our Boeing 777 aircraft.

In addition to our San Francisco Maintenance Center, we have large operations for Line Maintenance at all 10 of our hub locations as well as in Cleveland and Orlando. Maintenance, repair and overhaul operations also take place in Houston. In addition to scheduled maintenance, many modifications are handled at our line stations such as the installation of new seats and Split Scimitar winglets.


Our fleet is comprised of over 700 aircraft, and services more than 5,000 flights with an average of 4.6 million miles per day. All together, we fly 16 different kinds of aircraft — from dedicated workhorses like the 737 to international-distance runners like the 747.

We also have one of the most modern and advanced fleets in the world, as frequent upgrades and new aircraft purchases have helped us stay ahead of the curve. Our newly ordered Airbus A350-1000s use new Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines designed to increase efficiency and reduce noise. The upgraded 737 MAX uses advanced winglet technology to help reduce fuel costs, and incorporates improved ventilation to increase passenger comfort. And of course, we have the new 787 Dreamliner, which is built with 50% composite materials to create a lighter, more efficient aircraft and incorporates a highly advanced anti-turbulence device to provide a smoother ride through moderate turbulence.

It's amazing what can be done when you combine incredible technology and the right people. Managing the heavy maintenance of a fleet this size is a big endeavor, but thanks to our incredible employees, we're confident day in and day out that our planes will take to the skies safe and sound. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of our Heavy Maintenance operation on the latest episode of Big Metal Bird.

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 jointherevolution.org/pledge.

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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