U.S. Olympic Team swimmer Tom Shields: One of United’s own is Rio bound - United Hub
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U.S. Olympic Team swimmer Tom Shields: One of United’s own is Rio bound

By Matt Adams, August 05, 2016

Beneath the glaring lights of the 17,500 seat CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, in June, the eight American swimmers competing for a spot on Team USA in the 200-meter men's butterfly used the final moments before stepping onto their starting blocks to limber up. They shook out their triceps and stretched their wrists, each man anticipating the twice-down-and-back sprint they were about to endure.

Tom Shields, the son of United 737 Captain Tim Shields, stood behind the block in lane three, hands on his sides, pulling his elbows together in front of him to loosen his shoulders. The media likes to play up the 24-year-old's Southern California-cool image, and at that moment he looked every bit the part. Mouth parted in what could have been mistaken for a smile. Eyes scanning the pool before him and the crowd seated in the arena around him. A viewer would have been hard pressed to detect any sense of concern in the young man's body language.

Not the same happy-go-lucky kid

Shields talks like he stepped out of The Endless Summer and looks like every 20-something you see walking along Abbott Kinney Boulevard in board shorts and a pair of Vans on a sunny Saturday afternoon. At one time, he embraced the laid-back surfer persona, though he says it isn't representative of who he is now.

Young Tom Shields with Pilot Father

“I can appreciate that image, but it's totally fake," Shields said, amused at how he's perceived. After four years swimming for the University of California at Berkeley and more than three years competing in pro events in the U.S. and overseas, Tom felt the weight of expectations. “In 2012 [at the London Olympic trials], I had the talent but I didn't do the work. I was just happy to be there," he said. “This time was different – I worked hard to be competitive and put a lot of pressure on myself."

Of the men lined up in Omaha, only the top two would qualify for the Games. Shields took his place on the block, his torso hovering over his bent knees, deathly still, waiting for his shot at creating a legacy in the sport that has meant so much to him since childhood. His parents, Tim and Jolene, were both avid surfers who taught their children the finer points of staying buoyant in the Pacific Ocean. “One of my first memories is of my dad teaching me to swim," Tom said.

By age 7, Tom was part of a youth club near their home in Huntington Beach, California. Throughout his childhood, Tim and Jolene supported Tom's amateur pursuits, rousing him from bed well before dawn for morning practices and transporting him around the state and the country for meets. “We became that swimming family that we always said we would never be," Tim recalled.

The pool became Tom's sanctuary. In spite of excelling at team sports growing up, social anxiety made the solo aspect of swimming more favorable to him. “It's always been hard for me to get along and make new friends," he confided. “Even now, I get a lot of anxiety. When I get in the water, it resets me."

Tom and dad Tim Shields

Tom credits his dad as one of the most influential people in his life. Not only did Tim have a cool job as a pilot, he was a successful water polo player in his youth, and was able to help Tom navigate the college recruitment process. Tom has flown United for years, thanks to his family connections and his involvement with Team USA, which United has sponsored for more than 35 years. Father and son occasionally cross paths in an airport somewhere during their travels, and in 2008, Tom got the ultimate in-flight surprise. “I was flying back from Sydney, Australia, with the junior team, and my dad walked up next to my seat on the plane and said 'Hey dude.' I had no idea that he was going to be our pilot."

Competing with a legend

When the buzzer sounded to start the 200-meter finals in Omaha, the American hopefuls dove in unison. In the lane next to him, the most decorated American Olympian of all time took an early lead, but Shields hung close by as the other six fell back. After the second turn he was vying for first. Shields came on strong halfway through the final lap and, for a moment, it looked like he might pull it off. Shields finished the race in second place, earning his first Olympic berth. In spite of the significance of the moment, Shields might have been one of the most disappointed swimmers in the pool.

Tom Shields, American Olympian

“My swims need to be a lot faster," he said. “I've got to get back to my process, and coming in second was a good way for me to reconnect with the fact that there is more work that needs to be done."

Team USA began training together shortly after Omaha, and the members had but a few weeks to think about their respective processes before they all departed for Rio at the end of July. For his part, Shields focused on getting rest, working on his flexibility by doing yoga, watching race film and getting back in touch with his technique. While he was busy doing that, his friends and family were coming to terms with the more surreal aspects of having a world-class athlete in their midst.

Shields's image currently graces boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and Corn Flakes and his legion of fans grow by the day. “It's weird," Tim admitted. “His face is on the cereal box and people are waiting in line after meets to get his autograph. This experience has been unbelievably fun for the family."

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

Making every step of the travel journey safer for you

By United Airlines, May 20, 2020
United Clean Plus | Clorox

We remain passionate about connecting the world safely

United CleanPlus SM is our commitment to putting health and safety at the forefront of your journey, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness. We're teaming up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures, and over the coming months, we'll roll out Clorox products across our U.S. airports, starting in select locations, to help support a healthy and safe environment, and to provide transparency and choice throughout the travel journey.

At the airport

  • At check-in:

  • 1
    Implementing temperature checks for employees and flight attendants working at hub airports
  • 2
    Installing sneeze guards at check-in and gate podiums
  • 3
    Encouraging use of the United app for contactless travel assistance and more
  • 4
    Promoting social distancing with floor decals to help customers stand 6 feet apart
  • 5
    Rolling out touchless check-in for customers with bags
  • At the gate:

  • 6
    Disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, telephones and computers
  • 7
    Providing hand sanitizer and
    disinfectant wipes
  • 8
    Allowing customers to self-scan boarding passes
  • 9
    Boarding fewer customers at a time and, after pre-boarding, boarding from the back of the plane to the front to promote social distancing
  • 10
    Rolling out Clorox Total 360 Electrostatic Sprayers to disinfect in the airport

On our aircraft

  • 1
    Providing individual hand sanitizer wipes for customers
  • 2
    Requiring all customers and employees to wear a face covering and providing disposable face coverings for customers who need them
  • 3
    Providing onboard items like pillows and blankets upon request
  • 4
    Disinfecting high-touch areas, like tray tables and armrests, before boarding
  • 5
    Reducing contact between flight attendants and customers during snack and beverage service
  • 6
    Ensuring aircraft cleaning standards meet or exceed CDC guidelines
  • 7
    Using electrostatic spraying to disinfect aircraft
  • 8
    Using state-of-the-art, hospital-grade, high-efficiency (HEPA) filters to circulate air and remove 99.97% of airborne particles
    • The cabin recirculated air is exchanged every 2-3 minutes

Cleveland Clinic We're working closely with the experts at Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols for the safety of our employees and customers. Visit Cleveland Clinic's website to learn more about COVID-19.

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