United Hub - People

People

Rio: A dream come true

By The Hub team

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By HOU Quality Control Aircraft Inspector Rey Sacueza

When I was a schoolboy, I wished and dreamt of visiting Rio de Janeiro. But wasn't sure it would ever happen. Though everything changes when you make a goal for yourself in life and pursue your dream. This dream finally became a reality a few days ago, and I thank United for giving us the opportunity for it to come true.

Colorful steps in Rio

Our journey started when we flew to Rio de Janeiro from Houston, an overnight flight crossing the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, northern South America and part of Brazil. We landed late in the morning and, upon arrival, the adventure began. Everything was smooth, from the airport to our hotel, located in the center of Copacabana beach at the Avenida Atlantica. Along the way, the views were fantastic with both mountains and water in sight, which made me excited.

A few hours after arriving, I was so eager to explore and stroll the streets of Rio, which displayed different mosaic designs on sidewalks. We attended late afternoon mass at the Our Lady of Copacabana church and ate dinner at Marius Degustare, a Brazilian seafood and steakhouse located on the northern end of the beach, a few blocks from our hotel. Here, we drank local beer with our sumptuous meal and went back to the hotel with full stomachs for the night.

Over the next few days, we toured and explored the city with our first stop at the famous Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is located on the peak of the Corcovado Mountain, and there you can experience the amazing view of the city and surrounding area. The statue itself is unbelievable in size, and people from around the world, from all walks of life, come to see it. It is indeed one of the world wonders and an experience of a lifetime just to be there.

Tijuca Rainforest

Next, we went to the Sugarloaf Mountain -- just hop on the cable car to reach the top. Along the way, on display at the Morro da Urca hill, you can see the cable car used in the making of the James Bond movie "Moonraker." At the top, we explored the 360-degree vista and unforgettable views of the Copacabana beach, Christ the Redeemer at the peak of Corcovado Mountain, Macaranã stadium and more. The view is amazing and picture perfect, it could've been a postcard.

We then headed to Macarana stadium, the venue that hosts Brazil's most popular sport, soccer, and where international, national and local games are held year round. We walked the Sambadrome, where samba parades are held during the carnival every year. Tens of thousands of people participate as either spectators or performers during this major event in the city. We also toured the cone-shaped cathedral known as the Metropolitan Cathedral, a major landmark and a masterpiece of modern art. We climbed the Escadaria Selaron, probably the most fascinating staircase in the world, where tiles from around the world were collected or donated for the project and now make up one of Rio's top attractions and touristic spots. The last place we visited on this tour was the Sao Bento Monastery, which is one of the most beautiful architectural complexes in Brazil.

Our adventures continued as we did an early morning hike through Tijuca Rainforest with our guide at the Bom Retiro trail, hiking through narrow trails, towering trees, passing by the waterfall and making our way to the "Pico da Tijuca." At 3,353 feet, it's the highest point of Rio de Janeiro. From this unparalleled vantage point, we enjoyed spectacular views of Rio, Guanabara Bay and other city sights like the Maracanã and Engenhão stadiums and surroundings. On the way down, we passed "Vista Chinesa" from where you can view the Corcovado and Two Brothers Mountains and the other part of the city.

Brazilian dancers

During the evening, we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat feast at a Brazilian steakhouse and washed our food down with the famous local drink caipirinha. Afterward, we experienced the Ginga Tropical, a Brazilian samba and folklore Show, with authentic Brazilian music and dance styles including samba, bossa nova and lambada. We got to experience the vitality of Carnival with dancers, festive costumes, live drumming and rituals from various regions of Brazil.

In search for a hang gliding experience, we took a trip to São Conrado Beach. The launch point is at Tijuca Forest National Park. You glide over the lush, verdant Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Forest) and touch down on the beach of São Conrado. During the glide, you see some of Rio's most famous landmarks such as Sugarloaf Mountain, the Rocinha Favela and the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain. It's an unforgettable and amazing experience with a bird's eye view of the city.

United employee and wife on Sao Conrado Beach

After days of exploring and adventures, we wound down with an early walk to one of the most famous beaches in the world, Copacabana Beach. We decided to stay and relax and enjoy the beach, sights and surroundings. At the beach, be prepared to see more skin than clothes – on men and women of all ages! There were also many peddlers trying to sell things to tourists. We swam in the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean and later slept with the sound of splashing waves on the shore. What a wonderful feeling, ending this trip on such a positive tune.

The city of Rio de Janeiro has a lot to offer, and there is never enough time to experience it all, but with the time we had we created a lifetime of wonderful memories in this amazing city.

Exploring New Zealand by a DC-3 aircraft

By The Hub team

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By SFO A320 Captain Scott Cooper

I recently returned from an incredible tour of New Zealand. Instead of travelling by bus, we flew around on a true aviation classic, a DC-3. In 12 days, our group flew "low and slow," experiencing all this beautiful country has to offer, from the North to the South Island.

DC-3 Aircraft in New Zealand

On the first day, we met our crew (mostly retired pilots and flight attendants) and left Auckland for Rotorua (known locally as "RotoVegas") to experience the natural thermal springs, and a traditional Maori Haka dance and Hangi dinner. The following day, owing to bad weather, we were taken by coach bus down to Palmerston North for the flight down to Blenheim on the South Island. This region is home to the Marlborough wine region, and it's where you can find some of the best sauvignon blanc on the planet. We landed at the Omaka airfield, which is a grass strip and home to the incredible Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum. The next day, we boarded our DC-3 for the one-hour flight down the coast to Christchurch. Upon arrival, we toured the International Antarctic Centre (Christchurch has traditionally been the starting point for expeditions and military operations to Antarctica). Christchurch itself was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2011 but is being rebuilt anew.

Town of Te Anau in New Zealand

The following morning, we departed once again for the short, 20-minute flight to Ashburton, a large grass airfield and home to the amazing Ashburton Aviation Museum. After a barbeque lunch, we took off for the beautiful town of Dunedin. Dunedin, on the south east coast of the South Island, is home to New Zealand's first university and truly one of the most beautiful small towns in the world. After a great day of exploring Dunedin, we took off for the one hour flight across the tip of the Southern Alps to the charming lakeside town of Te Anau. Te Anau is the gateway to the Milford Sound region and home to some of the most spectacular and unspoiled scenery in the world. It's also where the "Lord of the Rings" movies were filmed. Cruising up the Milford Sound is quite an experience, as clear days are rare. Gale force winds are more common, but the scenery is simply stunning and worth the journey. The next morning, we left for Queenstown, which can only be described as a sportsman's paradise. The town of 18,000 is the starting point for hiking, kayaking, jet boating, bungee jumping or skiing (in the winter). In the evening, our group cruised up Lake Wakatipu on an old, coal-burning steamship, which was built in the same year as the Titanic. A fun fact about our tour director was that he is a direct descendant of William Murdoch, who was the First Officer on the RMS Titanic itself.

After a couple great days in Queenstown, it was off again to Wanaka, which is home to one of the biggest air shows in the Southern Hemisphere (one that our DC-3, "Betsy" participates in every year), as well as a great aviation museum and the largest collection of Packard cars in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the world. For the next few days, we flew up to the towns of Hokitika, Greymouth, and Westport, before our final stop on the South Island, Nelson. Like Dunedin, Nelson is one of the most charming and livable small towns on the planet.

Scott Cooper with the DC-3 aircraft

After about nine days flying around the South Island, we left its beautiful shores to land on the North Island, once again in New Plymouth. After a great evening and tour of WWII exhibit at the airport, curated by none other than Jim Hickey (TVNZ's most famous weatherman and an all-around great guy), we headed back up to Ardmore airport in Auckland. After landing, the official tour wrapped up, capping off a 12-day trip of a lifetime, but the aviation experience was not quite over yet, as an optional scenic flight over Auckland in a PBY Catalina aircraft was on offer.

This was an incredible experience to fly in one of only two Catalinas left in the world today, certified to carry passengers. This tour is offered just once or twice a year and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If interested check out pacifictrailways.co.nz.

Following in her father's footsteps

By The Hub team

B737 First Officer Tamela DeMik was first exposed to aviation as a young girl watching her father, B737 Captain Randy DeMik, head off to work in his United uniform. When he returned from a trip, he would come home bringing gifts from his travels (which ended up frequently being airplane peanuts and plastic wings). On family vacations, Tamela remembers her father requiring a visit to the flight deck of a variety of fleets to get an in-depth description of functionality of gears and flaps.

For Tamela's tenth birthday, she asked to tag along on a trip with her dad. It was such an amazing and influential experience flying with her father from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia then onto San Diego. The flight attendants even made her a birthday crown for the celebration. It was in high school when Tamela made the decision to make being a pilot her lifetime career. Her parents supported her dreams and enrolled her into flight lessons at a local airport. Tamela earned her Private Pilot's License in 1999 at the age of 17 and went on to attend Purdue University in 2003 and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Aviation Technology.

During Tamela's sophomore year at college, the September 11th tragedy occurred. The effect on the aviation industry was profound and as her senior year approached she called her father and asked for advice. That was when he recommended the Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve.

Captain Randy DeMik giving his daughter, First Officer Tamela DeMik her United wings at her new hire ceremony. Captain Randy DeMik giving his daughter, First Officer Tamela DeMik her United wings at her new hire ceremony.

Tamela completed multiple deployments overseas, flew missions around the world, worked full time in the office planning missions and spent five years as the Wing Chief of Safety. After her 13 years of service, it was time for a new challenge and commercial airline hiring had accelerated. Tamela made the big leap and worked towards her original dream again, flying as her father's copilot at United.

Our training department became aware of the DeMik's and surprised them by allowing Randy to notify Tamela that she had been a successful candidate and was offered a first officer position. Randy was also given the opportunity to hand his daughter her wings at the training center and to be the first to welcome her to the United family. Randy and Tamela fly the same aircraft, the B737, and recently through a chance happening they had the opportunity to fly United's customers as a father-daughter crew. So many people have been influential in Tamela's journey, including her mother, sister, mentors, coworkers and friends, but it has been a very special relationship with her father that she feels forever grateful for.

Amsterdam: A mix of elegance and beauty

By The Hub team

By Remote Reservations Sales and Service Representative Simon Mapes

Every year we like to plan our summer vacation with gusto. We look for the perfect European destination, such as Cabourg in Normandy or the Isle of Wight. This year we picked Amsterdam. We tend to plan our vacations meticulously. We search Google for the local off-the-beaten-track restaurants and for unique, boutique hotels.

Search flights

In our search we came across this interesting property called "Kimpton De Witt Hotel," which was a short walk from Amsterdam Central Station. It has cozy groupings of chairs and couches in a stylish lobby. The hotel offers a complementary wine hour each night, which provides guests the opportunity to meet and talk about their daily adventures.

After we settled in to the hotel, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat and a drink at the hotel bar. Five hours later, we were still there. We had struck up an interesting conversation with the bartender Maarten, discussing cultures, lifestyles and politics. It turned out that Maarten was quite the foodie and he was not impressed by our choices of restaurants. In fact, he gave us a list of his favorite places so we could experience the best Dutch cuisine.

View of homes and cars along the many canals.

Amsterdam's elegance and beauty have to be experienced from her glorious canals. We opted for a smaller canal tour, getting perspective of the architecture, famously narrow because residents used to be taxed on frontage, inspiring people to build long, narrow houses. They even appear to be leaning to the point of collapsing. It is a strangely calm and relaxing city. If you prefer, you can rent your own boat and explore the city's waterways.

That night, we visited Maarten's first recommendation, Noord West, three canals over from the hotel. It was a quaint bistro on the edge of a gravel square, with rustic outdoor seating. We had the chef's choice, three courses: amuse-bouche, salmon tartare and veal with corn puree. Dessert was most surprising and enjoyable: white chocolate mousse with dried beet flakes.

View of the homes and house boats along the canals

Our last day was spent hopping on and off the free ferries that crisscross the harbor. Then we wandered around the Jordaan district, a residential area where you will find the Anne Frank House. Narrow canals are lined with house boats, hip eateries, cozy pubs and cafes. Here, we had dinner at Maarten's second restaurant choice, Bistrot Neuf, a French/Dutch hybrid. We started off with escargot, followed by a ceviche of scallops and crayfish, and venison with roasted turnips. We finished with a black cherry sorbet dessert.

The highlight of our Amsterdam adventure was foremost the Dutch people, who were charming, and their uncanny ability to speak English made life so much easier. Of course, we loved the food and wine, too. The city is walkable, or you could be brave and bike, but there are truly thousands of bikes riding around the city, so it's good to be prepared for that.

Search flights

The picturesque views of Oregon

By Ryan Hood

By Social Media Platform & Development Assistant Manager Ryan Hood

My mom and I each had the next five days off and clothes packed for moderate temperatures. What we didn't have was any clue where we'd be going.

Search flights

A couple hours and countless destination ideas later, we ended up bound for San Francisco. We've both spent a lot of time in the Bay Area, so instead decided to change course and head to Oregon for a scenic road trip throughout the state.

We got a few hours of sleep after our early-morning arrival into San Francisco and then took the first flight to Medford, Oregon, and what a scenic approach that is. Little did we know, that flight was setting the tone for the entire trip.

We rented a car and took off for the coast. We drove up and down the Samuel H. Boardman scenic corridor, which is very appropriately named. We spent that night in Brookings, Oregon (population: not many) and had some delicious seafood.

Early the next morning, we hit the road, driving back east, headed for Crater Lake. Most of the trails were closed because a majority of the snow had yet to melt, but the lake itself was still a very cool sight. Oregon's natural beauty was just getting started impressing us.

Deschutes National Forest toward Bend, Oregon

After lunch, we drove north, through Deschutes National Forest toward Bend, Oregon. I've done a lot of the stereotypical bucket list drives, and none of them could even hold a candle to this one. We pulled over multiple times, overwhelmed by how gorgeous our surroundings were. I highly recommend this drive.

Bend was a very cool area – good vibe, good breweries, good views. The hike to nearby Tumalo Falls was easy, and like everything else in this state, beautiful.

The next day we headed toward Trillium Lake and Mount Hood (great name). Looking out across the lake seeing people fishing, with the mountain in the background, was yet another postcard-worthy view, and well worth the walk down through two miles of matted snow in Nikes.

Rowena Crest, Oregon

We stopped at nearby Apple Valley BBQ afterwards, and I'd also recommend this spot. Get the brisket. From there, we headed west along the Columbia River Gorge, stopping at Rowena Crest, Crown Point and Multnomah Falls, each of which was, you guessed it, also very picturesque.

Next stop: Portland. I enjoyed being out in nature more than I enjoyed this city, but at least the food was delicious. Meal-wise, it's hard to beat a day consisting of breakfast at Voodoo Doughnut, lunch at The Grilled Cheese Grill food truck, dinner at Jake's Famous Crawfish and drinks at Deschutes Brewery.

Football field at the University of Oregon

We then headed south to Eugene, home to the University of Oregon. Nice campus and amazing athletic facilities. And hey, if you're lucky, one of the football stadium gates might just be slightly open and you'll randomly end up on the field. Just saying.

After a nice day in Eugene, we flew from there to San Francisco, and then back to Chicago. More than 900 miles on the rental car later, we each had a new favorite domestic destination.

Search flights

Colombia, a beautiful jewel

By The Hub team

By Honolulu-based Remote Reservations Sales and Service Representative Kathy Bair

A few years ago, I was very fortunate to facilitate a training in Mexico City with a colleague from our North Houston Contact Center (NHC) Lisa Perry. When she learned that I was from Colombia, she had me promise that one day I would take her and earlier this year I made good on that promise.

Search flights

Last February, Lisa and her travel companion Keith, my husband Carlos and I took off on a beautiful trip to my motherland.

We landed in Bogota, Colombia - 8,860 feet above sea level, with a mix of modern and colonial architecture -- so many places to see in so little time. My country is a mix of culture, nature and welcoming arms everywhere. I know in the past it has had a stigma of being a dangerous place but, really, the only risk you take in visiting is wanting to stay here forever.

On our first day in Bogota, we visited the Gold Museum, which contains more than 34,000 gold pieces from pre-Hispanic societies in Colombia.

The following day, we made our way over to the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, one of the most unique cathedrals in the world. It is an underground Roman Catholic Church built within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 meters underground - this place is truly fascinating.

Have you heard of the famous legend of El Dorado? We were able to visit La Laguna de Guatavita, where the indigenous people used to give their gold to the gods. We also explored the nearby town of Guatavita, -- a perfect replica of a Spanish colonial town, with buildings in white facades, rustic stucco and clay tiles. You feel very much at peace in this town.

United employee, her husband and friends infront of Cartagena sign.

We headed to Cartagena next. Oh, Cartagena, the beauty. The energy, the colors, the hospitality and the flavors are overwhelming here. The cobblestone streets and the beautiful, colorful colonial buildings give the city a unique charm, where the music never stops. We visited the San Felipe de Barajas castle, surrounded by a wall built to protect the castle from pirates and enemies of the Spanish crown in the 1700s.

We danced in the streets, laughed until our bellies hurt and then relaxed in the white sands of Baru, a small island off the coast of Cartagena with beautiful beaches and clear water.

Lisa and Keith loved everything about Colombia, and they were the perfect travel companions. Because our trip was short, we only had time to do so much, but Colombia has so many more beautiful places to see and explore.

The bright green hills of Valle de Cocora

If you have the time during your trip, visit Antioquia, in the central northwestern part of Colombia, where you'll discover the most beautiful coffee fields you've ever seen. Many coffee farms offer tours and allow you to learn how to pick coffee beans. The green of its mountains is a breathtaking site. Valle de Cocora is another must, a great destination for eco-tourists. It's set so high you feel like you can touch the sky. The little town of Salento nearby looks like a town out of a fairytale book. This Spanish colonial mountain town seems like it stopped in time, making it surreal and striking. Here you will find the slender wax palms, which are native to the Andes of Colombia and are also the world's tallest palm trees.

No matter which city you choose to explore, Colombia is a beautiful place that everyone needs to add to their bucket list. It's no surprise that Lonely Planet ranked Colombia second on its list of best countries to visit in 2017.

Search flights
Scroll to top