One in a million
For hundreds of years, sailors have celebrated crossing the equator for the first time with an “Order of Neptune" ceremony. Once their ship moves into the next hemisphere, first-timers, called Pollywogs, are initiated as Trusty Shellbacks. It's a proud day, as any sailor will tell you, when they become a Shellback, free to call the open sea their home. We like to think that certain milestones in the air should be honored in a similar fashion. Like racking up a million miles on our flights, for instance.
Accumulating 1 million miles is no small feat. To put it in context, a million miles is roughly the equivalent of circling the globe 40 times. It's the equivalent of flying to the moon and back — twice.
We're fortunate to serve millions of frequent flyers each year, from business travelers to vacationers, but only a small fraction ever reach the rarified air of being called a “million miler." And we commemorate this impressive accomplishment for our customers in memorable ways, from personalized cards and bottles of champagne to private tours of the flight deck to rounds of applause at the gate and gifts.
When customer Donald Lee's son Jonathan found out that his father was on the verge of reaching 1 million miles on United earlier this year, he contacted SVP of Customers Sandra Pineau-Boddison and asked if we could make the event special. When Mr. Lee arrived for his flight from SFO to FLL (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), where he would reach the 1 million mark, SFO's Global Services team surprised him at the gate with gifts including a bottle of champagne, English tea, Italian coffee, Swiss chocolates and United swag. They then invited him onto the aircraft to take photos with the crew before other customers boarded. Mr. Lee said he was blown away by the gesture, even bragging about it to his son — who once tried to persuade him to try a competing airline. This experience certainly proved that father knows best.
SFO Airport Operations Supervisor Joey Tidalgo takes pride in how their Global Services representatives and Inflight Services treat million-mile fliers. “We have one of the largest Global Services populations here in the Bay Area, so we see a lot of these customers leaving and arriving at SFO, and we want to give them the recognition that they deserve," he said.
For Joey and the SFO team, it's an opportunity to form a personal connection with customers. “We all treat it like we're planning a party for a friend," Joey said. “In Mr. Lee's case, he was so happy and surprised by what we did for him. It felt really good and it was special for the employees who were part of it, too."
In May, customer Celeste Linhard achieved the 2 million mile mark, while her husband, Tom, was not far behind. The Linhards booked a trip from Newark to Athens, Greece where Thomas would surpass 2 million miles on the return flight. When Premier Qualification Manager Samantha Wells learned of the Linhards' plans, she worked with Alex Dorow, Senior Manager, Global Services to coordinate with the Athens Service Manager, Newark Global Services and Inflight Services teams to give Mr. and Mrs. Linhard a send-off that they wouldn't forget. “As far fewer passengers ever make it to 2 million-plus miles," said Samantha. “We recognize those customers in a more robust way."
The Premier Program team ensured that the Linhards were pre-cleared for an upgrade and Global Services representatives met them at their gate. Once on board, the flight service manager made an announcement, congratulating them on their accomplishment. Global Services Representative Robert Ruiz served them champagne and a cake prior to departing.
Making the Linhards' story even more unique is Tom's lifelong connection to United: his father was a captain with the airline for 30 years and his mother was a flight attendant. They met while working at Capital Airlines, which merged with United in 1960. “I have been flying United since my toddler years," Tom said. “What a wonderful company and family it is."
These are but a few examples of the lengths our employees across several departments go to make customers feel appreciated. While airport and inflight recognitions vary, all of our million milers receive an emailed congratulations note and a million mile membership kit, complete with a membership card and a framed certificate to certify their accomplishment. Customers who reach 2+ million miles also receive the option to choose from a variety of gifts, including tech gadgets, travel gear and designer handbags.
Samantha understands the importance this sort of recognition plays in showing our customers how much they matter. “We want to do everything that we can to make them feel special and to show them that these events do not go unnoticed," she said.
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.
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.
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.
UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, video conferencing tools that many people are using to stay connected.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
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We are humbled by your selfless sacrifice.
In celebration and appreciation of all first responders and essential workers. 👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽👏🏾👏🏿
This is the story of Jason and Shantel. You see, Jason and Shantel love each other very much. They also love traveling and they love the classic Adam Sandler film, The Wedding Singer.
It all began when Jason reached out to United's social media team, hoping for assistance with his upcoming plan to propose. Some phone calls and one borrowed guitar later, the stage was set for Jason. Put all that together, mix in some helpful United employees and, voila, you have a truly memorable marriage proposal. Congratulations to this fun-loving and happy couple, and here's to many more years of making beautiful music together.
A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.