These Eyes have Paws - United Hub
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These eyes have paws

By Matt Adams, June 08, 2017

On an otherwise normal morning in April, the hum of bustling travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport was joined by the jingle of leashes and the patter of paws as 90 puppies from counties in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania converged on the airport for a very important day of learning.

For two consecutive Saturdays each spring, groups of puppies – most of them between the ages of five and 18 months – travel to Newark Liberty International Airport with their foster families as part of their development as service dogs for the blind. The airport trip has been an annual event for 25 years and continues thanks to the support of United Airlines, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and The Seeing Eye, Inc., a Morristown, New Jersey, nonprofit that breeds and trains puppies to become certified Seeing Eye® dogs.

Since the 1980s, Seeing Eye volunteers Janet Keeler and Carmella Passaro have organized field trips such as this to help familiarize the dogs with the kinds of real-world situations that they will encounter once their training is complete and they are adopted by blind owners. Over the past 10 years, they have worked with NewarkAirport Station Operations Manager Maureen Briody to coordinate their visit to our terminal, which even includes a mock flight designed to give the puppies the experience of boarding a plane.

"This type of training is very important to the customers who will rely on these guide animals," Maureen said. "Not only do we expose the dogs to the sights, sounds and smells of the airport, we also teach the foster families and their support organizations what the puppies' future owners will need to know about traveling with service animals."

The puppies' day began at the Port Authority administration building, where they paraded past a fire rescue vehicle to get better acquainted with the noise and learn to avoid the spray of the water cannon. Next, they boarded buses to United's Terminal C and practiced navigating the concourse, baggage claim areas, the intra-airport monorail and the departure gates.

United Airport Operations Coordinator Jean Browne made gate announcements from the podium before the puppies boarded a United aircraft, giving them a realistic sense of the sounds associated with flying. The group then filed down the jetbridge and took their places on board, with the puppies sitting obediently underneath the seats in front of them. Once situated, Jean and retired United 787 Captain Peter Hernandez, who volunteered to serve as the day's honorary pilot, made "inflight announcements" over the public address system and talked with the foster families about things they should keep in mind while training the dogs for flying.

While it's true that this was a critical experience for the dogs, there was also a secondary benefit to hosting them at the airport: lots and lots of smiles. "The customers love it," Maureen said with a wide grin, "the kids especially; it just makes everyone happy when that long line of puppies goes past them. It's always fun to see people's reaction." Some of our employees, like Newark Airport Customer Service Representative Nanette Marques-Freitas, have themselves been moved to foster puppies for The Seeing Eye after witnessing the event.

"We fostered our first one, Dancer, last year, and we're waiting on a second puppy to begin fostering this year," Nanette said. "I'm hoping to give it a name in honor of United, maybe something like 'Polaris' or 'Ursa.' What do you think?"

Making our app more accessible for people with disabilities

By The Hub team, October 28, 2020

We're proud to launch a redesigned version of our United app to make it easier for customers with visual disabilities to manage all aspects of day-of travel, including check-in, viewing reservation details and flight status, bag tracking and more.

This latest version of our app is now available to both Android and iOS users, and it offers increased color contrast and more space between graphics. Furthermore, we have reorganized how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack, which are built into most handheld devices. By restructuring the way the information is organized on the app, screen readers are better able to convert text to audio in the proper, logical sequence, allowing customers to better understand and navigate the app.

United Zoom backgrounds for AvGeeks

By The Hub team, October 27, 2020

Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.

So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started.

Looking back at a landmark year with Special Olympics

By Ryan Wilks, October 19, 2020

Earlier this summer, we shone a light on our flagship partnership with Special Olympics and our commitment to the Inclusion Revolution. In that same story, we introduced you to our four Special Olympics Service Ambassadors, Daniel, Kyle, Lauren and Zinyra (Z), who, this month, celebrate one year working at Chicago O'Hare International Airport as part of the United family.

This groundbreaking, inclusive employment program took off as a part of our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics, a community relationship that employees across the company hold close to heart. The original 'UA4' (as they call themselves) have become an integral part of the United team serving customers at O'Hare Airport. Even from behind their masks, their wide smiles and effervescent spirit exude and bring life to the service culture of excellence we strive towards every day.

"The UA4 are more than just customer service ambassadors. They are shining examples of how inclusion, accessibility and equity can have monumental impacts on the culture and service of a business and community," said Customer Service Managing Director Jonna McGrath. "They have forever changed who we are as a company. While they often talk about how United and this opportunity has changed their lives, they have changed ours in more ways than we can count."

In the two years of partnership with Special Olympics, United employees have volunteered over 10,500 hours of service at events around the world and donated over $1.2 million worth of travel to the organization.

"This inclusive employment program is what community partnerships, like ours with Special Olympics, are all about: collaborating to identify areas where the needs of the community intersect with the cultural and business opportunity, then creating the infrastructure and programming to bring the two together," said Global Community Engagement Managing Director Suzi Cabo. "Through this program, our goal is to show other companies that when you put a committed effort and focus towards inclusion and breaking down barriers, you transform lives. I challenge other business around the world to follow our lead in joining the Inclusion Revolution."

Check out the video below to hear from our Special Olympics Service Ambassadors firsthand.

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