Family Friendly Holiday Getaways - United Hub
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Family-friendly holiday getaways

By Bob Cooper, November 10, 2017

There's no reason to tremble over making family travel plans for the holidays when the kids are out of school. The key to avoiding the bedlam of places like Disney World and Disneyland during the holidays is to head elsewhere. Many cities, especially these five, celebrate the family holiday spirit without demanding that you ride roller coasters and pay hotel prices that would turn jolly Santa into the Grinch.

Palm trees link together with Christmas lights

St. Nick Meets St. Pete

Hitting a Florida beach in December is a popular traveler's dream, but the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg also turn Tampa Bay into a prime holiday destination for other reasons. St. Pete's beachfront Straub Park offers Glice (artificial ice) skating, Busch Gardens Tampa throws in a Santa's House at Christmas Town, and Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo hosts a Christmas in the Wild celebration and family-focused Noon Year's Eve—where a DJ counts down to noon on December 31 with kid-friendly toasts to the new year.

Snow covered buildings in Quebec

Christmas Choirs in Canada

Many call Quebec City the most “European" city in North America, and the holidays are when it sparkles like an Old World winter wonderland. Colorful lights illuminate the main square, Place de l'Hotel-de-Ville, towered over by Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral and City Hall. Also delightful to stroll past are shop-lined narrow lanes of the Petit Champlain district. Yet another crowd pleaser is the German Christmas Market in the Old City (Nov. 23-Dec. 23), where choirs sing, gingerbread is served and families flock to the Kindermarkt (Christmas Market for kids). As for the weather, Quebec City's location near Maine guarantees a traditional White Christmas.

Lanterns lit up at the Las Noches de las Luminarias in Arizona.

December in the Desert

Phoenix holds nothing back in celebrating the holiday spirit. Throughout December, the Christmas at the Princess Festival features an outdoor ice rink, a train that chugs past 4.5 million LED lights and a tree that performs “light dances" to holiday songs. Other area resorts' homages to the holidays include the Westin Kierland's nightly 3-D animations set to holiday music and The Wigwam's snow slide. But it's hard to top Las Noches de las Luminarias, the Desert Botanical Garden spectacle throughout December when 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags light the way up a desert hillside path while the desert rings with nightly performances by everyone from handbell ensembles to cowboy balladeers.

Rockefeller Center in NYC at Christmas time.

Merry Manhattan

Whether it's “Miracle on 34th Street," “When Harry Met Sally" or “Home Alone 2," holiday movies set in Manhattan repeatedly prove that it's a magical place in December. It all begins at Rockefeller Center, where a lit-up Norway Spruce towers over the city's most popular ice skating rink. There are more ice rinks in Central Park, plus classic live-performance options like the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular and the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker. Department store decorations and window displays are most elaborate at Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Bloomingdale's and Macy's—where Santaland is a re-creation of the North Pole.

Pier in San Diego lit up with Christmas lights.

Santa in San Diego

With fewer chimneys to slide down than in most cities, Santa has extra time in San Diego to catch some waves while the reindeer tan on the beach. The city's beaches and mild temps are two reasons for a visit, but so are its holiday events. Holiday of Lights at Del Mar Fairgrounds (Nov. 24 –Jan. 1) includes the Holiday Hayride and the largest drive-through light show on the entire West Coast, featuring elaborate holiday decorations. Just across town in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo's Jungle Bells celebration (Dec. 8-Jan. 1) features acrobatic elves, “reindeer games", professional carolers and a Polar Express 4-D experience.

If you go

United Airlines offers flights from many cities to these destinations. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your trip before the holidays.

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.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

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