From the Jungle to the Sky - United Hub
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From the jungle to the sky

By Matt Adams, June 16, 2017

On June 15, we celebrated 25 years of service to Quito, Ecuador. During that time, our routes connecting Ecuador's capital city have played a vital role in the region, but, for Houston-based First Officer Tim Johnson, United's presence there carries even more significance.

United employee, Tim Johnson in Quito

Tim is probably one of only a few Ecuadorian Johnsons that you'll meet. Born and raised in the rural jungle town of Shell, five hours south of Quito, his parents were missionaries from the U.S. and Canada. It was a unique childhood, one that shaped a distinctive cultural identity within him and a deep appreciation for where he grew up.

"The country is so beautiful," Tim said. "You have the Costa Region (on the Pacific coast); the Sierra Region where the Andes Mountains are; the Oriente (Eastern) Region where the jungles lie; and the Islas Region, which includes the Galapagos Islands. As small as Ecuador is, it really has every kind of thing to offer."

In his youth, Tim filled his days by trekking across the countryside, fishing and swimming in the headwaters of the Amazon River (while keeping one eye open for piranhas) and taking in Ecuador's natural wonders.

United pilot, Tim Johnson as a kid in Quito.

He got his first taste of flying while living in Shell, when he worked out a sweet deal at a small airstrip near his house. "In sixth and seventh grade, I would make brake shoes and groove tires for the aircraft in exchange for Coca-Cola," he said. "I would go over there for about two hours every day, do my work, drink my Coke and go home. And sometimes the pilots would take me up with them."

After completing the eighth grade, Tim moved to Quito for high school, which is when the allure of flying really took hold. "Our campus was right next to the airport, so I would watch the planes flying over and think how cool it would be to do that."

College brought Tim to the U.S. to pursue an avionics degree, but it wasn't easy being away from the place he loved. "Though I knew I had the privilege of going to the U.S., and I appreciated it, my heart was in Ecuador. My first year away at college, I missed it so badly. But I had one goal: become a pilot so that I could fly there. I knew I had to stick it out."

Aerial view of Quito

A few years later he got his chance, going for a pilot position in Houston. "During my interview, they asked why I wanted to work there, and I told them, 'Because you fly to Quito.'" said Tim. "That's the whole reason I'm here."

He still flies to Quito regularly, stopping to visit old friends and see the sights. Though he lives in Houston with his wife Mindy (a United flight attendant) and their children, Tim's soul has never strayed from the place he calls home.

"Everyone at the base knows when I've just gotten back from a trip to Quito, because I'll be in the pilot's office with a big smile on my face," he said. "There are a lot of cool places in the world, but I just want to fly south."

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.

Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.

"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.

We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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