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Scaling mountains

By Matt Adams, April 05, 2017

Everyone has his or her proverbial hill to climb; some people's are just a bit higher than others. Such is the case for U.S. disabled veterans who return home after serving with new battles to fight. For two decades, we have helped those warriors take to the slopes of Aspen, Colorado, for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, a week-long event established by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to give soldiers with serious injuries a place to experience skiing, rock climbing, snowmobiling, sled hockey and snowshoeing. As Host Level sponsors this year, we flew more than 500 veterans, ranging in age from 22 to 82 years old, to the event. Among them was Army veteran Tina Lavallee, a first-time attendee.

"It was beautiful — just amazing," Mrs. Lavallee said afterwards. "Everyone was welcoming and encouraging; it was such a humbling experience."

Mrs. Lavallee, who served in the Gulf War, suffered a brain injury that, at times, left her feeling isolated. "I just sat at home, depressed because I didn't have a purpose," she said. "I can't drive and I live in the country, so I couldn't even go down to the corner store. But when my daughter-in-law found out about the winter sports rehab and encouraged me to give it a try, that all changed."

Along with veterans, sponsors and volunteers, it takes a decent sized brigade of United employees from 95 stations and hubs, including three international locations, to arrange transportation for the participants, handle the large number of luggage and wheelchairs and work as ambassadors, meeting and greeting the veterans at our airports. Reservation Sales and Service Representatives Linda Roush and Renee Buttigieg booked and ticketed those traveling to the clinic.

"We start blocking seats almost a year in advance as soon as our inventory goes live to ensure that we have enough space for everyone," said Linda, who has worked the event for the past nine years. "The challenge is that we can only fit a limited number of wheelchairs on each aircraft. This year we moved more than 130 wheelchairs, so it took a lot of planning."

Nearly 200 veterans and volunteers connected through Denver, where Airport Operations Supervisor Stephen Bernstein and his team met them. "We ensured their safe movement on and off the aircraft while our ramp team carefully loaded their wheelchairs," he said. "Before boarding their flight, the veterans visited with each other and had refreshments. It was great to see their enthusiasm over the event."

Some of our employees, Linda included, even travel to Aspen to support our operations on the ground there. "It's a life-changing week," Linda said, "and I'm so proud that United helps sponsor it. I go and work each year because I love seeing the smiles on their faces. We all come together as a team to make it happen — we all want to make the week special for the veterans."

While the week is designed to challenge physical limitations, the bonds that attendees forge with fellow veterans are just as important, as Mrs. Lavallee can attest. "I've met some very good friends who are going through the same things that I am," she said. "One person helps the other – I might give someone a hand putting on their gloves, and they'll bend down and pick something up for me, which I can't do. It's amazing the things that you do for each other without thinking."

Making our app more accessible for people with disabilities

By The Hub team, October 28, 2020

We're proud to launch a redesigned version of our United app to make it easier for customers with visual disabilities to manage all aspects of day-of travel, including check-in, viewing reservation details and flight status, bag tracking and more.

This latest version of our app is now available to both Android and iOS users, and it offers increased color contrast and more space between graphics. Furthermore, we have reorganized how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack, which are built into most handheld devices. By restructuring the way the information is organized on the app, screen readers are better able to convert text to audio in the proper, logical sequence, allowing customers to better understand and navigate the app.

United Zoom backgrounds for AvGeeks

By The Hub team, October 27, 2020

Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.

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.

Looking back at a landmark year with Special Olympics

By Ryan Wilks, October 19, 2020

Earlier this summer, we shone a light on our flagship partnership with Special Olympics and our commitment to the Inclusion Revolution. In that same story, we introduced you to our four Special Olympics Service Ambassadors, Daniel, Kyle, Lauren and Zinyra (Z), who, this month, celebrate one year working at Chicago O'Hare International Airport as part of the United family.

This groundbreaking, inclusive employment program took off as a part of our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics, a community relationship that employees across the company hold close to heart. The original 'UA4' (as they call themselves) have become an integral part of the United team serving customers at O'Hare Airport. Even from behind their masks, their wide smiles and effervescent spirit exude and bring life to the service culture of excellence we strive towards every day.

"The UA4 are more than just customer service ambassadors. They are shining examples of how inclusion, accessibility and equity can have monumental impacts on the culture and service of a business and community," said Customer Service Managing Director Jonna McGrath. "They have forever changed who we are as a company. While they often talk about how United and this opportunity has changed their lives, they have changed ours in more ways than we can count."

In the two years of partnership with Special Olympics, United employees have volunteered over 10,500 hours of service at events around the world and donated over $1.2 million worth of travel to the organization.

"This inclusive employment program is what community partnerships, like ours with Special Olympics, are all about: collaborating to identify areas where the needs of the community intersect with the cultural and business opportunity, then creating the infrastructure and programming to bring the two together," said Global Community Engagement Managing Director Suzi Cabo. "Through this program, our goal is to show other companies that when you put a committed effort and focus towards inclusion and breaking down barriers, you transform lives. I challenge other business around the world to follow our lead in joining the Inclusion Revolution."

Check out the video below to hear from our Special Olympics Service Ambassadors firsthand.

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