Fun, Festive and Fierce: United's Chicago Drag Queen Brunch - United Hub
MileagePlus

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."

Celebrating immigration perspectives and diverse journeys

By The Hub team, September 25, 2020

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, the U.S. celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, a chance to pay tribute to the history, culture and contributions that generations of Latinxs have paved to enrich U.S. history. It is also a reminder to celebrate our differences and spark difficult, yet important, conversations.

To kick off the month, UNITE, our multicultural business resource group for employees, did just that by hosting a panel discussion about the immigrant experience and what it means to be an immigrant in the U.S.

United Litigation and Managing Counsel Elizabeth Lopez, who is a pro bono immigration attorney, moderated the panel, and was joined by Ashley Huebner, Associate Director of Legal Services at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Magdalena Gonzalez, Program Manager, Leadership Development Programs at Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement. The three women shared their insights and personal stories, while addressing some misconceptions and highlighting the contributions of immigrants to our company and country.

Participants' headshots from United's Hispanic Heritage Month Panel From left to right, Elizabeth Lopez, Ashely Huebner and Magdalena Gonzalez

"I started to notice that there were things I was scared of doing, that I needed to be cautious," said Magdalena while sharing her personal experience as a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient. "My friends, who a majority of them are citizens, did not need to worry about that. As I was able to see that, I realized that, 'oh, there's so many things that revolve around not just being a DACA recipient but revolve around being a person with an undocumented status here in the United States.'"

United maintains a close relationship with the NIJC. In May of 2019, United co-hosted an asylum clinic put on by the legal services organization, where several attorneys and legal professionals were trained on representing asylum-seeking applicants. At the end of the clinic, members of our legal department were assigned an asylum case through the NIJC.

Litigation Managing Counsel Elizabeth Lopez, Commercial Transactions Counsel Tiffany Jaspers, Global Compliance and Ethics Counsel Nancy Jacobson and Employment Litigation Senior Manager Dorothy Karpierz were partnered with attorneys from the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery to take on an immigration case of a mother of three from Honduras. Recently, after a years-long court battle, the legal team was victorious, changing the life of the woman and her family.

United is committed to connecting people and uniting the world. Whether you're an immigrant, a child of immigrants or simply want to learn more about the immigrant experience in the U.S., discussions like these, related to this hot-button issue, are important to have in order to understand the human lives behind it.

Make your voice heard

By Brett J. Hart, September 22, 2020

Your voice matters. Voting is one of the most influential civic activities we can engage in as Americans. At United, 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. That's why we've long provided our employees with resources to help them get registered to vote.

This year, we're taking our support a step further as the official airline of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). Since the start of the pandemic, we've overhauled our cleaning measures through a program we call United CleanPlusSM , and the CPD has placed their trust in United to fly Commission production staff to each of the four debates, starting with the first one on September 29, hosted by Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.

Today, on National Voter Registration Day, we also want to make sure our customers have access to information about how to participate in the 2020 Election. Over the past several months, you've heard a lot from us about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed air travel. We've learned that with some planning and extra effort, it's still possible — and safe. That's true of voting, too.

No matter which party you support or how you're planning to vote, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and make a plan to vote.

Best,

Brett J. Hart
President
United Airlines

United named to Year Up Opportunity Hall of Fame

By The Hub team, September 17, 2020

Since its launch 20 years ago, Year Up, one of our critical needs grant recipients, has helped more than 10,000 young adults gain access to corporate business and technical experience at large companies like United while offering the invaluable perspectives they bring with them.

On Wednesday, the nonprofit inducted United into its Opportunity Hall of Fame – a selection that occurs once every five years.

Year Up's mission is to help close the opportunity divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Since 2018, our partnership has allowed talented student learners the opportunity to gain corporate business experience and technical skill training at the airline while bringing their unique perspectives to our United family and culture. One of those students is Emily Lopez, who graduated from the Year Up program in January 2019 and was hired to be part of the United family as an analyst in Revenue Management.

"I moved from Venezuela to the United States in July 2016 and being a young immigrant with no resources can be difficult to pursue a career in a new country," said Emily.

After learning about Year Up and ultimately being accepted into the program, Emily landed an internship with United, an opportunity she is very grateful for.

Emily Lopez - Analyst, Pricing & Revenue Management

"Feedback from my mentors, coaches and managers was key during my internship phase and helped me convert my internship at United to a full-time position. I am grateful for the opportunity United has provided me and my Year Up Alumni colleagues to keep building a professional career within the company. I am so excited to continue building a professional career with the company and to see United being inducted to Year Up's Hall of Fame. Let's continue closing the opportunity divide!" said Emily.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has made this year's partnership a bit more difficult, we continue to do our part to support the Year Up student learners. Last month, we surprised 145 graduates of this year's Year Up Chicago program with roundtrip tickets to pursue career and networking opportunities within the United States.

"I've been personally honored and inspired to be an advocate for Year Up since I joined United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "This program gives young people from challenged backgrounds an opportunity to get their foot in the door as interns at United. This year's graduates are entering a challenging job landscape, but we have one thing that can help: a route network that provides easy access to major business markets across the United States."

Scroll to top