Cuba: A City Filled With Culture and Heart - United Hub

Cuba: A city filled with culture and heart

By The Hub team

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By Remote Reservations Sales and Service Representative Susie Grisley

My favorite travel experience was visiting the beautiful city of Havana, Cuba. My strong curiosity persisted when the U.S. and Cuban governments finally agreed to cooperate on U.S. citizens traveling to this previously forbidden place. Reviewing the documents, I learned we could go in under the "Humanitarian" category, as the borders had not been opened to come and go as any American pleased. A group of us gathered, including some of my Boston-based colleagues and my three sons. We purchased a ton of toys and goodies for the children of Cuba.

Colorful, classic cars in Cuba.

Upon arriving in this fortress of deteriorating concrete, old buildings and damaged structures, we found an amazing city full of culture and heart. The Cuban people were glowing with an unmatched happiness and welcomed us with open arms. They were friendly, hospitable and very excited to see us, the Americans. They are extremely proud of their city, which despite the broken sidewalks and crumbling walls, was insanely beautiful. The colorful buildings and the colorful working vintage Chevys are among the amazing things to see. They are so proud of their old cars. Out of necessity, they have learned to work on their own cars with very simple tools. If the car breaks down while driving, they simply get out, open the hood, twist and bang and get it running as they know how to do. No one honks at them if they are in the road. This is just their way. The insides of the cars are simple, yet they maintain them as their prized possessions. They all, however, have music! They love driving proudly through the streets in their shiny old cars with music pouring out the open windows. Riding in many of them, each "taxi" was a new experience of its own.

Despite the gorgeous architecture and the classic cars, it truly was heart-warming getting to mingle with the Cuban people and learning their way of life. They are a beautiful people with beautiful, happy hearts ready to greet every American.


When it came time to hand out toys and gifts, we carried our toy bag through the streets, and it was apparent to us the children did not live with much. The delight and smiles on their faces were unimaginable. Their gratitude was evident, and my only regret was that we did not have enough for every child we saw. I thought my heart would explode at their excitement and appreciation.

Havana, Cuba is a travel must. It is an unbelievable place with an unbelievable story.

I left Cuba with a new realization of what it is like to live in a closed nation. I found a vibrant society of happy people full of fun, music and culture. I came home with a love of Havana and its people forever in my heart.

It was a trip of a life time and an experience we will never forget.

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!

Happy Veterans Day

By The Hub team, November 11, 2020

With thousands of veteran and reservist employees at United, we are incredibly grateful for their dedication, courage and bravery. Not only do they serve our country, they also bring a standard of excellence and professionalism to work on a daily basis.

We are thrilled to celebrate and thank our veteran and reservist employees this Veterans Day. We asked a few of them to share stories from their experiences while enlisted. Read a few of them below!

Larry Ferrarini, ORD Lead Ramp Service

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Tiffini Wilson, ORD Customer Service Representative

Tiffini served in the U.S. Navy Reserves from 1999 to 2013. She came from a military family and always knew she wanted to serve. In her experience, the Navy has a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. She feels proud that she is able to serve her country and other people get to stay home and feel safe.

Tiffini has worked at United for 24 years and feels grateful that her supervisors have always been supportive of her military service and flexible when she was deployed. She even received care packages from colleagues when she was serving in the Middle East. She has learned that being a leader is about listening, in the military and at United. She applies that mentality to when she is working with customers, as well. She says, "sometimes people are having a bad day and need to vent and be acknowledged."

Thank you for your service, Tiffini!

Terry Blake, DCA First Officer B767/B757

Terry joined the U.S. Air Force in 2014 and is currently serving. He says, "The military is a great career and I am proud that I have been given the opportunity to serve my country and the State of West Virginia." During his time in the service, he has been working aeromedical evacuation missions where he moves the critically wounded warriors from combat zones to hospitals in Europe and the U.S. He feels lucky to fly for United and work with many great people. He is proud to work alongside ALPA professional pilots and all the other employees at the company.

Thank you for your service, Terry!

Katherine McDonald, HR Partner Senior Manager

Katherine served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and says, "For me, serving is a calling. It means serving this great nation and being ready when needed." She joined the military to belong and contribute to something bigger than herself. When she was applying for her job at United, she found information about the United4Veterans business resource group on the company website. This increased her desire to work for a company that she could bring her military experience to and be celebrated. "The inclusivity I feel at United makes me feel so valued, both as an employee and as a veteran. I am so grateful to work for a company that is committed to our military employees and customers."

Thank you for your service, Katherine!

Troy A. Engholm, DEN Ramp Service

Troy served in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2013. He says, "I loved serving 30+ years in our United States Air Force because it gave me a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride to know that I was serving in the best Air Force, with the best professionals, the world has ever seen."

After serving, Troy joined United in 2015 and has loved it ever since. He believes this profession allows us to connect families together and provide a multitude of experiences for our customers. They get to see the world. The most rewarding part of his job is when he sees joy on a customer's face.

Thank you for your service, Troy!

Fred "Motown" Crowell, ORD Lead Ramp Service

Motown served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1970. Motown grew up in Detroit and aspired to follow in his brother's footsteps by applying to a job at United. Just after he was hired, he was drafted to the Army and was on active duty in Vietnam. His unit was the first to invade Cambodia. His unit that served together still meet up every year in Washington D.C. at the Vietnam Memorial.

When he returned home, he returned to United and has been here for 53 years. Over the years, he's been able to travel with his family around the world and even take his wife back to Vietnam and show her where he was stationed.

Thank you for your service, Motown!

Garrett West, Regional Director Aircraft Maintenance ORD

Garrett served in the U.S. Marines for 7 years and 1 year in active reserves. From childhood, he had always dreamed of becoming a United States Marine. He has been grateful to serve with many different people from all types of backgrounds. And, he has many fond memories and experiences of cruising the Mediterranean when he was part of the Marine Amphibious Ready Group. He says, "Having the honor to wear the EGA (the Marine emblem that includes an Eagle, Globe and Anchor) and to represent and serve our great nation is beyond words."

Garret began his career at United as a frontline technician and has worked to a Hub leader. He says, "As we all press on and continue to work through challenges, the tenacity of our employees across the board and working alongside so many dedicated people has done nothing but instill confidence in our future."

Thank you for your service, Garrett!

Pete DeLeon, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Pete served in the U.S. Marines from 1977 to 1984. He grew up in a military family and had a desire to join early on. During his time in the Marines, he traveled all over the world, including to the American Embassy in Cyprus; Lima, Peru and Okinawa, Japan. He has a great sense of pride for his time in the service and feels grateful that he could give back to his country.

After the Marines, Pete joined United 33 years ago. He has held many roles in various places across the system. First, he was a load planner in Miami, then moved to New Orleans where he was the chief coordinator during Hurricane Katrina. Pete says, "I thoroughly enjoy what I do on a daily basis, working with and assisting customers. I enjoy the people I work with I look forward to coming to work on a daily basis as every day is different at the airport."

He says the Marines taught him how to be professional, treat people with respect and to make quick decisions when necessary. He always goes the extra mile for customers and colleagues.

Thank you for your service, Pete!

Steve Driver, ORD Customer Service Representative

Steve served in the U.S. Army for 20 years from 1976 to 1996. He says, "It was my honor to serve my country. I was very proud to be a part of the U.S. Army and protecting my country. The camaraderie was amazing. The way my unit worked together to complete missions was not like anything I've ever been a part of before. Wearing the uniform gave all of use a sense of pride." He has worked with United for over 23 years and he describes his time as very rewarding. He enjoys working with his coworkers and learning about the industry every day.

Thank you for your service, Steve!

Jim Herrera, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Jim Herrera served in the U.S. Marines Reserve from 1976 to 1985. Though he served after the Vietnam war, he saw the impact of that on his fellow veterans. Over time, he has seen a great shift in positive support for veterans and he is very grateful for that. He has been with Untied for over 42 years. He is grateful for the stability his career at United provides for him to do what he loves and raise his family.

Thank you for your service, Jim!

Session Martin, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Session served in the U.S. Army for 3 years and 9 months. He says that his time in the service means everything to him. He is proud to have been part of the team and did his duty to preserve our lifestyle in America. "I feel like I owned that to my country. If I had to do it again, I absolutely would," says Session. Even after 51 years at United, Session still says he is having a good time, he enjoys coming to work every day. His favorite part is connecting with the customers and networking with people.

Thank you for your service, Session!

Troy VanderWeyden, DCA First Officer B777

Troy has been flying the Air National Guard for the past 10 years. His missions include aeromedical evacuations, strategic delivery of troops and cargo across the globe, as well as humanitarian aid flights. Five years ago, his lifelong dream was fulfilled when he was hired by United. A special family connection is that his father is also a United pilot, Captain Alan VanderWeyden.

Troy shares, "United is extremely accommodating and appreciative of my and everyone's military obligations and offers endless support. The DCA Flight Operations has a strong relationship with the West Virginia Air National Guard and reflects highly on the Flight Operations folks and our personnel in the unit."

Thank you for your service, Troy!

Scott Kirby, CEO

'No excuses.' Fellow U.S. Air Force Academy grads are familiar with a lesson in leadership that I still apply in my work today.

This simple saying teaches freshmen cadets to take responsibility in solving problems, no matter whose fault it is. At @United I see this mantra in action every single day. Not one United team member caused this current crisis, but we are all 100% focused on solving the impact it has had on our company. Veterans Day is the perfect reminder that the thousands of veterans at our company — including the colleagues in these photos — are part of that charge. It's an honor to have so many veterans in our ranks.
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