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.

Making our app more accessible for people with disabilities

By The Hub team, October 28, 2020

We're proud to launch a redesigned version of our United app to make it easier for customers with visual disabilities to manage all aspects of day-of travel, including check-in, viewing reservation details and flight status, bag tracking and more.

This latest version of our app is now available to both Android and iOS users, and it offers increased color contrast and more space between graphics. Furthermore, we have reorganized how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack, which are built into most handheld devices. By restructuring the way the information is organized on the app, screen readers are better able to convert text to audio in the proper, logical sequence, allowing customers to better understand and navigate the app.

United Zoom backgrounds for AvGeeks

By The Hub team, October 27, 2020

Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.

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.

Looking back at a landmark year with Special Olympics

By Ryan Wilks, October 19, 2020

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.

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