Miraculous Family Reunion at LAX - United Hub
Connections Matter

Miraculous family reunion at LAX

By Matt Adams

Connecting people. Uniting the world. These are the core values with which we operate our airline. And at the center of those ideals is you, our customers. Follow along each week as we share stories of employees who are putting our values into action, showing the people who fly with us what world-class service truly means.

It was July 21, just before midnight, and United Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Operations Supervisor Arturo (Art) Martinez's shift was winding down. On most nights, by 2:00 a.m. he'd be heading home for a well-deserved rest. But not that day. Instead, Art was about to play an important role in turning one customer's travel nightmare into a story of compassion and perseverance.

The Chang family, reunited. Hsiu-Mei Chang, Hsiu-Chun Chang and Tom Guu are pictured in the center

Hsiu-Chun Chang and her sister Hsiu-Mei were waiting for their flight to Houston in Terminal 8. It would be the third leg of a long, four-segment journey that was to take them from Taiwan to Belize, where they now live. But that was the last thing on Hsiu-Chun's mind as she sat at the gate: Her sister, who suffers from dementia and short-term memory loss, hadn't returned from a trip to the restroom and was nowhere to be found, and Hsiu-Chun was beginning to panic. To complicate matters, the sisters didn't speak English, further hindering Hsiu-Chun's ability to communicate with most airport employees.

The look on her face, however, transcended language, and our gate agents were soon able to determine what had happened. The team, which included Art, United Customer Service Representatives Lyz Munoz, Marlene Bowers and Patricie Plickova and Hub Operations Area Manager Mary Mason, contacted airport police and organized search parties around the airport to look for the missing Ms. Chang. Throughout it all, Art stayed close to Hsiu-Chun, providing her with the kind of emotional support and comfort that broke through the communication barrier.

"He has a heart as big as the Empire State Building," Mary Mason said about Art. "He truly cares about the customers. He was so concerned about the distressed sister who was waiting at the gate. We tried to persuade her to go to a hotel, and we were going to take care of her, but she didn't want to leave until her sister was found. Art did everything in his power to make her as comfortable as possible, giving her pillows and blankets and water, and just sitting with her."

United Operations Supervisor Art Martinez

Finally, hours after his shift was scheduled to end, an exhausted Art went home. Before he did, he made sure to communicate the situation to incoming employees so that the search could continue. He also stayed in constant contact with Hsiu-Chun's son, Tom Guu, who was traveling from Houston to care for his mother and assist in finding his aunt.

By that point, the Los Angeles Police Department had filed a missing persons report, and officers were looking outside the airport for Hsiu-Mei. Twelve hours after disappearing, she was found in Redondo Beach, nearly 10 miles from Los Angeles International Airport and reunited with her family shortly thereafter.

"The first thing that Art did when his eyes opened the next morning was call and ask for an update," said Mary. "His heart, his caring, his sensitivity and empathy – it was all evident in the way he made sure he did everything in his power to help that family."

Hsiu-Chun's son, Tom, sent us a letter expressing the family's immense gratitude to our employees.

"I am writing to commend the extraordinary job done by the United Airlines team at Los Angeles International Airport," Tom wrote. "What the United leadership teams and staff were able to do for my family is truly phenomenal, and we deeply appreciate all of your effort." He concluded his letter by saying, "Thank you so very much for your care, hospitality and superb customer service. The United Airlines team at Los Angeles Airport is remarkable."

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.

Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.

"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.

We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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