Experiencing Wilderness in Northern Patagonia - United Hub

Experiencing wilderness in Northern Patagonia

By The Hub team, January 12, 2018

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 Business Processes Senior Analyst Jessica Yen

Recently, I was overcome by the desire to experience wild, remote places. With Patagonia at the top of my list, my best friend referred me to Chulengo Expeditions, founded by a friend whom she had met in business school, Nadine. Chulengo offers travels through newly protected wilderness areas in northern Patagonia -- anywhere from a six to more than 13 hour drive north of the more frequented Torres del Paine. It uses these remote parks as classrooms to discuss the future of land conservation in the 21st century. Remote and environmentally mindful? Consider me sold. This is where my four-day, three-night trek of Cerro Castillo in Chile's Aysen Region of northern Patagonia began.

Valley in Patagonia

The beginning of the expedition took me six hours south of Coyhaique, the capital city of the Aysén Region, to Parque Patagonia. Founded as a private park by Kris and Doug Tompkins, former CEOs of Patagonia and The North Face, respectively, the two have worked tirelessly to restore damaged grasslands from unsustainable sheep ranching, with the end goal of gifting the land back to the Chilean government once rehabilitated. Here, Nadine, Brooks -- who has recently joined Chulengo as a co-founder -- and I trekked the Avilés Trail, an approximately 16 km loop. We began our journey through a valley, then up a 635 m ascent to a plateau, arriving at a footbridge over Río Avilés, all the while encountering guanacos (part of the llama and alpaca family). Once across the footbridge, we continued along the plateau and back down through the valley to campgrounds. This intermediate hike served as a warm-up for our much more advanced multi-day excursion to come.

The next day, we drove three hours north on the lone, dirt road highway of the region, Carretera Austral, to Villa Cerro Castillo, the town at the base of the mountain we would soon conquer. Along the way, we stopped for a couple of day hikes -- one along the confluence of the Baker and Chacabuco Rivers, and the other along the confluence of the Baker and Neff Rivers -- and to take in the beauty of Lago General Carrera. Once in town, Nadine and Brooks reviewed the adequacy of my gear, or lack thereof, and we settled in for the evening.

United employee with hiking guides

Finally, the morning of our multi-day journey had arrived. Day 1 took us on a 15 km, mostly flat walk through yellow wildflower fields, lounging cows and scenic views foreshadowing the subsequent day's ascents. The real work began on Day 2, as we traversed up and back down the 1,676 m snowy El Peñon pass, through a valley and up another ascent to arrive at camp, a total of 10 km. We spent the first few hours of Day 3 climbing up and around Laguna Cerro Castillo, at the base of the summit, and the remainder of the day beginning the journey back down toward Villa Cerro Castillo; total distance -- 9.5 km. On Day 4, we continued the final 11 km, making our way down the mountain, stumbling upon horses and orchids alongside the Río Ibáñez and back into town.

Throughout our four-day hike, my mind drifted to the thought of bewilderment with regard to the beauty that I was seeing firsthand. With the remarkable landscape in front of us, it was easy for Nadine, Brooks and I to facilitate discussions about land ethics and what wild places mean to us individually. One subject of note, the environmental impact of aviation, hit particularly close to home. Working in the airline industry, it comes as no surprise that I, along with many, have a deep-rooted wanderlust. Our conversation gave me pause, as I thought about the carbon footprint of all my adventures. In particular, I learned about carbon offsets, which are programs that allow travelers to purchase credits to offset their estimated carbon footprint, with proceeds donated to support projects designed to reduce greenhouse gases. In fact, United's CarbonChoice Offset Program offers customers the opportunity for such purchases. It was these meaningful conversations that truly paved the way for a most fulfilling experience.

Woman sitting along the edge of a mountain.

Post-trek, I have been bewildered by all that I accomplished on this trip. I have a more-than-healthy fear of heights and, coupled with this being my first multi-day, pack-bearing hike, there were more than a handful of moments of panic. Nadine and Brooks, both of whom are certified National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) instructors, never lost a stride in their steps; they taught me how to cross rivers, self-arrest and hike inclines and declines in snow, and they provided plenty of tips for hiking efficiently and effectively. With these tools, I quickly became more confident in my abilities as we progressed through the trek, and it was amazing to experience this growth alongside them. I left Cerro Castillo really taking to heart the following quote by Trevor Noah, "The highest rung of what's possible is far beyond the world you can see." I certainly bit off more than I could chew, but with a positive attitude and encouraging leaders, I accomplished far beyond what I could have imagined.

Now that I'm back home, I am forever grateful to this trip for a truly transformative experience, for teaching me invaluable outdoor skills and fostering conversations that inspire me to ground a respectful relationship with the rest of Earth.

Adjusting to Customer Demand, United Adds New Nonstop Service to Florida

By United Newsroom, August 12, 2020

CHICAGO, Aug. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines today announced plans to add up to 28 daily nonstop flights this winter connecting customers in Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York/LaGuardia, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio to four popular Florida destinations. The new, nonstop flights reflect United's continuing strategy to aggressively, and opportunistically manage the impact of COVID-19 by increasing service to destinations where customers most want to fly.

Entertainment for all

By The Hub team, August 04, 2020

Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.

Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.

"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.

"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."

Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.

"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

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