Be the light
Long after sunset, United Captain Andy King and his fellow Watts of Love volunteers made their way along a jungle path on Ilin Island, off the coast of Mindoro, Philippines. Even with their headlamps, the darkness was stifling. King, a Chicago guy, had never experienced anything like it as he moved precariously with the others through the void. Suddenly, approaching a clearing at the edge of a village, King saw an exhilarating sight: small circles of light dancing in the shadows up ahead.
Using solar-powered lanterns that a Watts of Love group had left the previous year, men fished in the night. Women talked and laughed together as they cooked and mended nets. Inside thatched huts, children studied school textbooks.
The village had no electricity. When night fell, its inhabitants had once either lived in total darkness or else lit candles or kerosene lamps, but both could be expensive, and the latter posed a serious fire hazard and emitted toxic fumes as it burned. Now, with safe, economical, self-sustaining light, the tiny community had been empowered. In some ways, those glowing bulbs were stepping stones out of a life fraught with danger and poverty.
Captain King in Mozambique
"It's life changing," King says, speaking to the power of light. "Over the next few days as we distributed the lights, I saw firsthand what a difference it makes."
After that initial trip, King was hooked. For the past five years, he has volunteered regularly with Watts of Love, a nonprofit organization founded by his friends, brother and sister Nancy Economou and Kevin Kuster, with the goal of bringing light to the more than 1 billion people worldwide who live without electricity.
As a pilot, King is often asked about the places he's been. When he mentions the Philippines, Mozambique and Nepal – countries he's visited with Watts of Love – listeners tend to perk up. They want to know more about his volunteer efforts and, most importantly, how they can help.
Through a new program called Miles on a Mission it's easy. Customers can donate their United MileagePlus miles to a number of philanthropic organizations, like Watts of Love, that use them to fly people and supplies around the world.
As long as it meets United's eligibility requirements, any organization can apply to post a campaign on the Miles on a Mission site, which is www.united.com/donate. Each campaign lasts 28 days and has a set mileage goal. All you have to do is find the one (or ones) that speak to you, then contribute as few as 1,000 miles to each.
As a bonus, United is matching the first 50,000 miles earned for the initial 40 Miles on a Mission campaigns, to the tune of 2 million total miles. It's part of the airline's Every Action Counts pledge, by which it promises to unite the world and serve its communities by putting its people and planes to work for the greater good.
"I love working for a company that cares about these kinds of causes," says King. "Giving out lights is one of the most impactful, rewarding things I've ever done, and I want to share that with others. I like that I can talk with my passengers and co-workers about it, and that there's a way for them to be a part of what Watts of Love is doing through Miles on a Mission."
Visit www.united.com/donate to see the current campaigns and read more about Miles on a Mission, including eligibility requirements. You can also visit www.wattsoflove.org to see some of the ways in which its volunteers are putting United MileagePlus miles to good use.
We know people are taking a second look at their travel plans right now. If you're scheduled to travel March 10 – May 31, 2020 and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so, regardless of when you purchased your ticket or where you're traveling. This is in addition to our previous waiver, which waives all change fees – domestic and international – for tickets purchased March 3 – April 30, 2020. This is available for any of United's published nonrefundable fares. If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a fee. These electronic travel certificates are now valid for 24 months from the date they were issued. This includes all currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020. You might not see this policy change reflected everywhere right away – we appreciate your patience as we work to make that happen.
Eligible travelers on domestic flights and international tickets can request a refund on united.com or may call our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19.
Certain tickets cannot be changed on united.com or the mobile app, including tickets booked through another airline (if the ticket receipt does not begin with 016). Please contact the original ticketing airline for changes.
Follow the steps below to stay up to date, change or cancel your flight.
Change your current flight:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your flight information to retrieve your flight.
- Select "Change flight" and then "Edit" to make the following changes:
- Date of travel or destination
- Add a flight
- Remove a flight
- Select "Continue" and choose a new flight option
- Continue through booking to confirm your new flight
Note: The change fee will display as waived, but any difference in fare may apply.
Cancel your flight and rebook later:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your reservation information to retrieve your flight
- Select "Cancel flight"
- Confirm flight cancellation
- If you have future flight credit, when you return to the reservation, select "Use Future Flight Credit" to shop for new flights and apply the credit towards a new flight.
Canceling or changing an award flight:
When you select "Cancel flight," you will have the option to cancel your award reservation and redeposit the miles or to cancel your award reservation and use those miles for another trip in the future.
*We're currently experiencing heavy traffic to united.com. If you experience an error while trying to change or cancel your flight, please try again later.
Click through the slideshow below for more detailed instructions:
Start on the United homepage:
User can select 'My Trips' on the homepage widget to find and retrieve their reservation.
When and where possible, we are working to repatriate travelers who are stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Our teams are working closely with government officials here in the U.S. as well as in other countries where flying has been restricted to gain the necessary approvals to operate service. In regions where government actions have barred international flying, we have coordinated with the the U.S. State Department and local government officials to re-instate some flights. Additionally, we have been operating several extra flights to countries in Central America and South America as we continue to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world.
We have operated more than 68 repatriation flights from Panama City, Guatemala City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, bringing nearly 9,200 people home. We will continue working with government officials to operate extra flights to Houston from Quito, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and from Lima to Washington Dulles and beginning April 5, we will begin operating multiple charter flights between Delhi and San Francisco. We continue to review more opportunities for flights between the United States and other countries to bring citizens home.
Video provided by the U.S. Embassy Ecuador of Americans returning home on United.
Additionally, our Customer Solutions and Recovery team is working with customers in the following markets to rebook them on flights back to the United States as capacity allows, either on our aircraft or on one of our airline partners' planes:
- Quito, Ecuador
- Managua, Nicaragua
- Roatan, Honduras
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras
- Seoul, South Korea
- Melbourne, Australia
We also recently reinstated several international flights back into our schedule to support customers and essential businesses which depend on these routes. As a result, we will be the only airline to offer service between Newark/New York and London, San Francisco and Sydney, as well as Houston and São Paulo, Brazil.
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, a video conferencing tool 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).
- 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.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.