Hub 10: Our most popular stories of 2018
As 2018 comes to a close, we're looking back on our most popular stories. From new routes to old favorites to employee journeys, we're ringing in the new year with a roundup of our top stories. As we look forward to 2019, take a moment to reflect with us on all that was in 2018.
1. Introducing Better Boarding
The feedback from customers and employees was clear: we needed to improve our boarding process. As part of our ongoing efforts to put customers at the center of everything we do, we identified boarding as an opportunity to improve the airport experience.
2. Big Metal Bird: Island Hopper
Five magnificent stops between Honolulu and Guam filled with spectacular scenery along the way, and then back again. If you haven't checked out our Big Metal Bird series, now is the time to do so as host, Phil Torres, explores our unique Island Hopper route, and discovers what the route means to the people of Micronesia.
3. Flying the flame, igniting inclusion
It was an unusual sight: a flame on a plane — this wasn't just any flame though, it was the Special Olympics' Flame of Hope, the flame which lit the Eternal Flame of Hope to kick off Special Olympics' 50th anniversary celebration this past summer. Our partnership with Special Olympics represents our continuing effort to break down barriers and further build on Special Olympics' remarkable legacy of inclusion by engaging our employees around the world.
4. 5 top experiences in Reykjavik, Iceland
This past year we launched new routes near and far including Reykjavik, Iceland which may sound like a faraway destination — in actuality, it's only a four hour and forty-minute flight from Newark's International Airport (EWR). To celebrate the new route, we traveled to Iceland this summer with freelance photographer, Tim Landis, as part of our United Journey travel series. Don't forget to tag your travel stories in 2019 using the #MyUnitedJourney on social media.
5. After Landing: Denver
In 2018, we kicked off After Landing, a travel guide series dedicated to bringing you insider tips and local recommendations on what to see and do in some of our favorite destinations. Our unique twist? We didn't compile the list ourselves (however, we think we know a thing or two), we went straight to the travel source — our employees who happen to be travel experts. Look out for more After Landing travel guides in 2019.
6. The Hawaiian Islands: Sand, surf and tropical trails
Enjoy beautiful beaches, water sports, snorkeling, rainforest hiking and tropical weather. Hawaii has all that and more on its five major islands, known worldwide for their array of outdoor activity indulgences.
7. 5 travel hot spots you don't want to miss in 2018
There are only so many trips you can take each year — so where did you adventure to in 2018? Did any of our top destinations make your travel hot spot list?
8. Following in her father's footsteps
Father and daughter pilot duo, Randy and Tamela, have flown the same type of aircraft, but have never flown a flight together. This past year, there was a chance happening where they were able to fly as a father-daughter flight crew. So many people have been influential in Tamela's journey, including her mother, sister, mentors, coworkers and friends, but it has been a very special relationship with her father that she feels forever grateful for.
9. 3 cities in Spain you need to visit this summer
White-sand beaches, mouthwatering food, and rich cultural history, it's hard to imagine a more idyllic destination to visit than Spain. Whether you're an art lover who's interested in exploring the masterworks of Picasso and Dalí, a parent looking to introduce their kids to the magic of Southern Europe, or you just want to relax on a sailboat as it drifts lazily along the sun-drenched coastline, you'll find exactly what you've been dreaming of in this Mediterranean paradise.
10. Our pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
In September, we became the first U.S. airline to publicly commit to reducing our greenhouse emissions — 50 percent by 2050. This pledge further strengthens our commitment to becoming the world's most environmentally conscious airline. How are we going to do this? By making investments in fuel-efficient aircraft, implementing conservation-minded operational changes and pioneering the use of sustainable aviation biofuels. Stay tuned for more on this in 2019.
- Best aviation-inspired museums to visit If you're an aviation enthusiast, check out our top 7 list of the best aviation-themed museums.
- Weekend inspiration: Savannah Savannah is quickly becoming a travel hot spot and possibly a destination you'll want to visit in 2019 (Savannah may or may not be on our 2019 travel list coming out next month, but you didn't hear it from us).
- Go inside the new United Polaris® lounge at EWR From distinctive lighting to unique artwork to a focus on craft cocktails, the new lounge at Newark's International Airport (EWR) embraces the energy of the New York/Newark metropolitan area and the exciting destinations served from it.
- Treat yourself to Tahiti: A Polynesian paradise Newly launched this year, you can now travel to paradise from San Francisco to Papeete. With 188 islands and atolls that make up Tahiti and the surrounding islands of French Polynesia, it's easy to see what all the fuss is about.
- We fly Australian firefighters to aid wildfire relief efforts As parts of Oregon and California battled blazing wildfires this year, we stepped up to help by flying a group of Australian firefighters to provide aid to the wildfire relief efforts.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.