New Tech Dazzles in Tech-Savvy San Francisco - United Hub

New tech dazzles in tech-savvy San Francisco

By Bob Cooper, June 07, 2018

On May 22, a few city blocks from the headquarters of Twitter and Salesforce, a pop-up appeared in a San Francisco park. For two days, the tech industry and other office workers strolling by were offered cookies (real ones, not browser cookies) embedded with chips (white chocolate ones, not microchips). It was the United Airlines Tech Showcase, where the airline's newest industry-leading tech innovations were demonstrated by team members from across the country.

Delivering tech to techies

"We chose San Francisco to showcase our newest digital offerings, which are as sophisticated as our customers, including those who work in tech," said Janelle Edwards, the sponsorships and brand activation manager for United who headed the operation. "We believe our products will meet or exceed their expectations." She noted that tech-savvy customers are already using apps in airports, for example, and talking to smart speakers like the Amazon Echo.

New features and updates

Entering the pop-up tent, visitors encountered a big-screen display of the United app, which will allow smartphone users to book flights, check in with an e-boarding pass, access their United MileagePlus® account information, find out how close they are to attaining Premier® status and even get advice on where to travel. United representatives also explained newly proactive and personalized enhancements to the United website, noting that it will continue to be the best option for finding deals and planning trips, while the app will be the most convenient day-of-travel tool.

Amazon Alexa

Ask Alexa or Google

At the next display, United team members let visitors ask tech devices about United flights, which is also a brand-new feature for the aviation industry. "Alexa, ask United when Flight 816 is arriving from Seattle," they asked the Amazon Echo. "That flight is arriving on time at 4:13 p.m.," she replied. You can also check in for a flight, ask about inflight entertainment and Wi-Fi and request your MileagePlus balance — not only to the Amazon Echo, but also to Google Home devices. The Amazon Echo requires a simple download of the "skill" to link to a MileagePlus member's account. Google Home links to member accounts through Google Assistant. The team also demonstrated use of the new United App on the Fitbit® Ionic Smartwatch. All of these tools are free. "Visitors today were excited to see how this worked," said Jeff Ulrich, senior manager of eCommerce digital innovation for United. "People are really embracing the use of voice rather than typing, and we aim to introduce other features, too, such as offering travel suggestions."

New tech for technicians

The United Tech App that rolled out this year — the first mobile tech log to be adopted by any airline — will never be seen by customers. However, the customers will see benefits in the form of fewer and shorter flight delays and an extra layer of safety. Mansur Zia, lead technician at the San Francisco International Terminal, explained that until now, any service checks or repairs required printing paper manuals that had to be brought out to the plane. The new app, accessible on iPads that all United technicians will be using by July 1, receives real-time information from aircraft monitoring systems and crew-generated log items are instantly transmitted to technicians. All manuals are on the iPads, with step-by-step repair instructions. Once all checks and repairs are made, the app's lights turn from red to green and the plane can take off. "For last-minute repairs, we found that issues are rectified in seven to nine fewer minutes, which significantly improves on-time performance," Zia noted.

Inside of the pop up in San Francisco

Experiencing United Polaris luxury — virtually

Pop-up visitors had the most fun on the couches where virtual reality headsets led them on a six-minute virtual tour of the luxurious United Polaris® lounges and United Polaris inflight experience. They were virtually transported first to the lounges, equipped with dining choices inspired by the destinations United serves, quiet suites and shower suites containing Soho House & Co's Cowshed spa products. Next, they took in the 360-degree, 3D filming of customers traveling in United Polaris, with seats that recline flat to six feet, six inches, among other amenities. United Polaris seating is available on all long-haul international flights with Boeing 777-300 planes and being added to 777-200s and 757s. United Polaris lounges have been completed at Chicago O'Hare, New York/Newark and San Francisco, with additional lounges opening at Houston Intercontinental this summer and Los Angeles this fall.

A free trip — and cookies!

One lucky pop-up visitor won a drawing for roundtrip tickets on United Polaris business class. As for the rest, they enjoyed the same Christie Cookie Co.® White Chocolate Cranberry handcrafted cookies that United Polaris customers are given now as a pre-arrival amenity. As United team members learned in San Francisco, no one can resist a cookie, not even techies.

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.

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.

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