Where the Reef Meets the Rainforest - United Hub
Employee Travel Blog

Where the reef meets the rainforest

By The Hub team, April 04, 2017

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 SFO Customer Service Representative Leonida Esquieres

Far north in Queensland, Australia, is a place of immense natural beauty. It is a rich, cosmopolitan mix of cultures and people, as well as the site of three World Heritage Sites -- the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics and the Riversleigh fossil site. It is where time slows down, and we can relax and appreciate a geographically beautiful region.

We flew to Sydney Airport on United's daily nonstop from San Francisco International Airport and from there took another flight to Cairns, the primary gateway to the three World Heritage Sites we were about to explore. The city of Cairns is similar to Honolulu in regards to climate and ambiance. From there, we rented a van and a driver to take us to our next destination, Port Douglas— where the reef meets the rainforest, a tropical wonderland of diversity. This town provides access to the Great Barrier Reef and also the Daintree Rainforest.

Leonida and her family hiking in the Daintree Rainforest

We had the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience by taking a pontoon reef tour. Throughout the tour, we explored the outer reef, where we enjoyed an array of reef viewing activities, such as glass bottom boat rides, semi submarine coral viewing tours and an underwater observatory. The Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia is the largest coral reef system on Earth and can be seen from outer space. It is comprised of more than 2,900 separate reefs, spanning more than 1,600 miles. It is home to the greatest variety of flora and fauna species found in any one location in the world. It provides the most awe-inspiring experience. This natural wonder offers snorkeling, diving, swimming or simply coral viewing. We had the opportunity to scuba dive and snorkel with Wally, the friendly "fish dog," and a humphead wrasse who was extremely sociable and eager to take us around his kingdom in the reef. It was an incredible experience playing with these two fish dogs under water.

Leonida Esquieres scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef

A day later, we visited the Cape Tribulation Safari in Kuranda, a village in the rainforest. The rainforests of the Wet Tropics are a museum of flora and fauna that were listed as World Heritage Sites in 1988. They cover an area of nearly 900,000 hectares of rainforest and tropical vegetation, stretching for more than 400 kilometers. Here, pockets of primitive plant species have remained undisturbed for millions of years, and rare, even previously unidentified, species of birds, insects and mammals have emerged.

We started our journey from Freshwater railway station to take a scenic train ride to the Kuranda Rainforest on a cable car ride (Kuranda Skyrail), exploring the remarkable rooftop of the rainforest. Along the way, you can hop off of the cable car to visit some sights, including Barron Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station, Barron Falls and the Wet Tropics area. In Kuranda, we wandered around the markets and later went to see the spectacular, tropical butterflies in their most natural habitat.

Following our trip to Kuranda, we visited Mossman Gorge Wet Tropics and took a cruise along the Daintree River, where we saw alligators.

A five-day, well-spent adventure in Queensland is definitely worth the long journey.

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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