Flight Attendant Reconnects with Childhood Inspiration - United Hub

Blast from the past: Flight Attendant reconnects with childhood inspiration

By Matt Adams

Chicago-based Flight Attendant Tristan Schnabel tried not to stare, but he couldn't help himself. Though it was the first time the two of them had ever worked a flight together, Schnabel was sure he had seen Los Angeles-based Captain Rafael Gutierrez before; he just couldn't place where. Then, suddenly, it hit him.

The week prior, while visiting his mom, Schnabel had loaded his cell phone with old family pictures, including one that was taken when he was 10 years old, of him posing with a United captain. After scrolling through his phone and finding it, Schnabel couldn't believe what he was seeing — he was nearly certain the man sitting next to him in that 15-year-old photo was Gutierrez.

Schnabel showed the picture to a couple of his flight crew colleagues to see what they thought, and their reactions convinced him that his eyes weren't playing tricks on him. It was the same guy, no doubt about it. After finishing the preflight checklist, he approached Gutierrez and tapped him on the shoulder.

"I said, 'Hey, is this you in this photo?'" Schnabel says. "When he saw it, he just started laughing and said, 'Yeah, that's me!' He couldn't believe it, either."

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs with a mom and stepdad who both worked at United headquarters, Schnabel was a frequent flier, taking full advantage of the family's flight privileges any chance he got. As a precocious youth with an inquiring mind, he also never missed a chance to talk with the pilots and flight attendants he met. He remembers a lot of those conversations fondly, but the one with Gutierrez, who invited him up to the flight deck and let him sit in the right seat, had always stood out.

Since becoming a United pilot in 1989, Gutierrez has done his best to get kids interested in aviation, and he's given a lot of tours of his workspace at the front of the aircraft. To him, bumping into Schnabel wasn't just astonishing, it was further confirmation that those extra efforts over the years have indeed made an impact.

"If young people want to come up to the flight deck and take pictures, I have always welcomed that," Gutierrez says. "It's a great profession, and I encourage them to consider any flying-related careers. I was surprised when Tristan showed me the photo, but more than that, I was touched when he said I was one of the inspirations behind him getting into aviation."

To his credit, Schnabel makes a point of following Gutierrez's example in that regard, too, handing out plastic wings to youngsters on his flights and answering their questions about the work he does.

"I tell them it's a great life," he says. "You get to travel the world and meet new people every day. When I have those conversations, I think back to meeting Captain Gutierrez. I love what I do, and getting to talk with the kids is one of the best parts of the job."

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.

Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.

"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.

We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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