Three Perfect Days: Louisville
Story by Amanda Petrusich | Photography by Sam Polcer | Hemispheres, January 2015
Louisville is best known for hosting the Kentucky Derby, famously dubbed “the most exciting two minutes in sports." When you're done with that, we've got a lot more to show you.
Hunter S. Thompson, a native of Louisville, once wrote an essay titled “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved," referring to the horse race that has been at the center of this city's social calendar for going on 140 years and is still its biggest claim to fame.
The Derby has been referred to as “the most exciting two minutes in sports," but the excitement that surrounds the event, and the city itself, is generally viewed as a fleeting, once-a-year thing. This, however, couldn't be further from the truth.
Louisville dates back to 1778, and its rich history is on prominent display year-round—in its architecture, its music, its cultural institutions. The city is home to 123 glorious parks, some designed by the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. In recent years, a thriving restaurant scene has emerged, combining innovation with down-home Southern cooking. The bars are hopping. The retailers do a roaring trade. And did we mention the bourbon?
Louisville also represents an unusual convergence of geography and culture. While there's no shortage of Southern charm here, there's enough Midwestern grit and East Coast ambition to keep things interesting—a city doesn't spawn people like Hunter S. Thompson by sticking exclusively to the Dixie schtick.
Even the irascible, distinctly un-sentimental Thompson, it seems, yearned for his hometown from time to time. “If I could think of a way to do it right now, I'd head back to Louisville," he once wrote, “and try to sink back as far as I could into the world that did its best to make me."
DAY ONE | In your recurring childhood fantasies about spending the night in a museum, you invariably ended up spooning a stuffed mink inside an old diorama. What you didn't envision was reclining in a Herman Miller chair wearing a fat bathrobe and smelling like a particularly fragrant grapefruit (thank you, Malin + Goetz soap). But that's what's in store for you at 21c, a contemporary art museum that doubles as a boutique hotel in downtown Louisville.
There is art everywhere here: in the rooms, in the lobby and in the airy galleries, which are free and open to the public. Many of the works are interactive, such as the projected installation “Text Rain," which allows those waiting for an elevator to kill time by grabbing at tumbling letters. Oddly, 21c is also home to a number of four-foot-tall red plastic penguins, which hover at the bar, gaze at artworks and appear unbidden in hallways.
A jockey takes a horse through its paces at Churchill Downs
You'll be spending the morning getting to know a different kind of animal: thoroughbred horses, which in this town are a subject of devotion bordering on worship. Your first stop is Wagner's, a diner-cum-pharmacy across the street from Churchill Downs. Wagner's has been catering to the racing set since 1922, and its walls are littered with dusty photos of Derby winners, their necks draped with Kentucky roses. You take a booth and, on the recommendation of your fast-talking waitress, order Pam and Jack's Omelette, an imposing concoction of eggs, green pepper, onion, tomato, ham, bacon, sausage and two kinds of cheese. “You did good!" the waitress says, eyeing your half-finished plate.
You leave Wagner's wondering how a meal like that could possibly be deemed appropriate for a jockey, then lumber across Fourth Street to the Kentucky Derby Museum. After wandering around for all of 25 minutes, you decide you know enough about the subject to mount a mechanical steed and attempt to outpace two kids in a race simulator. You lose. Badly.
Next up is the adjacent Churchill Downs, where you've booked a “Barn and Backside" tour of the facilities. In the paddock, your guide pauses to describe the pandemonium of Derby weekend, when 80,000 revelers charge the infield to “picnic," a euphemism for drinking ungodly amounts of booze and placing bad bets. Dedicated infielders, you are told, bury leftover bottles on the grounds to retrieve the following May, a method of bourbon-aging you won't find in the guidebooks.
From here, you cab it to NuLu, a former industrial district that's now a tangle of storefronts, galleries and cafés catering to the city's artsy set. You settle in at Please and Thank You, an emerald-green coffeehouse and used-record store, and watch a bearded young man thumb through crates of vintage LPs, then order a toasted mozzarella and pesto sandwich, followed by the biggest chocolate chip cookie you've ever had. That riding career is looking unlikely.
A convergence of the old and the new at the Copper & Kings distillery
Next, you stroll along Market Street, dipping in and out of shops, including Why Louisville, purveyor of more locally themed T-shirts than you could have ever imagined existed (“Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky!"). Watched by a life-size Colonel Sanders doll, you drop a couple of quarters into an old fortune-telling console, causing a mechanical gypsy to jerk around for a bit before the machine spits out a card reading, “You're Important."
It's close enough to cocktail hour, and this is Kentucky, so you head to nearby Decca, a bar and restaurant situated in a 19th-century row house. A tattooed bartender makes you an Old Fashioned, which you carry to a sunny garden. The people-watching here is supreme, but after your drink's gone (and it goes awfully fast) you follow the sound of live music coming from the Flea-Off Market, an outdoor bazaar in a nearby parking lot. You browse the tables, picking up an old Derby pennant from 1957 and a Kentucky Gentleman–branded whiskey decanter shaped like a Revolutionary War soldier. Bingo.
Dinner tonight is at Harvest, a popular restaurant that showcases the city's affinity for locally sourced food and that does much of the curing, smoking and preserving in-house. You order a couple of local specialties: burgoo (a thick stew of chicken, pork, turkey, potatoes, corn and heirloom tomatoes topped with pretzel croutons) and buttermilk fried chicken (doused with smoked peppercorn gravy and homemade hot sauce). It's not until you've finished both dishes that you realize your fruit-and-veg intake for the day has fallen somewhere between “nil" and “Was there a cherry in that Old Fashioned?" Ah well, there's always tomorrow.
A barista at "beer and breakfast" spot Gralehaus
DAY TWO | You begin your day with a brief nod to healthy living, grabbing a bowl of granola at Atlantic No. 5, an airy breakfast spot not far from your hotel. You scrape your big enamel bowl clean and, feeling revived, walk to the Muhammad Ali Center, a multimedia museum devoted to the colorful, controversial life of Louisville's most famous son. Wandering the museum's halls, you happen across Ali's two-tone 1977 Rolls-Royce, which packs nearly as much punch as its owner. Next up is a quick round of computerized boxing, in which you are once again vanquished by schoolkids.
From here, you head over to J. Graham's Café at the storied Brown Hotel, whose English Renaissance design—hand-painted reliefs on the ceiling, ornate woodwork everywhere else—provides an elegant counterpoint to the gluttony you are about to engage in. You take a seat in the café and order a Hot Brown, an open-faced roast turkey sandwich served in a skillet with bacon and tomato and doused in a Mornay sauce. The sandwich was invented here in the 1920s, and your waiter tells you they dispense nearly 300 of them a week—800 during Derby week—which, by your calculation, adds up to about 13.2 gazillion calories.
Trying to get back on the healthy track, you head to Cherokee Park, a 400-acre expanse bordering the Highlands neighborhood, east of downtown. Frederick Law Olmsted designed this space in 1891 (18 of the city's parks are his), and like his other creations (New York's Central Park among them), Cherokee reflects Olmsted's belief that a large component of human happiness is access to open spaces. You happily walk the park's 2.4-mile loop, pausing atop Baringer Hill, known locally as “Dog Hill," to watch a couple of puppies wrestling in the grass.
Next, you're off to NuLu to grab a drink at the Haymarket Whiskey Bar, a pleasantly divey Market Street spot that has more than 100 bourbons on the menu. After a brief conference with the bartender—a sharp-tongued young woman in a spectacular pair of polka-dot pants—you order a Weller 12-year on the rocks. “Attagirl," the bartender says as you empty your glass.
A gallery space at 21c, with Anne Peabody's "Wheel of Fortune" in the foreground
A short walk down the street, the small theater space Dreamland is screening rare silent films featuring vintage amateur footage of 1930s Louisville, set to a soundtrack of 78 rpm records. You arrive during a stretch of Derby coverage and, within moments, are utterly transported. The horses charge; spectators jump with joy or (silently) curse their luck. Afterward, out in the lot, a musician performs an acoustic set, plucking spare, lingering songs on his banjo while a rapt crowd gathers on the pavement.
Now it's time for culture of a different sort: dinner at MilkWood, the downtown eatery where Edward Lee—a veteran of “Top Chef" and “Iron Chef America"—serves Asian food with a Southern twist. The atmosphere is lively; the room is cozy, with exposed brick and an array of mounted antlers. You sip a Smoke and Pickle—Scotch, Pernod, pickle brine and mesquite—then order the organic pork burger, served with napa kimchi, a heap of thick cracklins, Havarti cheese and a rich remoulade. Lee stops by the table to tell you that he once ate this burger every day for three weeks. (He had to tell the kitchen to stop making it for him.) You finish the meal with sorghum and grits ice cream and, with some difficulty, make your way outside.
You get a little lost walking the three blocks back to your hotel and find yourself on the corner of Fourth and Walnut, reading a plaque commemorating an epiphany the Trappist monk and poet Thomas Merton had on this spot in 1958 (“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun"). You wend your way back to 21c with this thought in your head, and it is still there when you collapse, perfectly exhausted, onto your bed.
An appetizer platter at Proof on Main's Sunday Supper
DAY THREE | Your, ahem, healthy day behind you, you'll be spending much of this one sampling Kentucky's finest tipples. You pause in the 21c lobby to stare at Duke Riley's “Pigeon Loft," a work that consists of a wooden cage containing a bunch of homing pigeons, then head out to find the Gralehaus, a “beer and breakfast" spot in the Highlands where you'll prepare your stomach for the boozy day ahead.
Once there, you hop onto an industrial-looking stool (nearly everything seems to be repurposed) and order a biscuit with picnic ham, mustard, cheese and scrambled eggs. While you wait, you admire the large coolers lining the wall, packed with a Smithsonian-quality collection of microbrews. The Gralehaus has been open for less than a year, but it's already wildly popular with messy-haired locals, many of whom are in attendance this morning.
Stomach suitably lined, you take a cab to Copper & Kings in Butchertown. Louisville is a bourbon-centric city, of course, but the people at this distillery—which specializes in small-batch brandy, using traditional copper-pot distillation methods—are hoping there might be room for another spirit. Co-owner Joe Heron recommends you take yours on the rocks with a rub of citrus on the rim, which you do in the upstairs tasting room, watched over by framed portraits of rock stars, including Jim James of Louisville's own My Morning Jacket.
There's more tippling in store for you on Whiskey Row, a recently restored stretch of Main Street that was once the hub of Louisville's bourbon industry. You stop for a tasting at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which requires that you take a crash course in such matters as corn ratios and optimum proofs. As far as you can tell, there are no wrong answers in bourbon analysis, although your guide does respond with a poor-you look when you holler “Wood!"
Billy Goat Strut Revue perform at the Flea-Off Market
Lunch is at Vietnam Kitchen, a local favorite in the Iroquois neighborhood. It doesn't look like much inside—wall-mounted televisions, linoleum tiles, a few wilted plants in the window—but you have been assured (by a woman at the next table) that there isn't a single disappointing dish in the house. You order pho tai (rice noodles in a delicious broth, topped with thinly sliced beef) and an avocado milkshake. The woman at the next table proves wise.
From here you'll be heading to Woodford Reserve, about an hour east of the city, near the sleepy little town of Versailles (pronounced “ver-sales"). Once you leave the interstate, the drive is sublime. This is horse country, all rolling green hills and expansive blue skies. Woodford is the oldest working bourbon distillery in the U.S., dating back to 1797. The grounds, with their mossy stone buildings and rows of oak barrels, have a medieval feel to them. The bourbon is sweet and smooth, tasting vaguely of young oak, vanilla and honeycomb (you're learning!). “Home, James!" you say to your driver as you leave, although, looking back, you're pretty sure his name was Paul.
Dinner tonight is at Proof on Main, 21c's artsy (of course) and ambitious eatery. On Sunday nights, it serves a market-dictated prix-fixe meal; you start yours with a platter of tapas-style appetizers, including biscuits with jalapeño-peach butter and deviled eggs with chive and ash. For a main course you have filet of hot Kentucky catfish with candied onions, ratatouille and fried potatoes with pickled peppers. By the time dessert arrives—Lime Dream Pie with coconut, chantilly and saltines—you are somewhere between satisfied and liable to explode.
Leaving the restaurant, you enter into a brief internal debate about how best to conclude your stay in Louisville. A stroll across the Big Four Bridge? A cruise on the Belle of Louisville steamboat? Or, um, maybe a bit more bourbon? That settled, you walk to the Seelbach Hotel and the Old Seelbach Bar, a favored haunt of F. Scott Fitzgerald when he was stationed at nearby Camp Taylor. You plunk your elbows on the intricate mahogany bar and order an Eagle Rare, neat, feeling at home among the other solo drinkers nursing whiskeys.
As you sip your drink you think of Fitzgerald's lovelorn millionaire in The Great Gatsby, for whom Louisville “was pervaded with a melancholy beauty" and for whom the city exerted an irresistible attraction, in much the way it did for Hunter S. Thompson, in much the way it does for anyone who has been lucky enough to call this place home.
Freelance writer Amanda Petrusich forgot to mark an X where she buried her bourbon at Churchill Downs.
This article was from Rhapsody Magazine and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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Porto: Portugal’s surprising second city
“Second cities" or those that rank #2 in population often surprise world travelers. And second doesn't mean second-rate. Porto is Portugal's second city — so off-the-radar that many world travelers haven't even heard of it. Yet, Porto and nearby spots in northern Portugal can be delightful destinations even if you don't visit the more well-known city of Lisbon.
Old city by day
The best place to get oriented, as in most European cities, is in the old city center. Porto's Old City is so well-preserved that it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 12th-century cathedral and the 15th-century Church of St. Francis, notable for interior wood carvings gilded by hundreds of pounds of gold, are mixed in with a rich collection of imposing granite, red-roofed Baroque buildings. Add 225 stairs and a stirring view to your walking tour by ascending the 250-foot-high Clérigos Church bell tower, built in 1754, which dominates the Porto skyline. Historic bridges over the Douro River and Soares dos Reis National Museum, an art museum housed in a palace, are also excellent sites to see.
Food and music by night
Porto's youthful population has turned it into a lively city after dark. You might start off the evening in the Old City at Abadia do Porto, a 1939 restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese dishes like roasted lamb and grilled octopus, or at Astoria, with its modern Portuguese fare served inside a former palace. Whether you choose a Portuguese, French or fusion restaurant, seafood is likely to be highlighted, drawing on Porto's proximity to the Atlantic and the Douro. Then, you can head to the large collection of bars and nightclubs in the nearby Galerias district, which includes Radio Bar, inside a former court building, and Gare, a disco in a tunnel that stays open until 6 a.m.
Head west to the beaches
The closest Atlantic beaches to central Porto are at Foz do Douro (mouth of the Douro), just 20 minutes away by city bus. But why settle? In a rental car you can explore Atlantic beaches and beach towns that extend for hundreds of miles along Portugal's coastline. Two of the best are Foz do Minho, the nation's northernmost oceanic beach that's just across the Minho River from Spain, and Quiaios, a dune-fringed paradise of sand south of Porto. Many beaches in northern Portugal are cradled in coves protected by rocky promontories, similar to northern California and Oregon beaches.
Or east to the wine country
The Douro Valley wine region is another World Heritage Site and one of the world's best and most scenic wine regions. It's up the Douro River from Porto by boat or 90 minutes by road. Namesake port wines and other fortified wines are the region's signature beverages, which can be sampled at tasting rooms on the Douro along N-222, a wine road that's been called the world's most scenic drive. While you're in the area, check out the wine and anthropology museums in the wine towns and yet another World Heritage Site — Coa Valley Archaeological Park — known for its prehistoric rock carvings.
Portugal's Mediterranean climate and coastal breezes bless it with mild weather year round, as the average temperature ranges from 57 degrees (and rain) in January to 78 degrees (and a little rain) in August. Whenever you come, there's no need to learn Portuguese as English is spoken even more widely than elsewhere in Western Europe. Once you arrive, rent a car only if you don't mind ridiculous drivers. The trains are more relaxing — light-rail and subway trains crisscross the Porto area and funicular cable cars climb its steepest hills. There's even a scenic train that follows the Douro nearly to Spain, with a roundtrip fare of only about $30.
Portugal requires that visitor passports don't expire until at least three months after the arrival date, so check that. Next, buy some Euros (for a great exchange rate) and reserve a flight. United Airlines flies nonstop from New York/Newark to Porto and MileagePlus® award miles can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.
United 787-10 Dreamliner launch
Story was contributed by: Jennifer Lake | Photography: Alicia of Aesthetica
It was a typical Monday morning. I'm sitting at my desk at work, drinking coffee, reviewing my to-do list for the week. All around me, heels are clacking through the office and phones ring intermittently. However, this particular Monday morning was different. Ultimately, I would receive an offer from my favorite airline for a collaboration to participate in the United 787-10 Dreamliner launch from Los Angeles LAX to New York/Newark EWR. Read the full story here featured on Style Charade.
Fit for the runway: We begin testing new uniforms
Last year we announced new partnerships with Tracy Reese, Brooks Brothers and Carhartt — best-in-class fashion and apparel designers — to help reimagine uniforms for more than 70,000 of our employees. Focusing on high quality fabrics, improved breathability and overall enhanced fit, our goal is to design and develop a more cohesive collection that looks good, feels good and enables employees to perform at their best on behalf of our customers.
United employees can learn more on the uniform designs by visiting Flying Together.
An insider's guide to Boston
Boston is a pack-it-all-in kind of place. Founded in 1630, one of America's oldest cities does many things well. Boston's many claims to fame include many of America's oldest historic landmarks and one of its oldest ballparks. It's a destination for history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, sports fans, families and more. No matter who your travel companions are or what they're interested in, everyone will find something to pique their interest in Beantown.
Getting there & around town
Fly direct to Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) from many U.S. cities — visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight. Flights are 90 minutes from New York, two hours from Cleveland and five to six hours from California. From Logan International Airport, it's easy to hail a taxi, use ridesharing apps or take public transportation. If you want to take the scenic route, take a water taxi across Boston Harbor directly into downtown.
Downtown Boston is easy to navigate. It's walkable and taxis are plentiful. The MBTA, Boston's public transportation system, offers affordable access to Cambridge, many attractions and the suburbs. Keep in mind it's one of the oldest transportation systems in the country, so expect a few bumps. Because the city is dense, parking can be expensive or hard to find, so avoid driving if you can.
When to visit
Summer and fall are the most popular seasons to visit. Summer is prime time to enjoy Boston's many parks, outdoor eateries, open-air concerts and baseball games at Fenway Park. Mild fall weather, beautiful autumn foliage and Halloween festivities in nearby Salem, Massachusetts make October one of Boston's busiest months. The city also sees an influx of visitors for the Boston Marathon in April. You'll find smaller crowds and more affordable prices in winter, but brace yourself for the cold.
What to do
There's so much to take in just by walking through Boston's cobblestoned streets. Downtown is quaint, compact and easy to explore by foot. The small city is packed with historic sites, New England's finest food, proud sports fans and friendly locals.
As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston's historic sites are an attraction in themselves. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to visit 16 of them around the city, including Revolutionary-era museums, churches, buildings and an impressive warship. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is on the trail, too, and is one of Boston's top attractions, with plentiful shopping, dining and live music. Not much of a walker? Boston Duck Tours operate land-and-water historic tours on World War II-inspired vehicles, which transform from truck to boat mid-tour.
Many museums and sites are tucked along Boston Harbor. The waterfront is always bustling with activity year-round. The harborwalk is the perfect place to meander and explore without a strict agenda. Plan to visit a major attraction or two, but leave time to enjoy the scenery or to pop into a café for a coffee and sweet treat (award-winning Flour Bakery + Cafe is a local favorite).
Deemed the “Athens of America," Boston boasts not only some of the country's oldest and most architecturally significant buildings, but also a thriving arts and culture scene. You could spend your entire trip touring its dozens of world-class museums. Take in classical music at the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra, or take a leisurely stroll through Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the city's most well-known public parks. Riding the giant Swan Boats through the Public Garden lagoon is a kitschy, yet delightful experience, especially for kids.
What to eat
What must you absolutely eat in Boston? In short, everything. Long ago the city was nicknamed Beantown, allegedly after slow-cooked molasses baked beans served to sailors and traders. Today, Boston continues its reputation as a great eating city. From clam chowder to cannoli, the most popular dishes here are often hearty and decadent. Boston is also known for fresh lobster rolls, roast beef sandwiches and, of course, Boston cream pie.
Ask any Bostonian where to find “the best" of anything, and everyone will recommend a different spot. Cannoli from Mike's Pastry, Boston cream pie from Omni Parker House (where it was invented) and the roast beef 1000 sandwich from Cutty's frequently top the must-try lists. If you make it to a ball game at Fenway Park, Fenway Franks are a Boston staple.
Our role in ‘Spider-Man™: Far From Home’
In Columbia Pictures upcoming release in association with Marvel Studios, "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," our web-slinging hero finds himself – yep, you guessed it – far from his home in New York City. And since flying is one of the few superpowers Spider-Man doesn't possess, we gave him a little help, meaning United is featured in the film.
The scenes of Peter Parker and his pals traveling to Europe take place on one of our Boeing 777s with the all-new United Polaris® business class, and several of our employees – including members of our Tech Ops, Inflight, Flight Operations and Airport Operations teams – served as actors and production support during shoots at New York/Newark (EWR) and London-Stansted (STN).
London-Heathrow (LHR) Customer Service Representative Manjit Heer and LHR Cargo Warehouse Operations Manager Richard Miller were background extras on board, and multiple flight attendants had a role, including San Francisco (SFO) Flight Attendant Tammy Harris.
"It was extremely surreal," said Tammy. "I was in my element because I was on the plane in uniform, but not really, because I'm not an actor."
Tammy said she hit her mark and delivered her line with gusto, and she's excited to see if she made the final cut when "Spider-Man™: Far From Home" hits worldwide theaters this summer.
"Hopefully, I'll have my two seconds of fame and all will be well," she joked.
Los Angeles (LAX) Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor Fernando Melendez is a veteran of several film shoots but said this one was his favorite. When the production went to London, he was one of five members of LAX Tech Ops who went over to look after our airplane and make adjustments to its interior based on the filmmaker's needs.
"When we parked the plane at Stanstead, there were lights and cameras surrounding us. It was like the plane was the star of the movie," he said. "Each day, we would work with the assistant director; he would go through and say, 'Okay, for this shoot we need these seats, or these panels removed,' so they could get the camera angles. Pretty much, the airplane was our responsibility; we opened it in the morning and closed it at night. We were the first ones there and the last ones to leave every day."
Fernando said the actors were all very gracious and engaging, and said the whole experience was fantastic from start to finish. It also earned him a little cooler cred with his 18-year-old son, who is a massive Marvel fan.
Leading up to the film's premiere this year, there will be plenty of ways for employees and customers to get into the Spidey spirit in anticipation of our cameo. Stay tuned for more details.
Peter Parker returns in "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," the next chapter of the Spider-Man™: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!
Directed by Jon Watts, the film is written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The film is produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Thomas M. Hammel, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Stan Lee, Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach serve as executive producers. The film stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.
"Spider-Man™: Far From Home" makes its way to North American theaters on July 5, 2019.
What to expect from our improved app
20 million miles and counting...
On November 7, while flying from Newark Liberty International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport, United customer Tom Stuker made history when he reached 20 million miles flown on a single airline. We were fortunate enough to capture the milestone he reached with us.
To mark the special occasion, we hosted a celebration in Mr. Stuker's honor at the United Polaris lounge at O'Hare International Airport on Saturday. The celebration was delayed a couple of months, so Mr. Stuker could celebrate the event with his family.
The party included a room full of employees, media members and Mr. Stuker's friends and family enjoying food, cocktails, stories and laughs. To thank him for his long-standing loyalty to United, we also presented Mr. Stuker with gifts made specially for him.
"United makes my dreams come true," Mr. Stuker said to the room full of people.
He also praised United's MileagePlus program, the United Polaris lounges across our system and Oscar's leadership of the airline but, most of all, he praised the service he receives from our employees.
"My favorite part of United is the people. United is such a big part of my life…you are a family to me," he said addressing the United employees. "It would take me days and days and days to say thank you in the right way to the right people. They all know me by now and know how much I care about them as people, how much I care about this airline and its success, and how much I care about the greatest leader this airline has ever had, Oscar."
Bora Bora: The most beautiful island in the world
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 Chicago-based United Club Customer Service Representative Amile Ribeiro.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know it can be very subjective but, once you set your eyes on it, I'm sure you'll agree with me: Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.
There are very few things that can get me out of bed early in the morning, and airplanes are one of those things. We were already in Tahiti and woke up at the crack of dawn to catch our quick flight to Bora Bora. After checking in at the airport and getting a quick breakfast, we headed over to the gate to line up for our flight. Air Tahiti has an open seating arrangement, and we wanted to make sure we got the best possible seats. We were able to secure two windows seats. Travel tip: Sit on the left side of the plane when landing in Bora Bora. We took off from Papeete and within minutes we were flying over Mo'orea. Then we flew around Ra'i ātea and Taha'a, and finally arrived in Bora Bora, the island that Polynesians call "First Born." Pora Pora is the actual local pronunciation, but the first explorers misunderstood it and 'Bora Bora' stuck. Though after setting foot on the island, I've come to call it "Paradise on Earth."
At the airport we were met by a representative of our resort, given flower leis and directed to our high-speed boat. I couldn't believe the color of the water; it was as if Paul Gauguin himself had painted it. After a thrilling ride, we reached our hotel's dock, where a local playing the ukulele welcomed us. We were then given a tour of the astonishing property and were taken by golf cart to our overwater bungalow. We have stayed in many beautiful properties around the world, but when we opened the door of our bungalow our jaws dropped. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that all should have at least once in their lifetimes. And worth every penny. The view of majestic Mount Otemanu is something right out of a fairy tale. After the sun set, the nighttime dance show was equally enchanting.
We had planned to be in Bora Bora during the final leg of the famous Hawaiki Nui Va'a canoe competition, which happens to be a major event in the cultural life of French Polynesia and has the reputation for being the toughest canoe race in the world. The center stage was at the island's most beautiful beach, Matira. We stood in awe as the winners reached the finish line after several hours (and days before that) of frantic paddling from island to island, showcasing the power of human strength and endurance. Besides being an incredible sporting challenge, it is also a colorful spectacle that filled the beach with flower-clad women and the air with the pulsating beat of drums. We were also able to celebrate and dance with them later that night at the local ball in Vaitape (Bora Bora's largest city). It was a marvelous way to get a deeper understanding of another culture!
Besides having the time of our lives at the resort's infinity pools, inner lagoons and beach, we also went to the Turtle Center and had a chance to feed these amazing creatures while they're being rehabilitated to go back into open waters. From there, we took a boat tour of the main lagoon and went swimming with stingrays and sharks. Few things scare me in life, and sharks are on the very top of that short list, but I mustered the courage and what a thrill it was! To commemorate my bravery on the last day of our trip, I got my very first tattoo: a hammerhead shark. Polynesians believe that such sharks act as guardian angels to humans and protect us from the Great White. My husband got a Polynesian design that was custom made just for him, and it represents travel, freedom and courage. We also got a set of matching Polynesian wedding bands. Since the art of tattoo originated in Polynesia, this is the most enduring souvenir one can get from such an amazing culture, but I'm sure the memories of our trip will also stay with us forever!
The feedback from customers and employees was clear: we needed to improve our boarding process. As part of our ongoing efforts to put customers at the center of everything we do, we identified boarding as an opportunity to improve the airport experience. We tested a variety of different boarding processes on thousands of flights across multiple airports. Best practices emerged from each test, and combined, they now form what we are calling "Better Boarding".
Better Boarding consists of three key improvements
Less time in line:
By reducing the number of boarding lanes, there is more space for customers to enjoy the gate areas, many of which have been completely remodeled with more comfortable seating and in some airports, the ability to have food and drinks from within the airport delivered directly to the gate area. Over the years, we have invested millions of dollars in our terminals, and now with less time spent standing in line, customers will have more time to dine, shop, relax, work or enjoy a United Club℠.
Simplified gate layout
Say goodbye to the five long lines we see today
Group 1 will board through the blue lane.
Group 2 will board through the green lane, followed by groups 3, 4, and 5.
Late arriving customers in Group 1 and 2 will use the blue lane.
Customers in groups 3, 4, and 5 always use the green lane.
We are providing customers with more information throughout the boarding process so that they feel more at ease, and more equipped with the latest information about their flight. Customers with the United app can receive a push notification once their flight starts boarding. Customers will only receive the notification if they've opted in for push notifications and have a mobile boarding pass in the app's wallet.
Be in the know about boarding
Customers will receive boarding notifications through the United app (if they've opted in for notifications).
Improved gate area digital signage to guide customers through boarding.
Balanced groups and better recognition:
United MileagePlus® Premier 1K® customers will now pre-board and United MileagePlus Premier Gold customers will be boarding in Group 1. For more information on our boarding groups, visit: https://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/travel/airport/boarding-process.aspx
Improved premier customer recognition
We're happy to make them happy
Improved premier recognition and better positioning of customers to create balanced boarding groups.
The new Better Boarding process is just one of the steps we are taking to improve the customer experience. We will continue to collect feedback from customers on ways we can further improve boarding and you may receive a post-travel survey to tell us more about your experience
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