Taking Flight, United Celebrates Black History Month - United Hub

Taking flight together, celebrating Black History Month

By Oscar Munoz, Executive Chairman, United Airlines Holdings, Inc.

If you walk into the famed Museum of Science and Industry on Chicago's South Side, you'll pass scores of artifacts and tributes to our progress as human beings, our boundless ingenuity and endless curiosity, and — above all — our capacity to come together in pursuit of a better future.

As you make your way through the building, if you cast your eyes upwards, you'll see, suspended as if in mid-flight, the centerpiece of the whole exhibit: a beautiful United Airlines Boeing 727. Emblazoned on the fuselage you'll see the aircraft is named after William (Bill) Norwood, the first African-American pilot for United Airlines and a trailblazing pioneer for not only our airline, but the aviation industry and our country, as well.

The arc of his extraordinary career traces the history of United Airlines, and the United States. His story tells us something vitally important about where we come from and where we ought to be going.

In his wonderful, inspiring memoir, "Cleared for Takeoff: A Pilot's Story of Challenges and Triumphs," Bill retells the story of his arrival at United's Flight Training Center in Denver on May 31, 1965.

On that first day, Bill experienced the same frustrating attitudes he had faced when he took the field as the first African American quarterback of his university (he was also one of only two black college quarterbacks in the nation at the time), and also the first time he piloted the mighty B-52s for the U.S. Air Force.

"When a classmate asked me, in a condescending manner, which aircraft I had flown [previously], I proceeded to tell him I had flown the B-52 and had 1,400 hours in the jumbo jet," Bill wrote. "I quickly added that the DC-6 would fit under one wing of the B-52. The word soon spread my qualifications were far superior to any of those of my classmates."

This story captures the experience that I think many people can relate to, myself included. And it is something that too many of our friends and family deal with to this day.

Bill summed it up this way: "Whether it was segregation or discrimination, not only against people of color but also women, we were taught you have to work twice as hard to get half as far."

Pictured, Bill Norwood


Bill worked more than twice as hard, and he helped so many others in the United family go very far, indeed.

Across the system this February, we will continue to help tell these inspiring stories as we recognize Black History Month. We are doing more than talking, however; we are making change happen and championing the values of diversity, inclusion and respect that have made United an industry-leader for equality of opportunity and advancement.

For example, our consistent efforts that promote our minority-owned business partners earned us Top 50 designation from DiversityInc, celebrating our supplier diversity program.

Also, our exciting new pilot hiring program, Aviate, will help continue Bill Norwood's legacy across United's flight decks.

I think the greatest tribute we can offer to trailblazers like Bill, and everyone who shared his experience of trial and triumph, is to build an airline where every United family member and customer we serve can go as far as their dreams and talent lead them.

Ultimately, that is what that aircraft inscribed with his name is really all about. When we come together as people, with a common pursuit of a better future, that's when we truly take flight.

Humbly,

Oscar

Entertainment for all

By The Hub team, August 04, 2020

Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.

Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.

"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.

"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."

Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.

"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

Scroll to top