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?

Making our app more accessible for people with disabilities

By The Hub team, October 28, 2020

We're proud to launch a redesigned version of our United app to make it easier for customers with visual disabilities to manage all aspects of day-of travel, including check-in, viewing reservation details and flight status, bag tracking and more.

This latest version of our app is now available to both Android and iOS users, and it offers increased color contrast and more space between graphics. Furthermore, we have reorganized how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack, which are built into most handheld devices. By restructuring the way the information is organized on the app, screen readers are better able to convert text to audio in the proper, logical sequence, allowing customers to better understand and navigate the app.

United Zoom backgrounds for AvGeeks

By The Hub team, October 27, 2020

Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.

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.

Looking back at a landmark year with Special Olympics

By Ryan Wilks, October 19, 2020

Earlier this summer, we shone a light on our flagship partnership with Special Olympics and our commitment to the Inclusion Revolution. In that same story, we introduced you to our four Special Olympics Service Ambassadors, Daniel, Kyle, Lauren and Zinyra (Z), who, this month, celebrate one year working at Chicago O'Hare International Airport as part of the United family.

This groundbreaking, inclusive employment program took off as a part of our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics, a community relationship that employees across the company hold close to heart. The original 'UA4' (as they call themselves) have become an integral part of the United team serving customers at O'Hare Airport. Even from behind their masks, their wide smiles and effervescent spirit exude and bring life to the service culture of excellence we strive towards every day.

"The UA4 are more than just customer service ambassadors. They are shining examples of how inclusion, accessibility and equity can have monumental impacts on the culture and service of a business and community," said Customer Service Managing Director Jonna McGrath. "They have forever changed who we are as a company. While they often talk about how United and this opportunity has changed their lives, they have changed ours in more ways than we can count."

In the two years of partnership with Special Olympics, United employees have volunteered over 10,500 hours of service at events around the world and donated over $1.2 million worth of travel to the organization.

"This inclusive employment program is what community partnerships, like ours with Special Olympics, are all about: collaborating to identify areas where the needs of the community intersect with the cultural and business opportunity, then creating the infrastructure and programming to bring the two together," said Global Community Engagement Managing Director Suzi Cabo. "Through this program, our goal is to show other companies that when you put a committed effort and focus towards inclusion and breaking down barriers, you transform lives. I challenge other business around the world to follow our lead in joining the Inclusion Revolution."

Check out the video below to hear from our Special Olympics Service Ambassadors firsthand.

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