San Antonio's Fantasy Flight fairy - United Hub

San Antonio's Fantasy Flight fairy

By The Hub team, December 08, 2017

Thirty years ago, San Antonio-based Lead Customer Service Representative Beth Reininger was asked by a colleague to help with San Antonio Airport's Fantasy Flight. Thirty years later, Beth has 30 Fantasy Flights under her belt, and a whole lot of love for all the kids she's met throughout the years.

"I come back every year for the kids. It's always been about the kiddos and making sure we give them memories that they will cherish forever," said Beth.

During her first few years as a volunteer, Beth couldn't make it through the event without getting sad, but with time, she learned to remember there's something to celebrate. "Their being here means they got another day, and that calls for a celebration of their lives."

All the kids hold a special place in Beth's heart, but there's one in particular whom she looks forward to seeing every year.

Sixteen-year-old Samantha has been attending San Antonio's Fantasy Flight for the past 12 years. After being diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer at the age of three, Samantha's family didn't imagine they'd be coming back to the event over the next 12 years.

"It's truly a miracle. I don't know what God's plan is for Samantha but he would never have let me keep her this long if he didn't have a plan," said Samantha's mom, Dulce Muckleroy. "I want United to understand what an amazing gift they're providing these kids, some of whom will never get a chance to leave their hometowns, let alone get on a plane, by putting on such a wonderful event for them."

Although, remarkably, now in remission, Samantha has never been able to grow hair. Despite what some would find embarrassing, she proudly embraces her bare scalp.

"She refuses to wear a wig because she says her bald head is a sign of courage," said Beth. "She's such an incredible young girl and an inspiration to me. Every single year, I look through the list to see if she's coming, because she gives us all hope that you can be a fighter and a survivor."

Beth Reininger with an employee dressed up as a clown.

Although Beth has taken the role of coordinating the event each year, it takes many helping hands to create this unique and memorable experience for the kids – between decorating, purchasing presents, arranging food, gathering volunteers and much more, it's quite the team effort.

Thankfully for Beth, she has rock star volunteers in Houston-based Flight Attendants Janet Sweeney and Heather Graham and Houston-based 737 Captain Vern Robinson, who each volunteer to be part of the crew on San Antonio's Fantasy Flight, in addition to putting in time well before the event as preparations unfold.

"It really does take a village to pull this off, and there's no way I could do any of this without the help of all of the volunteers who put so much time and effort into this. Everyone's dedication is admirable," said Beth.

Despite the countless hours of hard work, the day of the Fantasy Flight is always Beth's favorite day of the year.

"For just a few hours, the kids, along with their parents and siblings, get to experience the magic of our winter wonderland," said Beth. "We give them an escape, and if their pain and worries go away for just those few precious hours, it makes it all worthwhile."

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.

Scroll to top