United Airlines and Boeing: A history
As United Airlines prepares to bring on the Boeing 777-300ER and retire the 747 from its fleet, we take a look back at the connection between these two companies that goes all the way back to the very beginning of commercial aviation. These are two companies who've been partners in flight for nearly 90 years.
United and Boeing were originally part of one company. The carrier’s predecessor company, Boeing Air Transport, was founded on June 30, 1927, as an airline to operate mail routes.
On October 30, 1928, the Boeing Airplane and Transport Corporation was created to handle both airline and aircraft manufacturing operations. The company’s name was changed on February 1, 1929, to United Aircraft and Transportation Corp., which included Boeing Aircraft of Canada, Northrop Aircraft Corp., Stearman Aircraft Co., Sikorsky Aviation Corp. and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Co.
In March 1931, Boeing Air Transport, National Air Transport, Varney Airlines and Pacific Air Transport combined to form United Air Lines, which offered passenger and mail service from coast to coast. But after an air mail scandal, Congress passed legislation barring aircraft manufacturers from owning airlines. As a result, United Aircraft and Transport Corporation split into its three parts – Boeing, United Aircraft and United Air Lines.
In 1933, United started flying the Boeing 247, a twin turboprop aircraft with technological advances including all-metal construction and one of the first retractable landing gear systems. The aircraft was also able to fly across the country without passengers having to change planes or stop overnight.
By 1947, United’s fleet continued to evolve, first with the Douglas DC-4, and then with the DC-6, which introduced pressurized cabin service for passengers. The DC-6 could also fly coast to coast, only stopping in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the next decade, United’s fleet included DC-6s, DC-7s and Convair CV-240 aircraft.
Meanwhile, Boeing began moving into the jet age in 1952, when it started building the Model 367-80, a four-engine jet that eventually became the 707.
United ended up buying the Douglas DC-8 instead of the 707. It also bought the Caravelle, a shorter-range twinjet made by France’s Sud Aviation, and became the first airline to fly Boeing’s four-engine, shorter-haul 720 jet.
After merging with Capital Airlines in June 1961, United’s fleet underwent more changes, with the addition of the British-built Vickers Viscount mainline turboprop aircraft.
A year later, Boeing rolled out the three-engine 727-100 jet, and United began flying the aircraft in 1964. In April 1965, United placed an order for 66 aircraft and options on another 39 with Boeing, making it the largest commercial order ever made by an airline at the time.
In the same year, Boeing launched the now iconic twin-engine 737. A year after launching the 737, Boeing announced plans to build the nearly 500-seat 747, dubbed the Queen of the Skies. United received its first 747 in August 1970.
In 1978, Boeing began production on both the narrow-body 757 and the wide-body 767. United Airlines was the launch customer for the 767 and it entered the fleet in 1982. Three years later, United bought Pan Am’s Pacific Division for $750 million, which included a fleet of Boeing 747SP and Lockheed L-1011-500 wide-body jets.
On October 29, 1990, Boeing formally moved forward with the 777, with an initial order of 34 airplanes and 34 options by United Airlines. The first 777 was delivered to United on May 17, 1995, and the first flight was from Washington, D.C. to London.
A month later, Boeing’s board authorized production of the Boeing 777-300, and on February 24, 2003, the 777-300ER completed its first flight.
In 2005, the company launched the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and delivered its last 757. On July 8, 2007, the first 787 Dreamliner was rolled out at a celebration attended by 15,000 people at Boeing’s Everett, Washington final assembly factory. In 2009, United announced an order of 50 787 Dreamliners, making it the North American launch customer.
Two years after United and Continental Airlines merged in 2010, the airline took delivery of its first Dreamliner to use on international routes to Africa, Asia and Europe. In April 2015, United ordered 10 Boeing 777-300ERs and unveiled the aircraft type in February 2017 – complete with the new Polaris international business class cabin –to fly between San Francisco and Hong Kong.
The future looks bright for the continued partnership between United and Boeing, with more deliveries scheduled for the 777-300ER, the 737MAX and the 787 Dreamliner. These jets will fuel United’s future growth and ensure that passengers can get to the places they want to go.
Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.
Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.
In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.
"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."
As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.
Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.
Jessica's new role is effective immediately.
By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.
United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.
Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.
A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.
United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.
A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group
Fellow United team members –
Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.
Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.
Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.
Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."
Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.
To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.
Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.
UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, video conferencing tools that many people are using to stay connected.
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. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
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