The Bottom of the World...Almost. - United Hub
Employee Travel Blog

The bottom of the world...almost

By The Hub team, March 03, 2017

By Compliance Senior Staff Representative John Kirchberg

I travel a lot for work, so I'm always looking to complete or add to my travel bucket list. In 2013, I had a chance to go to Cape Town, South Africa, with friends for the World Airline Road Race, which is an annual race held in a different city each year for airline industry professionals from all over the world.

Cape Town has never been on my bucket list. But I can honestly say after 10 days in Cape Town, it's now one of the top three places I've ever visited.

I was there in October, and it still was in the 90s almost every day. The path of travel was ORD to FRA (Frankfurt, Germany), and FRA to Cape Town on South African Airways. The people are friendly, the city is clean and safe, the food is good and the wine is cheap.

Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

Now, let me tell you why you should make the journey. As with every vacation, the weather can be a game changer. We got a home run, and that was huge. If you're an active type, you'll never be bored here. Table Mountain sits right in the middle of the city, so you can easily get to it from anywhere. There are several ways to get to the top, which include a good challenging hike or a less stressful cable car ride. We decided to hike it in the morning, which took about an hour. The trails are marked by signs at the start, but once you get on your way you become Lewis and Clark making your way up 3,500 feet. The views are constantly changing as you go from heavy brush to rocky cliffs. It is a nature hike, so the paths are worn but you shouldn't get lost. From the very top, the views are breathtaking -- 360 degrees of Cape Town, the Atlantic and the bottom of the world (almost). There are more trails on top (all flat), so you can walk for another 1-2 hours and take great pictures. Definitely bring water if you hike; it gets very hot very quickly. Before we headed back down we stopped to hydrate with a cold local brew at a little café. It was a definite "life is good" moment and I would put Table Mountain as No. 1 on my "to do" list in Cape Town.

The city is small so it's not too crowded and easy to get around. Part of the history of the city is the number of countries that have laid claim to it over the years. There is a strong European influence everywhere. One of the first things I noticed was the cleanliness of the city, as well as the friendly and helpful people. Our first hotel was blocks from the city center and right across from the park and beach. Although we had a car, we spent most of our time on foot. We were near the Victoria Wharf, which is a tourist spot with shops and restaurants and is the launching point for most of the ferries and sightseeing boats. I highly recommend the German and Irish pubs at the entrance to the Wharf. From here you can catch a boat to Robben Island and tour the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years. Wherever we went, the food was delicious and the prices were extremely inexpensive.

Victoria Wharf in Cape Town, South Africa

Another adventure is the Cape of Hope Reserve. It's about 60-90 minutes from downtown, but the drive is very scenic. Once in the park, you will see animals everywhere. We saw animals ranging from zebras and ostriches to tortoises and baboons. The baboons are curious about cars and will literally sit in the road to stop them. Signs all over the park warn visitors about how dangerous baboons can be and to not open car windows or feed the animals. Imagine a mini safari from your car. When you reach the Cape, there are trails to walk around the cliffs and out to the lighthouse. On one side is the calm peacefulness of False Bay and on the other is the violent Atlantic crashing on the rocky shore. Looking out over the ocean, I noticed that the next landfall would be Antarctica. I was looking out at the bottom of the world (almost)! I decided right there that Antarctica was on my bucket list as my seventh and final continent. My pictures just do not do the view justice.

On the way back to the city, you can take the inner road which will take you by Boulder Beach where you can swim with penguins. There are also places to dive with sharks. I kept thinking I was in a great big zoo without cages or boundaries.

For the second half of the week, we moved to Stellenbosch in wine country. It is about 30-40 minutes outside of Cape Town. There are vineyards everywhere. Our hotel, The Spier, conveniently had a winery connected to it. I will admit to not being the biggest wine fan, but what I heard from the group was that the wine was good and so cheap that they were sending it back home by the case. It's the Napa of South Africa.

The World Airline Road Race was just outside Stellenbosch, on the grounds of another prison where Nelson Mandela was finally set free.

It was an amazing trip to a place that was never on my radar, but I could not have been more surprised and pleased. Although I came directly home, some of the people in my group decided to take a safari in the area. Their pictures were priceless, and everyone said it was a fantastic experience. My friends and I are active people, so we enjoyed all the options that were available, but I still think there is plenty to do if you like a slower, more relaxing vacation. I know 20 hours on a plane never seems fun, but it is worth it. It's not a weekend trip, but a week-long vacation would be great there. I will definitely go back.

Wouldn't you like to see the bottom of the world… almost?

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

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

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance 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.

Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.

"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.

We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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