United Airlines: Our History - United Hub


From our first voyage in the Swallow to the first North American airline to fly the Dreamliner, we’re celebrating our history by looking back on our "firsts" in the aviation industry.

Fly through time

  1. 1920s

    • United Airlines is born

      Walter T. Varney starts Varney Air Lines in 1926 and Varney Speed Lines in 1934, airlines that would eventually become United Airlines and Continental Airlines.

    • United's first flight

      Leon Cuddeback pilots United’s first flight from Pasco, Washington, to Boise, Idaho, in a Swallow aircraft the morning of April 6, 1926.

    • First modern airliner

      United Boeing 247s flew the same route on the Main Line that settlers followed to the West. The 247 could cross North America in a single night and was the first modern airliner.

  2. 1930s

    • Female flight attendants take to the skies

      In 1930 at Ellen Church’s suggestion, United pioneered the notion of female flight attendants creating a new profession for women. Including Church, all 8 of the first flight attendants were registered nurses.

    • Commercial aviation's first flight kitchen

      In 1936 United became a major innovator in inflight dining by creating the first flight kitchen in Oakland, California. Passengers could now enjoy hot meals prepared with special attention to the effects of altitude on the taste of food. First meals served included a choice of fried chicken or scrambled eggs.

    • "Flying laboratory"

      In 1937 United’s “flying laboratory” allowed researchers to test and develop a number of flight-improving technologies in the environment of an airplane. United was the first airline to use electronic flight simulators and computers to plan a flight path.

    • Famous passengers

      From aviation pioneers like Amelia Earhartto Hollywood celebrities, those who grabbed headlines on the front pages of newspapers around the world flew United.

  3. 1940s

    • Women in the aviation industry

      During World War II women began working in many aspects of the aviation industry in large numbers.

  4. 1950s

    • Male flight attendants take to the skies

      Male flight attendants began working for United in 1950 on flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. The late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye called his home state "the state that United built."

    • Airborne radar comes aboard

      In 1957 United became the first airline toequip its entire fleet with airborne radar.

    • First inflight magazine

      In 1957 Mainliner became the world’s first inflight magazine published for a single airline.

    • Introducing a progressive maintenance program

      Continental was the first airline to institutea progressive maintenance program in 1959 enabling the airline to fly its 707 fleet 7 days a week, 16 hours a day.

    • Jetliners join the fleet

      In 1955 United became the first U.S. airline to order jetliners with an order for 30 DC-8s. United acquired Capital Airlines, another early operator of jets, in 1961.

  5. 1960s

    • TV in the sky

      Continental introduced live television to the airline industry. In the 707’s inflight lounge passengers could watch live TV while flying over major metropolitan areas.

    • Pilot Marlon DeWitt Green

      In 1963, Marlon DeWitt Green won a landmark legal battle to become the first African-American pilot hired by a regularly scheduled commercial passenger airline.

    • Flights to the pacific

      In the late 1960's Continental was granted a five-year contract to serve the trust territory of the Pacific Island, also known as Micronesia. The inaugural flight took off from Saipan to Honolulu on May 16, 1968.

  6. 1970s

    • Flying "Peanut One"

      Even after the introduction of Air Force One, decades of office seekers took to the campaign trail on scheduled flights or leased planes. "Peanut One" was one of them, used by not-yet President Jimmy Carter on the campaign trail in 1976.

  7. 1980s

    • All 50 states

      In 1984 United became the first airline to fly to all 50 U.S. states with the addition of new routes from Wyoming and Mississippi.

  8. 1990s

    • Introducing the 777

      In 1995, United was the first airline to introduce the 777, Boeing’s first "fly by wire" aircraft. United and Boeing collaborated to an unprecedented degree to develop the airplane.

    • Star Alliance is founded

      In 1997, United, Lufthansa, Air Canada, SAS and Thai International founded Star Alliance, thefirst truly global airline alliance.

  9. 2010s

    • United's Boeing 727's final flight

      In late February 2016, United’s first Boeing 727, on its way to its permanent home at Boeing’s Museum of Flight, stood side-by-side with United's newest aircraft, a Boeing 787-9.

    • Biofuels take flight at LAX

      On March 11, 2016, United became the first U.S. airline to begin use of commercial-scale biofuel when the Eco-Skies Boeing 737 departed LAX.

    • The Dreamliner

      In 2012 United became the first North American airline to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. On November 4th the Dreamliner's maiden voyage flew passengers from Houston to Chicago.

    • United Polaris

      In December of 2016, United rolled out its most significant product update in over a decade — United Polaris. United Polaris features a reimagined pre-flight lounge experience, spacious onboard seating with thoughtful storage, amenities from exclusive partners, world-class dining, heightened comfort and privacy for restful sleep, and much more.

    • Welcoming the all-new Boeing 777-300ER

      In February 2017, United debuted the new Boeing 777-300ER with service from New York/Newark to San Francisco. Boasting a sleek interior, superior range, remarkable fuel efficiency and traveler-preferred comfort, the aircraft is one of 14 new Boeing 777-300ER that will be added to the United fleet over the next few years.

    • Announcing the Boeing 737 Max 10

      In July 2017, United announced an agreement with Boeing to convert 100 of our current 737 MAX 9 orders into 737 MAX 10s, making United the single largest MAX 10 customer in the world. With superior fuel efficiency and increased range, these aircrafts will elevate the performance and capabilities of our existing fleet. Deliveries are expected for late 2020.

    • Saying goodbye to the "Queen of the Skies"

      Known by many as the "Queen of the Skies", the beloved Boeing 747 was retired after 47 years of service from United’s fleet in November of 2017. A masterful feat of engineering, the aircraft balanced size, power and efficiency, but was best known for its unique upper deck which gave it its silhouette that iconic and instantly recognizable hump.