Ode to a Flight Pioneer - United Hub

Ode to a flight pioneer

By Matt Adams, May 28, 2019

The best years of her life were the ones she spent in the air

With all due respect to the exhibits and gorgeous aircraft on display at The Museum of Flight outside Seattle, on a sunny Saturday in May, Betty Stockard overshadowed them all.

"Mom, tell them the one about Clark Gable," her son, Dick Stockard, urged, handing her the microphone and getting the ball rolling. Soon, Betty, who was celebrating her 100th birthday in one of the museum's banquet rooms, was recounting some of the more memorable episodes from her years as a United flight attendant in the 1940s.

Betty pictured at her 100th birthday celebration with Jennifer O'Brien and Ed Toschikat the Museum of Flight outside of Seattle Betty pictured at her 100th birthday celebration with Jennifer O'Brien and Ed Toschik at the Museum of Flight outside of Seattle

She told how she shared her lunch and a conversation with the legendary actor on a trip to Los Angeles, then recalled her friendship with frequent flyer and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. As her family and friends sat in awed silence, it was if the past seven decades had melted away and Betty was once again that intrepid young woman who forged her identity as one of the first non-nurse "stewardesses" in airline history.

Born near Kalispell, Montana, on May 16, 1919 as Elizabeth Jean Riley, and raised on a dairy farm, becoming an aviation pioneer was the furthest thing from Betty's mind growing up. But in early 1942, she saw a newspaper ad announcing that United was hiring a new crop of flight attendants.

For years, airlines had only hired nurses into those roles, but with more and more of them needed elsewhere during World War II, that was no longer the case. Despite having never stepped foot on an airplane, Betty applied. A few weeks later, she was in Chicago, where she joined 24 other women from across the country for six weeks of intense training. After graduation, she was assigned to San Francisco.

Flying up and down the West Coast was an experience that exceeded even Betty's wildest dreams. It was a glamorous and exciting career, and she was certain she had found the path she was meant to follow. Without a doubt, aviation was Betty's first true love. It wasn't until 1946 that another surpassed it.

Betty pictured with her late husband, Ray Stockard

That's the year she met a handsome former fighter pilot by the name of Ray Stockard. Ray was traversing the country interviewing for jobs with airlines when he introduced himself to Betty during a flight. They began dating shortly after, but it was a bittersweet romance. Betty knew if she got married she'd have to leave her career behind since, at that time, stewardesses had to be single. Alas, the heart wants what it wants, and Betty and Ray, who by that time was flying for Pan American, set a wedding date.

"I hated giving up flying, but I knew I was making the right move," she says. "I was looking forward to the next chapter."

Fortunately, marrying a pilot meant she didn't have to walk away from the industry altogether. In the years that followed, she, Ray and their four children – Joe, Denise, Ed and Dick – traveled extensively, and aviation was always a favorite topic of conversation around the house.

"My kids, instead of getting bedtime stories about three bears, they got flying stories," says Betty.

With those stories, she passed on her adventurous spirit to her children. As they got older, the Stockard kids followed their mom's example and went fearlessly into the unknown, visiting, living and working in some of the farthest corners of the globe – including Antarctica.

Even more than her unique connection to the history of commercial aviation, that is Betty's legacy. Her birthday celebration was packed with people who came from far and wide to honor the woman who showed them what it means to live life to the fullest. Among them were United's International Inflight Director Jennifer O'Brien and West Coast Base Director Ed Toschik, along with several retired United flight attendants.

"We have 25,000 flight attendants today, and Betty is one of the people who blazed the trail for all of them," Toschik says. "She is an absolute treasure and I'm so happy that she is part of our United family."

After saying a few words at the party, Toschik and O'Brien cemented that bond, presenting Betty with a new set of silver flight attendant's wings. As O'Brien pinned them to her lapel, Betty's face beamed, just like it had during her pinning ceremony 77 years earlier. The eyes that had seen aviation evolve from its near infancy shined as bright as ever.

And with that, an enviable life came full circle.

Why we fly

By The Hub team, November 27, 2020

In October 2019, we launched a first-of-its-kind airline miles donation platform, Miles on a Mission. In the inaugural year, MileagePlus members donated over 70 million miles, with United matching over 20 million miles, to 51 organizations. These miles have allowed for these organizations to do important, life-changing, life-saving work in the communities we serve around the globe.

United cargo connects products to people all over the world this holiday season

By The Hub team, November 23, 2020

Critical medical shipments – Check.

High-tech electronics – Check.

2.7 million pounds of lobster? Check.


While this year's holiday gatherings will look a little different, millions of people around the world will still carry on the tradition of celebrating the holidays with a meal.

As the appetite for different types of food from all over the world increases, so does the need for safe and reliable transport. Fish caught in the United Kingdom can depart at breakfast and arrive in Washington D.C. in time for dinner. Thanks to United Cargo's expansive network, we are longer constrained by global distance or the seasonality of a product,

United Cargo plays a big role in transporting shipments with a limited shelf life around the world. Packed in between the latest electronics from Asia and the hottest fashion items from Europe, our aircraft carry a variety of perishable shipments like flowers, fruit, meat and vegetables, where speed and careful handling keeps them fresh. Whether it's cherries from Washington State or vegetables from Peru, our temperature-controlled shipping processes and vast global network helps move these commodities all over the world.

While the holidays are an exceptionally busy time of year for shipping perishable items, United Cargo transports these critical goods for people all over the world year-round. Earlier this year, United Cargo moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program to support communities impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, with the holiday season here, we anticipate the cargo holds of our aircraft to be full of grocery store replenishments, including staples like turkey and ham, hitting shelves across the globe.

We take pride in our role to make sure perishables and produce arrive on time and at the peak of freshness. These products sustain, feed and nurture the world, and consumers around the globe depend on them every single day.

Since March 19, United has operated nearly 8,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 272 million pounds of cargo on those flights alone. United Cargo is proud of the role we play maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access commodities from all over the globe.

Bon appetit!

10 travel tips for the holiday season

By The Hub team, November 19, 2020

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

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, payments 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 and touch-free onboard payments.

2. Read and sign the Ready-to-Fly checklist

Before completing check-in, all United travelers will need to read our Ready-to-Fly checklist and confirm that they understand and agree to our policies. These include:

  • Acknowledging that you haven't had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • Agreeing that you will not fly if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 21 days
  • Confirming that you will follow all policies regarding face coverings, social distancing and other health and safety measures we've adopted

3. Get familiar with CleanPlus

United CleanPlus℠ is our commitment to delivering industry-leading* cleanliness, plus putting health and safety at the forefront of your experience, in partnership with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic. We've implemented CleanPlus in a number of ways that you'll notice throughout your trip, as well as with some behind-the-scenes enhancements like:

  • Disinfecting high-touch areas on board and in the terminal
  • Using electrostatic spraying, Ultraviolet C lighting wands and more advanced measures to clean aircraft cabins before boarding
  • Redesigning our mobile app to allow for touchless check-in and contactless payment, along with enhanced travel assistance features

Studies show COVID-19 exposure risk is minimal when air filtration systems and masks are in use, so you can rest assured that the steps we've taken to keep you safe truly make a difference.

4. Don't forget essential documents

We've made a list of travel requirements and restrictions for every destination that you can check twice, or as often as you need before your trip. Just visit united.com/travelrequirements to get the details on COVID-19 testing, health documents and other things you may need before you fly.

5. Wear your mask

You may not notice our smile behind our face covering, but you can be sure that we're appreciative of all our travelers who arrive to the airport with their mask on, and continue to wear it over their nose and mouth at all times in the airport and on board. Make sure you review our requirements for face coverings, including what an acceptable face covering looks like. Bonus points if your mask infuses some holiday cheer!

6. A better boarding process for your safety

If you haven't flown with us in a while, you might want to get familiar with our new boarding process. To make boarding even safer, we now have travelers board their aircraft from back to front. At the gate, just listen for your row number to be called – we'll ask a few rows at a time to board, starting with the last row of the plane. This helps everyone maintain a safe distance from each other during boarding without slowing things down. As you step onto the plane, flight attendants will hand each passenger a sanitizing towelette, which you can use to wipe down your seat to ensure it's extra clean.

7. Pack smart

Before packing your bags, check to see what exactly you can carry on and what you should plan to check. You can also copy your confirmation number into our Baggage Calculator tool to learn about the bag allowance included with your reservation, as well as the cost of checking any additional bags.

8. Check your flight status, important notices and weather

Check the United app regularly for the latest updates, weather conditions, flight status, gate and seat assignments. You can also visit our Important Notices page to find essential information and updates about travel waivers, international travel, TSA and security, airports and United Club locations.

9. Arrive early; avoid the stress

Airports can be busy, especially during the holidays. The TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international travel in anticipation of long security lines. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.

10. Relax and enjoy your flight

Once you're on board, it's time to sit back and enjoy your flight. Our flight attendants will be happy to help you with anything else you need.

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