After Landing: San Francisco - United Hub
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After Landing: San Francisco

By The Hub team

After Landing is a travel guide series dedicated to bringing you insider tips and local recommendations on what to see and do in some of our favorite cities. Check back often for new destinations.

If you've visited San Francisco already, you'll know of its charms. If you haven't, then you absolutely should. To help you plan your trip, we've tapped into a few of our employees, aka the travel experts, to share insider tips and local recommendations on some of our favorite cities. First up, the City by the Bay.

Aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge

Get to know the City by the Bay

Founded by seafaring Spaniards in the 18th century, the City by the Bay has lured settlers and visitors to its hills for centuries since. With a heady combination of the Californian climate, world-class cuisine and a carefree, cutting edge culture, it's very easy to see why.

Your arrival

Heavy traffic and high taxi prices mean the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to cover the 13 miles from San Francisco International Airport to downtown is to take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), a direct subway/monorail that leaves every 15 minutes and is about a 30-minute trip.

The famous Lombard Street, San Francisco

Where to stay

While great quality and good value hotels are dotted all across the city, the greatest concentration can be found in three main locations: around the tourist mecca of Fisherman's Wharf, on all sides of the city's main shopping district of Union Square, and along the stretch of Lombard Street just north of Cow Hollow, heading west towards Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. All three have their merits, being close to many of the city's most popular attractions.

However, two other good neighborhoods worth considering are in and around SoMa (South of Market) and Mission. Both combine excellent hotels with many of the city's best restaurants and bars, all within easy strolling distance.

What to see & do

The following recommendations merely scratch the surface of what San Francisco has to offer, but they should definitely be on the itinerary of any first-time visitor.

The best way to cover ground in this hilly city, cable cars have been a feature since 1873 and were awarded national historic landmark status in 1964. They run on three lines, through many of the city's most popular neighborhoods: North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square, Nob Hill, Chinatown and Embarcadero. Before you get on, however, remember to buy a ticket.

"The most famous landmarks and attractions are all worth adding to your must-see list," says Christine U., Customer Service Lead. "The sea lions at Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, the wonderfully winding Lombard Street, Chinatown… They're popular for a good reason."

San Francisco based flight attendant, Louise C., shares her tips on where to go and what to see in San Fran

North Beach is another must-visit. Misleadingly, there's no beach there, but the Italian quarter is packed full of cafés, restaurants and hip stores. It's also close to Coit Tower, high on Telegraph Hill, which offers amazing Instagram-worthy views of the city, the bridges and the Bay.

"Golden Gate Park is a must-see," says San Francisco based flight attendant Louise C. "It stretches across more than 1,000 acres of land and is 20% larger than Central Park in NYC. It's best seen on foot and there are so many points of interest, most of them free of charge, including Stow Lake, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the California Academy of Science." Access the park through Haight-Ashbury, the birthplace of America's counter-culture.

The aforementioned California Academy of Sciences is well worth visiting, especially for families. It houses an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and four-story rainforest, all under one roof. If you need more, look no further than the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the de Young Museum, the Asian Art Museum and the Legion of Honor.

If you're after couture more than culture, make your way to Union Square, a mecca for serious shoppers. Major department stores and designer boutiques await, including the largest Bloomingdale's outside of New York City.

SF based flight attendant, Sean R., pictured in front of the Walt Disney Family Museum | Photo credit: Sean R.

"A personal favorite that I accidentally discovered is the Walt Disney Family Museum in Presidio," says San Francisco based flight attendant, Sean R. "It houses many of the Disney family's heirlooms, many of them interactive and created by Disney Imagineers. It's an amazing and unmissable place."

Cycling to Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge is another must-do experience. The Bridge stretches 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate and gives you amazing views across the bay, from Alcatraz to the city. You'll get to explore Sausalito for a while before either cycling back or jumping on a boat back to the San Francisco Ferry Building. Another must just across the Golden Gate Bridge is the Muir Woods National Monument. "The magnitude of the Redwoods is breathtaking. A lovely day trip to escape the city, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy the peace that comes with a few hours of no cell phone service," says Newark based flight attendant, Luke B.

Newark based flight attendant, Luke B., shares his tips and recommendations on what to see and do in San Francisco

Finally, no visit to San Francisco can be complete without visiting the Rock: Alcatraz. Once home to some of America's most notorious criminals, the prison closed in the 1960s but is now open for cellhouse tours. Take an Alcatraz Cruises boat from Pier 33, but be sure to book ahead.

Where to eat & drink

In a city renowned for its gastronomic inventiveness, you'll eat well wherever you roam. That said, there are certain culinary experiences that should be on the list of every first-time visitor to San Francisco.

Eating burritos in the Mission at Taqueria El Farolito or La Taqueria is a must; though don't eat both in the same visit, as they're on the larger side. Head to Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, where local chefs shop for some of the city's freshest, finest produce. For seafood fans, head to the Fisherman's Wharf for the chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl at the legendary Boudin Bakery. Refuel with an espresso at Caffe Trieste, where Francis Ford Coppola wrote The Godfather, or with a cold glass of America's first craft beer, the local Anchor Steam. To stay ahead of the culinary curve, order a few slices of millionaire's bacon, just so you can say you have had it.

But, if you want three specific insider options, follow this advice:

Pictured: Ristorante Franchino | Photo credit: Gary B.

"Ristorante Franchino on Columbus Avenue is a great family-run Italian restaurant you have to visit," says Cleveland-based Boeing 737 captain Gary B. "The food and ambience are exceptional. I've made it my go-to every time I've been in the city for the last 15-plus years, which tells you how good it is. Particularly the tiramisu!"

"One of my absolute favorites is The House in North Beach," says San Francisco-based flight attendant Rebecca M. "The food is Asian American with simple, yummy ingredients. The sea bass is amazing, and also the deep fried salmon roll."

"Fish in Sausalito is worth the journey," says San Francisco-based flight attendant Mallory C. "The drive (or cycle) over the Golden Gate Bridge is stunning, with the gorgeous San Francisco skyline behind you. Then you get to chow down on some of the freshest fish in the Bay Area, eaten on picnic tables and overlooking the marina in Sausalito. Don't leave without ordering the fish tacos. But be warned, Fish is cash only."

San Francisco based flight attendant, Rebecca M., shares tips and recommendations on what to see and do in San Fran

San Francisco focus: Time to wine and dine

Two of America's – indeed the world's – greatest wine regions lie just north of San Francisco, in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Ideally, you'll be adding a couple of days on at the end of your visit to explore the vineyards at leisure. But if that's not possible, you don't ever need to leave the city to experience the best grapes Northern California has to offer. A growing number of neighborhood wine bars and tasting rooms bring the experience to you, offering the very best local vintages with small plates of seasonal bites. Fig & Thistle, Bluxome Street Winery and Tank18 are just three places getting it spectacularly right.

Neighborhoods in San Francisco

Best time to visit

While summer guarantees sun, it also brings the crowds and higher prices. The shoulder seasons of March to May and late August to November are still warm and slightly quieter, making excellent alternatives.

Getting there

United Airlines offers flights to San Francisco from many cities throughout the U.S. For more information and to book your trip, go to United.com or download our convenient United app. While you're there, share your adventures on social media with the hashtag #UnitedJourney.


Discover more in the After Landing series:

After Landing: Austin

After Landing: Denver

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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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