A Better Reason to Get to the Airport Early - United Hub
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A better reason to get to the airport early

By Matt Adams, June 19, 2017

We know that traveling can be stressful, and our goal is to make your journey on United an enjoyable one. The atmosphere at the airport, both prior to boarding your flight and upon arrival at your destination, plays a big part in setting the tone of your trip. The amenities, comfort and design of the terminal can have as much of an impact on your experience as the in-flight product or service.

That's one of the missions of the United Airlines Corporate Real Estate team: to turn what was once a merely functional space into one that reflects our passengers' desire for comfort and indulgence. And one of the people leading that effort is Corporate Real Estate Senior Manager Carolyn Harris.

 That's one of the missions of the United Airlines Corporate Real Estate team: to turn what was once a merely functional space into one that reflects our passengers' desire for comfort and indulgence. And one of the people leading that effort is Corporate Real Estate Senior Manager, Carolyn Harris.United Corporate Real Estate Senior Manager, Carolyn Harris

Harris oversees United's concessions at Newark Liberty International Airport and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. If you've passed through either of them recently then you undoubtedly noticed her handiwork, particularly when it comes to eating and drinking.

By partnering with the hospitality company OTG in both Newark and Houston, Harris and the Corporate Real Estate team have managed to turn ordinary airline terminals into gastronomical meccas.

"Unlike at other airports, United manages concessions in Houston and Newark, so we're able to be more creative in those places," Harris says. "We offer first class dining and shopping options at reasonable prices, and we look for interesting ways to capture the essence of the city in everything we do by partnering with small and local businesses."

United's Newark Terminal C, for example, features dozens of specialty dining options imagined by a bevy of regional chefs, including Chefs Alain Ducasse (whose restaurant at the Dorchester hotel in London was awarded three Michelin stars), Alex Stupak, Mario Carbone, Alex Guarnaschelli and Dale Talde.

Likewise, the newly-opened Terminal C North in Houston boasts a collection of eateries from some of the Bayou City's most renowned culinary giants. There is Chef Roland Laurenzo's Vida Tacqueria, Chef John Nguyen's Vietnamese-Cajun fusion restaurant Bam Bam and a Houston-centric tavern called Ember created by the James Beard Award-winning Chef Chris Shepherd, among others.

Along with an array of delectable menu items, the OTG restaurants are also leading the way in terms of technology. "Customers order their meals using iPads in the dining areas, on which they can also scan their boarding passes to receive flight status updates while they eat so you sit back, relax and enjoy your meal without worrying about missing your flight," says Harris. "They are able to pay using United MileagePlus miles and even get food and retail items on demand by ordering via the iPads and have it delivered to them in the gate area. It's really cutting-edge stuff."

In her role as project manager, Harris works closely with OTG's design teams to bring United's terminals to life, and her team gets final say when it comes to the layouts.

"One of the things that I love most about this job is seeing a project go from proposal to finished product. It's really exciting to see it from the beginning, when it's just an artist's rendering on paper, all the way to the end, when you're actually able to watch the customers enjoy it."

Harris is especially proud of the work that went into the new Terminal C North in Houston. The 265,000-square-foot, $277 million facility is one of the jewels in United's network.

"People are going to look forward to flying in and out of Houston when they see it," she says. "There are floor-to-ceiling windows where you can watch the planes take off and land, lots of space for relaxing before a flight - it's a very functional, enjoyable place. And you might not expect to find some of the best restaurants in the city at the airport, but that's exactly what we have there," she says. "It's so rewarding to be able to help create these terminals that are destinations unto themselves."

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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.

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