Exploring the land of smiles
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 San Francisco-based Base Technician James Hoang
Early in June this year, a good friend and co-worker of mine, Allen Chang, inquired about the places to visit in Thailand. So I took the opportunity to take his family on a tour around the "Land of Smiles." We flew to Korea and enjoyed a few hours at the airport in Incheon. When we arrived in Bangkok, my friend and driver, Chok, gladly picked us up. We were worn out from the long-haul and connecting flights, so we rested that day. The following day, however, we were already early and excited to go on our excursion.
The Chao Phraya is the major river in Thailand and one of the most convenient ways to visit the numerous temples in Bangkok. We boarded one of the small tour boats waiting at the pier and visited several temples built along the river. It was a simple hop on and hop off as we traveled up the river. We were amazed by the details of some of the decorations and hand carved statures as well as the unforgettable sense of peace and tranquility once we set foot in these temples.
Allen's two sons convinced us to visit Phra Prang Sam Yot, a monkey temple that is located in Lopburi, a two-and-a-half hour drive north of Bangkok. The place is known for its monkey festival, which is held every last Sunday of November and has been featured on National Geographic. Lopburi is home to more than 2,000 monkeys, and they are very honored and celebrated by the local people. They are fed by the locals and, since they are not afraid of human contact, they steal whatever items or food they can find from unwary tourists.
Traditionally, long tables are set up early in the morning before the festival. Fruits and vegetables are then placed on top of the tables and are covered with large cloths. After the monks give their blessing and the townspeople show their appreciation, the festivities start and the monkeys come by the hundreds and grab whatever fruits or treats they can get their hands on. So you can just imagine the energy, noise and clamor from the monkeys and the people alike. It was truly fascinating.
Our encounter with the monkeys was absolutely awesome. They're very friendly and always curious, especially when it comes to shiny objects. So it's definitely advisable to leave anything valuable in your car because, once they grab it, you'll never get it back!
Our next destination was the River Kwai, which is a three-hour drive east of Bangkok. We had the chance to explore the famous bridge of the Burma Railway, which crosses the river at Tha Makham Subdistrict of the Mueang District. Crossing the narrow bridge gave us the sense of understanding and a piece of Thai history and culture.
Thailand's countryside is extremely beautiful, with lush green trees that lined the roads. The view of cascading limestone mountains was magnificent. Not to mention the fruit and barbecue stands that often refueled our taste buds.
Our final destination was the town of Kanchanaburi, a historical town known for its infamous World War II Death Railway to Burma (now Myanmar). It is also known for its accessible waterfalls and national parks. But what really drew us to Kanchanaburi was the ElephantsWorld, a nonprofit organization that offers a safe sanctuary for sick, old, disabled, abused and rescued elephants in Thailand.
We couldn't contain our excitement when we finally experienced our elephant encounter. We got acquainted with these beautiful creatures after feeding them. It was then when we realized that elephants have a docile and gentle demeanor. Our entire day was spent with them as we enjoyed the fun in the sun, warm breeze and the gentle, flowing river that is surrounded by thick covered leaves. Our excitement could not be contained -- we were just like kids in the playground full of joy and laughter. The elephants enjoyed us as well, and they most definitely enjoyed the body scrub we gave them.
When we returned the elephants to their safe house, one of my friend's sons fell into tears. He didn't want to leave the river. I heard my friend whisper to the elephant, "I will see you again, soon."
Our trip to Thailand was short, but most of all it was memorable. The memories we've shared, most especially with my friend's two boys, were really worth our while. From the monkey encounter (they've conquered their fears of interacting with them) to admiring the spectacular mountains, views and rivers that surround Thailand, to experiencing the love and warmth of the elephants, Thailand is truly unforgettable.
As I end my travel blog, I would like to say in Thai, "Khob Khun Krab!" which means "Thank you!"
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.
We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 th through October 15th and take the time to recognize the important contributions of our colleagues of Hispanic descent in the United family.
This year, we hosted virtual events organized by our multicultural business resource group UNITE to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, covering topics ranging from immigration reform to Hispanic leadership. We're also taking a moment to highlight Latinx employees nominated by their peers for their contributions both at and outside of work.
These nominees have demonstrated leadership in their position and through their character. Take a moment to read their own words about how their background and heritage plays a role in the way they interact with customers, in how they support their colleagues and why it brings valuable perspective to their work.
Vania Wit – VP & Deputy Counsel
"I am the Vice President and Deputy General Counsel in the legal department. I am an attorney and have worked in the legal department for over 21 years and am currently responsible for a number of different legal areas – such as litigation, international, commercial and government contracts, labor, employment and benefits, antitrust. I have the privilege of working with a tremendous team of attorneys who are directly leading and managing these areas. One of the things I like most about my job is simply getting to know the backgrounds and personal stories that everyone has about their paths to United or their passion for the industry. Being the daughter of immigrants from South America and growing up in a family who relies heavily on air travel to connect us to our close family and friends is an integral part of my story and what drew me to this industry and this company."
Kayra Martinez – International Flight Attendant, FRA
"I love that my work as a flight attendant brings me all over the world and allows me to connect with diverse people across the globe. Because of my Spanish heritage, I've been able to use my language as a way to connect with passengers, crew members and people from every nationality. In addition, my heritage gives me a very close connection to family, creating community and using inclusion as a way to bring people together. After transferring to Europe, I was able to study German, more Spanish, Italian and Arabic. Outside of work, I'm the director and founder of a nonprofit organization that empowers refugees through art. Hundreds of children and adults fleeing war-torn countries have found healing through my art workshops. These refugees are currently displaced in Greece. Their stunning paintings are then sold in art galleries and communities around the world, raising awareness and putting income directly into the hands of refugee artists."
Adriana Carmona – Program Manager, AO Regulatory Compliance
Harry Cabrera – Assistant Manager, AO Customer Service, IAH
"My desire to help people is what drove me to start my career in Customer Service over two decades ago. Currently I provide support to our coworkers and customers at IAH , the gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean. As a Colombian native celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, I'm proud to see the strength that my fellow Latinos forge every day at United Airlines. Family values are a cornerstone of the Latin community; I consider my coworkers to be part of my extended family. Mentor support throughout the years gave me the opportunity to grow professionally. The desire to do better and help others succeed is part of that heritage. I collaborate with our Latin American operations and create ways to improve performance. No matter what language you speak, the passion for what you do and being approachable makes the difference in any interaction."
Juciaria Meadows – Assistant Regional Manager, Cargo Sales
"During my 28-year career, I've worked across the system in various frontline and leadership roles in Reservations, Customer Service and Passenger Sales in Brazil. I moved to the U.S. in 2012 to work as an Account Executive for Cargo. It did not take too long for me to learn that boxes and containers have as much a voice as a passenger sitting in our aircraft. My job is to foster relationships with shippers, freight forwarders, cosignees, etc. and build strong partnerships in fair, trustworthy and caring ways where United Cargo will be their carrier of choice. That's where my background growing up in a Latino family plays an important role in my day-to-day interactions. I've done many wonderful sales trainings provided by United and my academic background , but none of them taught me more than watching my parents running their wholesale food warehouse. Developing exceptional relationships with their customers, they always treated them with trust and respect. They were successful business people with a big heart, creative, always adding a personal touch to their business relationships and I find myself doing the same. It's a lesson that is deep in my heart."
Shanell Arevalo – Customer Service Representative, DEN
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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, United Cargo has supported a variety of customers within the healthcare industry for over 10 years. Three key solutions – TempControl, LifeGuard and QuickPak – protect the integrity of vital shipments such as precision medicine, pharmaceuticals, biologics, medical equipment and vaccines. By utilizing processes like temperature monitoring, thermodynamic management, and priority boarding and handling, United Cargo gives customers the peace of mind that their shipments will be protected throughout their journey.
With the global demand for tailored pharmaceutical solutions at an all-time high, we've made investments to help ensure we provide the most reliable air cargo options for cold chain shipping. In April this year, we became the first U.S. carrier to lease temperature-controlled shipping containers manufactured by DoKaSch Temperature Solutions. We continue to partner with state-of-the-art container providers to ensure we have options that meet our customers' ever-changing needs.
"Providing safe air cargo transport for essential shipments has been a top priority since the pandemic began. While the entire air cargo industry has had its challenges, I'm proud of how United Cargo has adapted and thrived despite a significant reduction in network capacity and supply," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "We remain committed to helping our customers make it through the pandemic, as well as to doing everything we can to be prepared for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution when the time comes."
Our entire team continues to prioritize moving critical shipments as part of our commitment to supporting the global supply chain. We've assembled a COVID readiness task team to ensure we have the right people in place and are preparing our airports as we get ready for the industry-wide effort that comes next.
In cooperation with our partners all over the world, United Cargo has helped transport nearly 145 million pounds of medical supplies to aid in the fight against COVID-19, using a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights. To date, United Cargo has operated more than 6,300 cargo-only flights and has transported more than 213 million pounds of cargo worldwide.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, video conferencing tools that many people are using to stay connected.
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. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
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This is why we fly.
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We are humbled by your selfless sacrifice.
In celebration and appreciation of all first responders and essential workers. 👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽👏🏾👏🏿
This is the story of Jason and Shantel. You see, Jason and Shantel love each other very much. They also love traveling and they love the classic Adam Sandler film, The Wedding Singer.
It all began when Jason reached out to United's social media team, hoping for assistance with his upcoming plan to propose. Some phone calls and one borrowed guitar later, the stage was set for Jason. Put all that together, mix in some helpful United employees and, voila, you have a truly memorable marriage proposal. Congratulations to this fun-loving and happy couple, and here's to many more years of making beautiful music together.
A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.