Exploring New Zealand by a DC-3 Aircraft - United Hub

Exploring New Zealand by a DC-3 aircraft

By The Hub team

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 A320 Captain Scott Cooper

I recently returned from an incredible tour of New Zealand. Instead of travelling by bus, we flew around on a true aviation classic, a DC-3. In 12 days, our group flew "low and slow," experiencing all this beautiful country has to offer, from the North to the South Island.

DC-3 Aircraft in New Zealand

On the first day, we met our crew (mostly retired pilots and flight attendants) and left Auckland for Rotorua (known locally as "RotoVegas") to experience the natural thermal springs, and a traditional Maori Haka dance and Hangi dinner. The following day, owing to bad weather, we were taken by coach bus down to Palmerston North for the flight down to Blenheim on the South Island. This region is home to the Marlborough wine region, and it's where you can find some of the best sauvignon blanc on the planet. We landed at the Omaka airfield, which is a grass strip and home to the incredible Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum. The next day, we boarded our DC-3 for the one-hour flight down the coast to Christchurch. Upon arrival, we toured the International Antarctic Centre (Christchurch has traditionally been the starting point for expeditions and military operations to Antarctica). Christchurch itself was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2011 but is being rebuilt anew.

Town of Te Anau in New Zealand

The following morning, we departed once again for the short, 20-minute flight to Ashburton, a large grass airfield and home to the amazing Ashburton Aviation Museum. After a barbeque lunch, we took off for the beautiful town of Dunedin. Dunedin, on the south east coast of the South Island, is home to New Zealand's first university and truly one of the most beautiful small towns in the world. After a great day of exploring Dunedin, we took off for the one hour flight across the tip of the Southern Alps to the charming lakeside town of Te Anau. Te Anau is the gateway to the Milford Sound region and home to some of the most spectacular and unspoiled scenery in the world. It's also where the "Lord of the Rings" movies were filmed. Cruising up the Milford Sound is quite an experience, as clear days are rare. Gale force winds are more common, but the scenery is simply stunning and worth the journey. The next morning, we left for Queenstown, which can only be described as a sportsman's paradise. The town of 18,000 is the starting point for hiking, kayaking, jet boating, bungee jumping or skiing (in the winter). In the evening, our group cruised up Lake Wakatipu on an old, coal-burning steamship, which was built in the same year as the Titanic. A fun fact about our tour director was that he is a direct descendant of William Murdoch, who was the First Officer on the RMS Titanic itself.

After a couple great days in Queenstown, it was off again to Wanaka, which is home to one of the biggest air shows in the Southern Hemisphere (one that our DC-3, "Betsy" participates in every year), as well as a great aviation museum and the largest collection of Packard cars in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the world. For the next few days, we flew up to the towns of Hokitika, Greymouth, and Westport, before our final stop on the South Island, Nelson. Like Dunedin, Nelson is one of the most charming and livable small towns on the planet.

Scott Cooper with the DC-3 aircraft

After about nine days flying around the South Island, we left its beautiful shores to land on the North Island, once again in New Plymouth. After a great evening and tour of WWII exhibit at the airport, curated by none other than Jim Hickey (TVNZ's most famous weatherman and an all-around great guy), we headed back up to Ardmore airport in Auckland. After landing, the official tour wrapped up, capping off a 12-day trip of a lifetime, but the aviation experience was not quite over yet, as an optional scenic flight over Auckland in a PBY Catalina aircraft was on offer.

This was an incredible experience to fly in one of only two Catalinas left in the world today, certified to carry passengers. This tour is offered just once or twice a year and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If interested check out pacifictrailways.co.nz.

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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