Rising With the Sun - United Hub
Employee Travel Blog

Rising with the sun

By The Hub team, October 13, 2017

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By SFO-based Flight Attendant Joyie Lam

United employee and her mom watching the hot air balloons at sun rise

As if spending time in Turkey is not magical enough, try rising with the sun in a hot air balloon above a stunning landscape of the region of Cappadocia. Located about 500 miles southeast of Istanbul, this historical region is famous for its quaint cave hotels, pottery kebab and, of course, the hundreds of hot air balloons that fill the sky at sunrise almost every day of the year. Cappadocia's Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985 for the spectacular landscape, entirely sculpted by erosion, networks of ancient underground settlements and outstanding examples of Byzantine art.

That's why for my mom's first time in Europe, I was excited to make Turkey our first stop. If one were to forfeit sleep anywhere in the world, Cappadocia is the place to do it. From San Francisco International Airport, we hopped on a direct flight to Istanbul and then connected onto Kayseri, which is about an hour car ride from Cappadocia. Many hotels provide shuttles to transport you but if you do not reserve a shuttle, there are also taxis and buses available.

United employee exploring Cappadocia

We arrived at our cave hotel around 3:30 a.m. and decided to power through and stay awake for sunrise at 5:30 a.m. We watched the hot air balloons fill the sky, excitedly anticipating the moment when we would be in the balloons ourselves. The rest of our day was full of exploring. We took a day tour, visiting Derinkuyu, the largest underground city in the area. It was built in the 7th and 8th centuries BCE, with tunnels connected to each home, for quick escape paths during attacks. During the tour, we also got to see the iconic "fairy chimneys," which actually appeared in a scene of the first, original "Star Wars" movie.

United employee, her mom and tour guide in hot air balloon

On our last day, we got up at 4 a.m. to finally ride the hot air balloon. We got to the launch site as the sun began to peek out. Our expert pilot brought our balloon up to almost 3,000 feet. Everything about the ride was so dreamy -- we didn't know whether to look down or up because the views from all directions were breathtaking. We snapped hundreds of photos and videos before reminding ourselves to put the phones and GoPros down to fully enjoy the moment.

Words, truly, can't describe this experience.

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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