A Friendship Proving Age is Just a Number - United Hub

A friendship proving age is just a number

By The Hub team

It seemed to be just another day at work for Newark-based Flight Attendant Francesco Samarelli, working a flight from Newark International Airport (EWR) to Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP). He was going about his regular duties asking for drink choices while serving customers, when he got to an elderly woman whose response took him by surprise.

"I would like a bottle of wine, please," she said with a friendly smirk.

Recognizing her sense of humor, Francesco kindly replied asking the woman to provide an ID for age verification.

"Do you know how old I am?" the woman asked.

"Anywhere between 1 and 90," Francesco replied.

She smiled and said, "Close! I am 99 years old and turning 100 in a few months."

Francesco, Rosie and her life partner Mary Ann.

That was March of 2012 and, unbeknownst to Francesco then, it was also the beginning of a very special friendship between him and Rosalia "Rosie" Zona.

After taking care of the customers on board, Francesco returned to Rosie, who was traveling with her friend and life partner Mary Ann, to strike up a conversation. Rosie shared with him stories about her life, family history and even invited him to her 100th birthday party. Unfortunately, due to his move to Europe, Francesco missed the birthday party that summer.

Exactly one year after their first encounter, Francesco had just finished the safety presentation on the EWR to MXP flight, when he heard someone yell: "You didn't come to my birthday party!"

Lo and behold, he looked up to see Rosie smiling at him. It was at that moment that Francesco realized she was meant to be part of his life. Around that same time, Francesco had started studying positive psychology and its power to make life more meaningful and fulfilling, and seeing Rosie again that day reaffirmed that he was on the right path.

Since their re-encounter, Francesco has stayed in regular contact with Rosie and Mary Ann, even attending Rosie's 106th birthday party in New York last summer, where Rosie surprised her guests by playing piano and singing songs.

Francesco at Rosie's 106th birthday party.

Through stories and life updates they've shared throughout the years, he learned that Rosie was a model as a young woman, but also that Rosie's life wasn't always rosy. In her early thirties she met her husband while ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Unfortunately, after five children together, the couple began to have marital problems, which ultimately led to divorce.

"Despite all that she's been through, she's one of the brightest and most inspirational people I've ever met," said Francesco. "Her positivity is contagious. When she speaks, she looks into your eyes; when she holds your hand, she holds it tight. She makes every single moment count."

They say age is just a number and, in this case, the age gap between the two friends is just that – an irrelevant number. Francesco is not only grateful for Rosie's friendship, but also for instilling in him the significance of having a positive attitude, no matter what life may throw in our way.

"This life is a dance, and I've never seen a better dancer than Rosie Zona," he said.

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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