Saying goodbye to Dad, 15 years later - United Hub
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Saying goodbye to Dad, 15 years later

By Ryan Hood, July 18, 2017

Los Angeles-based Flight Attendant Natasha Gagarin was working a flight in 2002 when her father passed away. She never got to say goodbye. Fast forward 15 years, Natasha was seated at a gate at Newark Liberty International Airport awaiting the flight to Houston she was set to work earlier this summer when an elderly man in a wheelchair was dropped off at the gate. The man, customer Nick McEneaney, was grieving when he arrived at the gate. He was on his way to a friend's place in Texas from Dublin, Ireland, where he'd just buried his daughter.

Natasha pictured with Mr. McEneaney

Unfortunately, the flight was delayed four hours and had a gate change. Natasha ensured the 95-year-old Mr. McEneaney was where he needed to be, when he needed to be there. "Kindness doesn't cost a thing," Natasha said, "but its value is priceless."

Natasha, a single mother of four, was looking forward to getting home to her kids in Southern California that night after the flight to Houston. Due to the four-hour delay at Newark's Airport, Mr. McEneaney was going to miss his Houston—Brownsville/South Padre Island, Texas flight, which was the last of the night. "I just knew there was no way he was going to get to his hotel without assistance," Natasha recalled.

Putting her own plans aside for the moment, she contacted Crew Scheduling to request that she remain with Mr. McEneaney for the night to help with the rest of his journey. Unfortunately, there were no more rooms available at the hotel where Mr. McEneaney was staying so Natasha volunteered to sleep on a couch in the hotel lobby. She helped him into his room, poured him water and gave him a toothbrush and toothpaste.

She called to wake him up the next morning at 6:20 a.m., but unfortunately, his morning flight to Brownsville/South Padre Island was canceled. Able to re-book him on the next flight a couple hours later, Natasha took him to the airport, got him in a wheelchair, through security and then had breakfast with him.

Fifteen years had passed since Natasha lost her father, but the pain of never getting to say goodbye had never relented. "Mr. McEneaney reminded me so much of my dad in his mannerisms and beliefs," Natasha said. After breakfast, it was time for Mr. McEneaney to board his flight and it was time to say goodbye. "When I had to say goodbye to Nick, I finally felt like I got to say goodbye to my dad," Natasha said.

Natasha surprises Mr. McEneaney on his flight home to Texas

Tears streaming down both of their faces, Mr. McEneaney called Natasha an angel for helping after he'd just buried his daughter, and she told him he was her angel for finally saying goodbye to her dad. A few weeks later, Mr. McEneaney was ready to leave his friend's residence in Texas and finally return home to the Seattle area. Natasha received word of this and wanted to surprise him by traveling with him on his Houston-Seattle flight.

She worked with the Los Angeles inflight base and Crew Scheduling teams to make the special reunion a reality. Countless tears, many hugs and one dinner later, Natasha had gotten Mr. McEneaney home. "I live by the simple motto of 'be kind to others,'" Natasha said, "Your unassuming act of kindness might become someone's memory of a lifetime." It also just might become your memory of a lifetime.

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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