The Gift of a Lifetime - United Hub

The gift of a lifetime

By Matt Adams , November 13, 2018

The last thing Newark-based Flight Attendant Jair Ripoll wanted to do was ask for help on social media. It just didn't seem right to him, airing his personal pain like that for everyone to see. But on a layover last fall, his friends and colleagues, Newark-based Flight Attendants Frank Luff and Colleen McClelland, urged him — pleaded, actually — to post news of his condition to Facebook in the hope of a miracle.

Ten years ago, Jair was diagnosed with a hereditary kidney disease. He was told at that time he would need a transplant as the disease progressed, but he had been unable to find a friend or family member who could donate one of their kidneys. Jair registered on the organ waiting list in Florida, where his family lives, praying that his name would be called before it was too late. With each passing year, the situation became more desperate.

At work, Jair kept the severity of his condition to himself. Flying was his safe place. The time he spent in the sky provided him a welcomed break from the fears surrounding his health. Frank and Colleen were shocked when he confided in them how sick he was.

"Colleen said, 'You never know how many angels are out there,'" Jair said, recalling how she encouraged him to tell his story on Facebook where his friends and fellow employees could read it and, hopefully, a potential donor would emerge. Jair was reticent, but Colleen and Frank convinced him by taking his phone and writing the post for him. Less than a minute after they published it, a message alert flashed across Jair's phone's screen. Someone had already replied.

"Steven was the first person to respond," Jair said. "I saw it and showed it to Colleen and Frank, and we all started crying."

Jair had flown with fellow Flight Attendant Steven Lepine many times and considered him a friend, but he never expected that Steven would be the first person to offer him the chance at a healthy life.

"I knew Jair had been sick, but I didn't know the extent of it," Steven said. "I felt like he was putting so much on the line with that Facebook post, and I just wanted to help him."

When Jair returned home to New Jersey, the two met for lunch and talked about what the transplant process entailed, including the battery of tests that Steven would need to undergo to make sure his kidney would be a good match for Jair.

"My family — my mother, especially — was worried," Steven said. "She knew the risks, but she also knew that once I decide something, I don't go back."

Things were going well until last October, when Jair's health took a sudden turn during a trip to Barcelona. When he got home, he barely had the strength to move. His friend, Flight Attendant Stephanie Torres, rushed him to the hospital in North Bergen, New Jersey, where doctors discovered that Jair had deadly levels of toxins in his body. They immediately put him on dialysis while Steven continued his tests. Finally, at the beginning of November, they got the call from the doctors at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, where the transplant was to take place: Steven was fully cleared. The procedure was scheduled for December 6.

At 6 a.m. on the day of the surgery, Jair and Steven met in the pre-operation room. Joining them were Steven's mother, his close friend and fellow Flight Attendant Jon Little, and Jair's mother and brother, setting up the first meeting of the families. Though there was a language barrier — Jair's mother only speaks Spanish, Steven's only English — the emotions that filled the space needed no translation. "Steven's mom said to me, 'Now you become my son as well,'" Jair said.

A few hours later, they emerged from the operating room. The transplant had been a success, though the recovery process would be long. Steven returned to work in January and Jair should be cleared to fly again this month. The two talk almost daily, checking in on one another and offering encouragement.

"Jair is my blood brother now," said Steven. "We'll always have this connection."

Jon Little, who stayed by Steven's bedside during the operation, has remained in awe of his friend. "He's a very giving soul," Jon said of Steven. "He's an amazing person, but this took him to a whole new level. He's so modest, he says it's not a big deal, but this is probably one of the most incredible things I've ever seen."

Steven does indeed downplay what he did, and in talking with him you get a sense of the selfless determination that compelled him toward such an incredible act.

"I look at it as helping out another person," he said. "I'm not looking for recognition or anything like that. I never dreamed that I would do something like this, but the moment presented itself and the need was there, and I felt like I had to step up to the plate."

But for Jair, it was more than that. Much more. Because of Steven's gift, his life is forever changed and he struggles with how to adequately express his gratitude. "I don't even have the words, or know how to thank him for something like this," Jair said.

"The reason we want this story told is because we want it to be an example to other people at the airline," he continued. "The people you work with really do become your family. If someone has a problem, I hope our story will help them find the courage to come forward and ask for help. It's like Colleen told me: You never know who your angels are."

An update from our CEO, Oscar Munoz

By Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines , March 27, 2020

To our customers,

I hope this note finds you and your loved ones healthy and well.

It is safe to say these past weeks have been among some of the most tumultuous and emotional that any of us can remember in our lifetimes. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak has been felt by individuals and families, companies and communities, across the United States and around the world.

The response to this crisis has been extraordinary; as much for what it has required from our society as for what it has revealed of us as a people.

Far from causing division and discord, this crisis and the social distancing it has required, has allowed us to witness something profound and moving about ourselves: our fond and deeply felt wish to be connected with one another.

The role of connector is one we're privileged to play in the moments that matter most in your life – weddings and graduations, birthdays and business trips, events large and small – and it's that responsibility that motivates us most to get back to our regular service, as soon as possible.

That is why it is so important our government acted on a comprehensive relief act to ensure our airline – and our industry – are ready and able to serve you again when this crisis abates.

I want to relay to you, in as deeply personal a way I can, the heartfelt appreciation of my 100,000 United team members and their families for this vital public assistance to keep America and United flying for you.

This support will save jobs in our business and many others. And it allows us time to make decisions about the future of our airline to ensure that we can offer you the service you deserve and have come to expect as our customers.

While consumer demand has fallen, we have seen the need for our service and capabilities shifted. And, we've adapted to help meet those needs.

Right now, aircraft flying the United livery and insignia, flown by our aviation professionals, have been repurposed to deliver vital medical supplies and goods to some of the places that need it most. We're also using several of our idle widebody aircraft to use as dedicated charter cargo flights, at least 40 times per week, to transfer freight to and from U.S. locations as well as to key international business locations. At the same time, we are working in concert with the U.S. State Department to bring stranded Americans who are trying to return home back to their loved ones.

While much remains uncertain right now, one thing is for sure: this crisis will pass. Our nation and communities will recover and United will return to service you, our customers. When that happens, we want you to fly United with even greater pride because of the actions we took on behalf of our customers, our employees and everyone we serve.

Stay safe and be well,

Oscar Munoz
CEO

Working to bring people home – repatriation flights underway

By The Hub team , March 26, 2020

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.

This week, we are operating 21 flights from Panama City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, to bring nearly 2,500 Americans 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. 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
  • Amsterdam
  • Brussels
  • Munich
  • Singapore
  • Tokyo-Haneda
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Melbourne, Australia

Map showing reinstated international flights to help bring customers home during COVID-19 crisis.

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.

Domestic and international schedule reductions

By The Hub team , March 25, 2020

While travel demand and government restrictions continue to impact our schedule, we know some people around the globe are displaced and still need to get home. While our international schedule will be reduced by about 90% in April, we will continue flying six daily operations to and from the following destinations — covering Asia, Australia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe — in an effort to get customers where they need to be. This remains a fluid situation, but United continues to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world, especially in these challenging times. Learn more about what we're doing to keep customers and employees safe.

Flights continuing from now through May schedule:

  • New York/Newark – Frankfurt (Flights 960/961)
  • New York/Newark – London (Flights 16/17)
  • New York/Newark – Tel Aviv (Flights 90/91)
  • Houston – Sao Paulo (Flights 62/63)
  • San Francisco – Tokyo-Narita (Flights 837/838)
  • San Francisco – Sydney (Flights 863/870)

In addition to the above, we will continue to operate the following flights to help displaced customers who still need to get home. In destinations where government actions have barred us from flying, we are actively looking for ways to bring customers who have been impacted by travel restrictions back to the United States. This includes working with the U.S. State Department and the local governments to gain permission to operate service.

Atlantic

The following flights will continue through March 28 westbound:

  • New York/Newark – Amsterdam (Flights 70/71)
  • New York/Newark – Munich (Flights 30/31)
  • New York/Newark – Brussels (Flights 999/998)
  • New York/Newark – Cape Town (Flights 1122/1123)
  • Washington-Dulles – London (Flights 918/919)
  • San Francisco – Frankfurt (Flights 58/59)

The final westbound departures on all other Atlantic routes will take place on March 25.

Pacific

  • We will continue to fly San Francisco-Seoul (Flights 893/892) through March 29 and San Francisco-Tahiti (Flights 115/114) through March 28.
  • Our final eastbound departures on all other Pacific routes will take place on March 25.
  • We will maintain some Guam flights as well as a portion of our Island Hopper service.
  • Hawaii's governor issued a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine order for all travelers arriving or returning to Hawaii. Travelers must complete a Hawaii Department of Agriculture form that will be distributed on board their flight which will also include the requirements for the 14-day quarantine, as well as the penalties. You must show a government issued ID upon arrival along with your form. You can find more information on the governor's website.

Latin America/South America

  • We will continue to fly Newark/New York – Sao Paulo (Flights 149/148) through March 27 outbound.
  • The last southbound departures on most other routes will take place March 24.

Mexico

  • We will reduce our Mexico operation over the next five days. After March 24, we will maintain a small number of daytime flights to certain destinations in Mexico — more to come in the next few days.

Canada

  • We will suspend all flying to Canada effective April 1.

In destinations where government actions have barred us from flying, we are actively looking for ways to bring customers who have been impacted by travel restrictions back to the United States. This includes working with the U.S. State Department and the local governments to gain permission to operate service.

The revised international schedule will be viewable on united.com on Sunday, March 22. We will continue to update our customers with information as it's available.

If you're scheduled to travel through 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. Please visit united.com for more information, or reference our step-by-step guide on how to change your flight, cancel and rebook later.

For any customer, including residents from other countries, whose international travel is disrupted by more than six hours because of schedule changes resulting from government restrictions, they will retain a travel credit equal to the value of their ticket. That credit can be used towards any flight, to any destination, for 12 months from the time of purchase. If the customer chooses not to use the credit, they will receive a cash refund at the end of that 12-month period.We continue to aggressively manage the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on our employees, our customers and our business. Due to government mandates or restrictions in place prohibiting travel, we are reducing our international schedule by 95% for April. The revised international schedule will be viewable on united.com on Sunday, March 22.

Domestic schedule

We're also making changes to our domestic schedule. While we don't plan to suspend service to any single U.S. city now — with the exception of Mammoth Lakes and Stockton, CA — we are closely monitoring demand as well as changes in state and local curfews and government restrictions across the U.S. and will adjust our schedule accordingly throughout the month.

Additionally, today we announced a further reduction in our domestic schedule — the changes will result in a 52% overall domestic reduction from a previous 42%, and our overall capacity will now be down 68% overall.

Hub city Route suspensions Remaining service
Denver Arcata/Eureka
Amarillo
Kona
Kauai Island
SFO
IAH
SFO
SFO
New York/Newark Akron/Canton
Grand Rapids
Hilton Head
Honolulu
Milwaukee
Madison
Omaha
Portland, Oregon
Providence
Seattle
Salt Lake City
Sacramento
Knoxville
Fayetteville
ORD
ORD, DEN
IAD
ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO, LAX
ORD, IAH, DEN
ORD, DEN
ORD, IAH, DEN
ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO
IAD, ORD
IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO, LAX
ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO, LAX
ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO, LAX
IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO, LAX
ORD, IAH, DEN
Washington-Dulles Grand Rapids
Portland, Oregon
Sacramento
ORD, DEN
ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO, LAX
ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO, LAX
Houston Hartford
Boise
Grand Rapids
Lexington
Ontario, California
Palm Springs
San Jose, California
Akron/Canton
Reno
IAD, ORD, DEN
ORD, DEN, SFO, LAX
ORD
ORD, DEN
IAD, ORD
DEN, SFO
DEN, SFO, LAX
DEN, SFO
DEN
Los Angeles Arcata/Eureka
Austin
Boston
Baltimore
Bozeman
Cleveland
Kona
Kauai Island
Orlando
Madison
Kahului
Redding
Reno
San Antonio
St George
SFO
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO
ORD, IAH, DEN
DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO
SFO
SFO
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN, SFO
ORD, DEN
DEN, SFO
SFO
DEN, SFO
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
DEN
Chicago Asheville
Bismarck/Mandan
Bozeman
Kearney
Panama City
Eugene
Fresno
Spokane
Hilton Head
Wilmington
Jackson
Kahului
Palm Springs
Reno
San Jose
Valparaiso
IAD
DEN
DEN
DEN
IAH
DEN, SFO, LAX
DEN, SFO, LAX
DEN, SFO
IAD
IAD
IAH
DEN, SFO
DEN, SFO, LAX
DEN, SFO
DEN
IAH
San Francisco Atlanta
Nashville
Baltimore
Bozeman
Columbus
Detroit
Fort Lauderdale
Indianapolis
Kansas City
Madison
New Orleans
Omaha
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Raleigh/Durham
San Antonio
St Louis
Tampa
Fayetteville
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
ORD, IAH, DEN
DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
ORD, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
ORD, IAH, DEN
ORD, IAH, DEN
ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
EWR, IAD, ORD, IAH, DEN
ORD, IAH, DEN
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