Ring Reunion: United Reps Deliver Valentine's Day Surprise - United Hub

Ring reunion: United reps deliver Valentine's Day surprise

By Ryan Hood

Megan Hansen grabbed the hand bag under her seat, looking to put away her book. Instead, she found a gut-wrenching problem. Her engagement ring wasn't on her finger. Barely two months after her now-fiancé, Philip Walker, had placed it there, it was gone.

"I was an absolute wreck," Hansen says. "My parents, sister and her boyfriend were traveling with us and their support helped a lot, but I was pessimistic. It's a really nice diamond ring, so I thought there's no way someone would turn it in."

Making matters worse, after searching the United plane the group flew to John Wayne Airport to no avail, Walker admitted he hadn't insured the ring. Thursday was not exactly a magical start to a long weekend with family at Disneyland.

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Cheryl Searle can illuminate an entire terminal with her infectious positivity and never-ending desire to put smiles on customers' faces. A senior supervisor for United Airlines at its Denver International airport, Searle was particularly chipper when she showed up to work, since she was planning to celebrate Valentine's Day by surprising customers with goody bags full of sweets.

A couple hours into the work day, a coworker told her about an engagement ring that'd been recovered near Gate 33. A missing item claim had been filed, a match found, and customer confirmed. The customer would be flying back to Denver on Sunday.

'Happy ending, but we can make it an even happier ending,' Searle thought to herself.

After getting the green light from her boss, Searle and customer service representative Nancy Swingle boarded the next United flight to Orange County, California to make a surprise Valentine's Day delivery.

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Hansen woke up distraught Friday morning. She hadn't heard from anyone about the ring and she was convinced she'd never see it again. Her finger felt empty, so she googled potential replacements she could buy herself. Hansen's mother, sensing her daughter's heartbreak, bought a ring from the Disney store so that Megan could have something on her finger again.

That placeholder helped, and the family headed into Disneyland. While at the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge area, Hansen got an incredibly uplifting call: her ring had been recovered at the Denver airport, and United would hold on to it for her to pick up on Sunday.

"United made my Valentine's Day," a relieved Hansen exclaimed. Shortly after, her fiancé's phone rang. Cheryl Searle was on the other end.

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Everyone knew, except for Hansen. Even Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Searle and Swingle, with the help of Disneyland, Hansen's fiancé and her father, had devised a ring reunion plan for Friday night's fireworks show. Hansen and family arrived for the show and went directly to a VIP viewing area.

"Weird, but my Mom must have talked our way into here, since that's something she'd do," Hansen recalled thinking. A few minutes later, Searle and Swingle approached Hansen, in the shadow of Sleeping Beauty Castle. "I thought they were Disney employees," Hansen said. "I'm thinking to myself, 'Oh no, what did I lose now? Did I leave my wallet somewhere?'" Then Searle revealed a small box in her right hand.

"We know you are already in the happiest place on earth," Searle told her, "but we think we are about to make you just a little bit happier."

United reps pictured returning engagement ring to customers, Megan and Phillip. Cheryl and Nancy pictured with Megan and Phillip at Disneyland

Searle handed the ring to Walker, who got down on one knee and re-proposed. Those nearby cheered, thinking they'd just witnessed the couple get engaged. Disney arranged for Mickey and Minnie to pay the family a visit, too.

"I have so much gratitude for Cheryl, Nancy and everyone else at United who was involved with this truly surreal experience," Hansen said. "They took what was this highly stressful, awful moment in my life and turned it into a great experience and made me feel like I truly mattered. And that's special."

For Searle, Swingle and their United colleagues in Denver, it was mission accomplished.

"Customer Service is all about doing the right thing and taking care of our customers like we would want someone to take care of our own family," Searle said. "I felt utter pride knowing that her ring was home with her, where it belonged, especially on Valentine's Day.

"Seeing the reunion unfold, from the planning phases to the deployment, it gave all of us reason to believe in happy, fairytale endings. Dreams do come true."

Adjusting to Customer Demand, United Adds New Nonstop Service to Florida

By United Newsroom, August 12, 2020

CHICAGO, Aug. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines today announced plans to add up to 28 daily nonstop flights this winter connecting customers in Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York/LaGuardia, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio to four popular Florida destinations. The new, nonstop flights reflect United's continuing strategy to aggressively, and opportunistically manage the impact of COVID-19 by increasing service to destinations where customers most want to fly.

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.

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