For United's Captain Whitson, 'every day is a gift' - United Hub

For Captain Whitson, 'every day is a gift'

By Rachel Landgraf, April 14, 2020

Mornings aren't everyone's cup of tea, especially mornings that involve starting work at 3 a.m. But mornings don't bother Houston-based Boeing 737 Captain David Whitson anymore. "I don't care if I have to wake up early to fly a red-eye," said David. "It's the little things I appreciate more now. Little things don't bother me." For David, the little things are a gift. A gift called life. It's a gift David is thankful to still have.

"In August of 2016, I started to feel ill," said David. "I had a headache that wouldn't go away. Then, it turned into a fever, my lymph nodes were next, so I went in." At the doctor's, David was diagnosed with leukemia. "I was told I had an FLT3 mutation, which is really not good," said David. "I essentially was told I was going to die unless the treatment went perfectly and I found a bone marrow match."

Captain David Whitson in the cockpit of a plane

David was immediately put on Be The Match, the largest and most diverse registry in the world to help find matches for people diagnosed with life-threatening blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. While he waited, David continued to fight. "The emotion I felt throughout the process I would describe as hope," he said. "Every cancer patient needs a chance." David's chance came calling in December 2016. "A sweet young lady named Allie Reimold saved my life," said David. "She was a student at Purdue University when she signed up with Be The Match at a charity event called, 'Purdue University Dance Marathon.' The event raises funds for children with cancer."

After receiving his bone marrow, David focused on getting stronger. He overcame obstacles like weight loss, taking over 30 pills a day and even battling a virus, but he fought back with determination and the support of his family, as well as his United family. "I've been given a really generous gift," said David. "This has given me the opportunity to be a better person, husband, father and more. As I worked to get back to work, everyone was rooting for me to come back. You can tell everyone cared, especially the Houston chief pilot's office."

David and his wife Jennifer (center) with Carol and Mark Romine. Carol and Mark lost their son to Lymphoma in 2008. They have been raising money for children and Be The Match ever since.

Without experiencing a battle like David's, there is no way to know where he drew all of the strength needed for his recovery," said Houston Base Chief Pilot Ernie Aller. "The one thing I do know is returning to the skies with his friends and co-workers was one of them." Today, David is back. He's back to being a pilot, a husband, father and now, an advocate for bone marrow registry, especially throughout the month of November as it is National Marrow Awareness Month.

"Three years ago, I knew nothing about bone marrow registry," said David. "Today, there are about 14,000 people awaiting a match or need a transplant. Minorities are greatly under-represented. If I can have a small part in registering someone else, I will do it!"

Last year, David and his wife headed to Purdue University for the first time to take part in the dance marathon and work the Be The Match booth. "I was able to share my story and we had an amazing turnout," said David. "We were able to register nearly 500 people, the largest ever at Purdue."

It's a number that David plans to keep growing so that more people get the chance to tell their story just as he is doing today."I never thought someone would save my life, so just being here to say 'thank you' means so much," said David. "Every day is a gift."

Be The Match is one of 10 organizations that United is matching mile donations, one-to-one, to through Miles on a Mission, our airline miles donation platform. Help us support causes that continue to do their important work during the coronavirus, like Be The Match, which continues to courier bone marrow donations to patients who vitally need them. Visit united.com/donate to learn more about what we're doing to help organizations doing important work in response to COVID-19.

United's regional presidents join respective Governor's COVID-19 task force

By Ryan Wilks, May 21, 2020

As a member in the tourism, travel and transportation industries, United offers a unique perspective into the economic and operational effects rippling across the U.S. To advocate United's efforts, and in anticipation of a bright future, New York/New Jersey President Jill Kaplan and California President Janet Lamkin have both been named to their states' respective governor's COVID-19 response task force committees.

Making every step of the travel journey safer for you

By United Airlines, May 20, 2020
United Clean Plus | Clorox

We remain passionate about connecting the world safely

United CleanPlus SM is our commitment to putting health and safety at the forefront of your journey, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness. We're teaming up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures, and over the coming months, we'll roll out Clorox products across our U.S. airports, starting in select locations, to help support a healthy and safe environment throughout your travel experience.

At the airport

  • At check-in:

  • 1
    Implementing temperature checks for employees and flight attendants working at hub airports
  • 2
    Installing sneeze guards at check-in and gate podiums
  • 3
    Encouraging use of the United app for contactless travel assistance and more
  • 4
    Promoting social distancing with floor decals to help customers stand 6 feet apart
  • 5
    Introducing touchless check-in for customers with bags
  • At the gate:

  • 6
    Disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, telephones and computers
  • 7
    Providing hand sanitizer and
    disinfectant wipes
  • 8
    Allowing customers to self-scan boarding passes
  • 9
    Boarding fewer customers at a time and, after pre-boarding, boarding from the back of the plane to the front to promote social distancing

On our aircraft

  • 1
    Providing individual hand sanitizer wipes for customers
  • 2
    Requiring all customers and employees to wear a face covering and providing disposable face coverings for customers who need them
  • 3
    Temporarily removing onboard items like pillows, blankets and inflight magazines
  • 4
    Disinfecting high-touch areas, like tray tables and armrests, before boarding
  • 5
    Reducing contact between flight attendants and customers during snack and beverage service
  • 6
    Ensuring aircraft cleaning standards meet or exceed CDC guidelines
  • 7
    Applying social distancing to seating procedures when possible, including:
    • Limiting middle seat selection
    • Moving customers seated closely together
    • De-planing in groups of five rows at a time to reduce crowding
  • 8
    Using electrostatic spraying to disinfect aircraft, to be completed on all flights by mid-June
  • 9
    Using state-of-the-art, hospital-grade, high-efficiency (HEPA) filters to circulate air and remove up to 99.7% of airborne particles

Cleveland Clinic We're working closely with the experts at Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols for the safety of our employees and customers. Visit Cleveland Clinic's website to learn more about COVID-19.

A message from Scott Kirby, United’s new CEO

By The Hub team, May 20, 2020


Hello. I'm Scott Kirby, the new CEO of United Airlines. I'm a proud Air Force Academy graduate and have spent my entire career in and around aviation, including the last four years as President of United.

While I had planned for my first communication with you to be about the meaningful investments we were making to the travel experience and our continued growth across the U.S. and expansion to exciting new destinations around the world, today, the situation rendered to us by the COVID-19 pandemic leads me to a different type of message.

First, I graciously and humbly thank you for your business. Now, more than ever, our customers' loyalty is so deeply appreciated by every member of the United family.

As essential workers, the men and women of our airline have been hard at work over the past two months to transport vital medical supplies and critical goods to places that need them most, to provide free travel to healthcare professionals and to help thousands of individuals repatriate to their home countries.

Safety has always been our top priority, and right now in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it's our singular customer focus. We recognize that COVID-19 has brought cleanliness and hygiene standards to the front of your mind when making travel decisions. We're not leaving a single stone unturned in our pursuit to protect our customers and employees.

We are installing plexiglass in lobby and gate areas, we're using the same equipment used to clean hospitals to disinfect the interiors of our aircraft, all crew and customers on board are required to wear face mask coverings and we're taking the temperature of our employees before they start work.

But at United, we're not stopping there. We're teaming up with experts from Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to set a new standard for cleanliness and healthy flying that we are calling United CleanPlus℠.

Clorox is working closely with us to improve how we disinfect common surfaces and provide our customers with amenities that support a healthy and safe environment.

Physicians and scientists at the Cleveland Clinic, will advise us on new technologies and approaches, assist in training development and create a rigorous quality assurance program. And, as scientists learn more about how to fight COVID-19, Cleveland Clinic experts will help us use those discoveries to quickly implement new ways to keep our customers safe.

While we may not know when this pandemic will subside, what we do know is that travel is so deeply woven into the fabric of our global culture. We all desire to visit family, dance at a friend's wedding, hug parents…and see the wonders of this beautiful world. No matter how sharp the picture quality – or how strong the WiFi signal – there's simply no substitute for being there – in person – to collaborate, celebrate, explore. We are confident that travel will return. And when it does, United Airlines will be ready to serve you again in the friendly skies.

Thank you. Be well. And I look forward to seeing you on board.

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