Inspiring the next generation of girls in aviation
March is Women's History Month, and all month long United is celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of women from across the airline.
Since 1990, Women in Aviation International has been encouraging women of all ages to think about a career in aviation. Below is the story of Radha Bruckner, a United pilot, who chased her dream from India.
How a little girl in India became a pilot
When 17-year-old Radha Bruckner went to the beach, she looked up to the skies, not out at the waves crashing ashore. “My mom and I would sit on the rocks along the beach. I was in my first year of college in Mumbai, India," Radha recalls. Never mind the water and the sunsets, Radha's eyes would be fixed on the airplanes dotting the sky.
“I'd ask my mom if my dream would ever take flight," Radha says, “and she always said that if I worked hard and stayed focused, I could do anything I set my mind to, no matter how impossible the odds."
Radha's parents assumed their young daughter was just going through a phase. They thought that there was no way a girl from India — raised in a family that didn't even have a car — would have an interest in becoming a pilot. Female pilots were rare back then. Even rarer were the places in India where she could get the proper schooling. “People told me this isn't a career path for young women, and I cried every time I heard this," Radha says. “But my parents were never among the naysayers." Time went on, and a girl whose dream of flight began on her first flight — at age four to New York City due to her father's job — persisted.
“I still remember parts of that long flight on board a Boeing 747 from New Delhi," Radha says. “I remember asking my parents and the flight attendants endless questions about the airplane." She started to believe she could one day fly a plane in her first year of high school. Her father brought home a magazine from the Indian embassy, where he then worked, in Frankfurt, Germany. Featured on the cover? Nivedita Bhasin, who'd just become the youngest female pilot in world civil aviation history to command a commercial jet. “In that moment, my dream of becoming an airline pilot became real and attainable," Radha says.
She grabbed the magazine and went up to the green-roof of the building her family lived in near Frankfurt Airport. It was there she spent countless hours in her teens. Much like she'd do on the beach in Mumbai, she looked not outward at the cityscape, but upward at the planes coming and going. Four years later, she was on one of those planes, bound for the United States.
After logging 900 flight hours, Radha drove a car for the first time. “Not many people can say that," Radha jokes. Not too many girls from India can say they've become commercial airline pilots, either, but Radha can. With the help of her parents, Radha left her college in Mumbai, and, at age 18, was living on her own in America, earning her flight instructor rating in Illinois.
“My dad was visiting Chicago on a business trip, and I had the honor of flying him in a Cessna 172 XP," Radha says proudly. “I still remember the wide grin on my dad's face as he clung onto the armrest for dear life." The planes Radha flies now are a bit bigger and can fit a few more passengers. Radha is a Newark-based Boeing 767/757 first officer for United. She realized her lifelong dream of joining a major commercial airline in 2014 and has flown the friendly skies ever since. “It is a privilege to live your dream," Radha says. “Sadly, my parents did not live to see me attain my goal, but I know in my heart that, if it wasn't for their unconditional love, unwavering faith and numerous sacrifices, this little girl from India would have never reached for the stars. “I hope to inspire little girls and boys from around the world to do the same."
“Adversity builds character," Radha's dad used to always tell her. “And he knew much about adversity, being the only one in his little village in south India to put himself through high school, ultimately earning a Masters Degree in economics with honors," Radha says.
She recently passed along similar messages during a trip back to Mumbai, where she spoke to students at a school for underprivileged youth.
“Today was the most memorable and humbling experience of my life," Radha said. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to speak to these beautiful children about my love for flying and to give them wings as souvenirs. I was so moved by their attention, curiosity and questions. I hope they take to heart the message I wanted to share with them — 'you can do anything you set your mind to if you work hard and stay focused.'" She had one request of the children before leaving for the next destination on her two-week trip: Frankfurt, and her favorite green-roofed building. “I asked them to look at the wings I passed out whenever they needed the reminder that anything is possible," Radha said.
We know people are taking a second look at their travel plans right now. If you're scheduled to travel March 10 – May 31, 2020 and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so, regardless of when you purchased your ticket or where you're traveling. This is in addition to our previous waiver, which waives all change fees – domestic and international – for tickets purchased March 3 – April 30, 2020. This is available for any of United's published nonrefundable fares. If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a fee. These electronic travel certificates are now valid for 24 months from the date they were issued. This includes all currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020. You might not see this policy change reflected everywhere right away – we appreciate your patience as we work to make that happen.
Eligible travelers on domestic flights and international tickets can request a refund on united.com or may call our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19.
Certain tickets cannot be changed on united.com or the mobile app, including tickets booked through another airline (if the ticket receipt does not begin with 016). Please contact the original ticketing airline for changes.
Follow the steps below to stay up to date, change or cancel your flight.
Change your current flight:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your flight information to retrieve your flight.
- Select "Change flight" and then "Edit" to make the following changes:
- Date of travel or destination
- Add a flight
- Remove a flight
- Select "Continue" and choose a new flight option
- Continue through booking to confirm your new flight
Note: The change fee will display as waived, but any difference in fare may apply.
Cancel your flight and rebook later:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your reservation information to retrieve your flight
- Select "Cancel flight"
- Confirm flight cancellation
- If you have future flight credit, when you return to the reservation, select "Use Future Flight Credit" to shop for new flights and apply the credit towards a new flight.
Canceling or changing an award flight:
When you select "Cancel flight," you will have the option to cancel your award reservation and redeposit the miles or to cancel your award reservation and use those miles for another trip in the future.
*We're currently experiencing heavy traffic to united.com. If you experience an error while trying to change or cancel your flight, please try again later.
Click through the slideshow below for more detailed instructions:
Start on the United homepage:
User can select 'My Trips' on the homepage widget to find and retrieve their reservation.
When and where possible, we are working to repatriate travelers who are stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Our teams are working closely with government officials here in the U.S. as well as in other countries where flying has been restricted to gain the necessary approvals to operate service. In regions where government actions have barred international flying, we have coordinated with the the U.S. State Department and local government officials to re-instate some flights. Additionally, we have been operating several extra flights to countries in Central America and South America as we continue to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world.
We have operated more than 68 repatriation flights from Panama City, Guatemala City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, bringing nearly 9,200 people home. We will continue working with government officials to operate extra flights to Houston from Quito, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and from Lima to Washington Dulles and beginning April 5, we will begin operating multiple charter flights between Delhi and San Francisco. We continue to review more opportunities for flights between the United States and other countries to bring citizens home.
Video provided by the U.S. Embassy Ecuador of Americans returning home on United.
Additionally, our Customer Solutions and Recovery team is working with customers in the following markets to rebook them on flights back to the United States as capacity allows, either on our aircraft or on one of our airline partners' planes:
- Quito, Ecuador
- Managua, Nicaragua
- Roatan, Honduras
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras
- Seoul, South Korea
- Melbourne, Australia
We also recently reinstated several international flights back into our schedule to support customers and essential businesses which depend on these routes. As a result, we will be the only airline to offer service between Newark/New York and London, San Francisco and Sydney, as well as Houston and São Paulo, Brazil.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom, a video conferencing tool that many people are using to stay connected.
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. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.