Fun, Festive and Fierce: United's Chicago Drag Queen Brunch - United Hub
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Fun, festive and fierce: Our first Drag Queen brunch in Chicago

By The Hub team

It was fun. It was festive. It was fierce… It was our first-ever MileagePlus® Exclusives Drag Queen Brunch in Chicago. As the sold-out crowd of over 200 entered The River Kitchen and Bar in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood on Sunday, cloud balloons hung from the ceiling, feather boas covered chairs, Lizzo and other pop music blasted from the speakers, rainbow lights shined bright and Drag Queens were on-hand to welcome everyone to what would be an epic event celebrating Pride Month and being proud of our commitment to becoming the most inclusive airline in the world.

To attend the event, participants donated their miles to our charity partner, The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth.


"This year, we wanted to take Pride Month a step further by bringing an experience that recognizes and embraces the different communities our customers and employees are part of while supporting a great cause and organization," said Luc Bondar, Vice President of Loyalty and President of MileagePlus. "The brunch created an inclusive environment to come together as a United family. To our Drag Queen performers and volunteers, thank you for allowing us to be part of your story and empowering others through your courage to be who you are."

As attendees took to their seats, sipping on mimosas and tasting entrees with names like, "Fierce Toast", "Snatch My Wig Wings" and more, they cheered, clapped and sang as the Drag Queens performed numbers that had them dancing around the restaurant, jumping on tables and even swinging from the rafters on the ceiling.

"It was very entertaining," said Kevin Mercer, a MileagePlus customer and event attendee. "I'm happy to participate in such a wonderful opportunity to help an organization like The Trevor Project. I want to do what I can to help others and make their situation better."

At the end, the Drag Queens walked the runway in travel and aviation inspired costumes. Bondar was joined by three of our employee volunteers who also are Drag Queens, "Koko Nutwata" (Newark Liberty International Airport Flight Attendant Nicholas Villeneuve), "Traci E" (George Bush Intercontinental Airport Flight Attendant David Revils) and "Valerie BeDanza" (Newark Liberty International Airport Flight Attendant Hassan Salazar) to determine who had the best costume. The winner won a trip for two to anywhere domestically.

"This is what Pride is about," said Hassan. "It was so exciting seeing everyone at the brunch having fun. I've been so overwhelmed with the love, support and acceptance I've received from United. This Pride Month has been so special to me as I continue to grow as a Drag Queen and be who I am."

Chicago's Drag Queen Brunch comes the weekend after we hosted the first-ever airport Drag Queen Brunch at Newark in partnership with the Trevor Project and OTG Management.

"As a company, embracing the LGBTQ+ community is a priority so that our customers and employees feel welcomed," said Jill Kaplan, United's president for New York and New Jersey. "We were extremely proud to host the inaugural drag brunch in partnership with OTG at Newark Airport in celebration of pride, but equally as enthusiastic to support organizations like The Trevor Project who provide assistance for LGBTQ youth."

The Drag Queens, which included "Valerie" and Kennedy Davenport, star of RuPaul's Drag Race, danced down a makeshift runway at Newark's Terminal C, revving up the crowd of onlookers with their moves and songs as those at the brunch enjoyed delicacies from places like Mélange Bakery and sipped on "Taste the Rainbow" cocktails.

Chicago Drag Queen Brunch 

Over a million miles have been redeemed through eight MileagePlus Exclusives Pride experiences offered to members this year. MileagePlus will be donating all the miles redeemed to The Trevor Project. The brunch at Newark raised over $10,000 for The Trevor Project.

"It's fun enjoying each other and knowing that we have come far," said Hassan. "We're continuing to grow and accept one another and at the end of the day, that's all that matters. Drag or not, we're all the same."

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving

By The Hub team, July 02, 2020

By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.

United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.

Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.

A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.

United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Celebrating Juneteenth

By United Airlines, June 18, 2020

A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group

Fellow United team members –

Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.

Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.

Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."

Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.

To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.

Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.

Thank you,

UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)

Leadership Team

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