Seeing The World One Race at a Time - United Hub

Seeing the world one race at a time

By The Hub team

By: Jennifer Canale, United MileagePlus® Premier® 1K® member

I grew up in the Midwest with horrible asthma due to pollen allergies. In school, I was always the last one picked for teams in gym class because I couldn't run without wheezing. I was in the hospital weekly between Memorial Day and Labor Day because my asthma would get so bad.

Thus, I never knew the joys of running.

Twenty years later, I'm living in San Francisco, working trade shows and events, including booths for various sponsors at the San Francisco and San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Marathon expos. One year at the United Airlines Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon San Francisco expo, I heard one of the staff members ask a woman, "What races are you doing this year?" Her answer: "All of them."

That woman was Sherry Ricker.

I thought to myself, "How cool is that? People travel around the country running races! I wish I could. But I have asthma, and I can't run."

A year later, I was managing another race event when my staff said, "You walk at least 15 miles a day managing this expo. You can do 13!"

Jen at the Rock N Roll Marathon in Liverpool


Six months later, in October 2014, I finished my first half marathon.

I travel for work, flying about 100,000 miles a year, mostly across the country. United was the airline I chose for my commute, as they have a hub in San Francisco. I quickly discovered the benefits of being a United MileagePlus Premier 1K member, and for the past few years have enjoyed the perks they offer.

I was working in Washington, D.C. in 2016 and noticed that the Rock 'n' Roll Washington D.C. race was a few days after my show ended. I called United, changed my flight and signed up for the race. People at the expo told me that if I bought a "Tour Pass," I could sign up for any races I wanted all over the country and Europe. Well, why not combine travel for work with races? A bond was created between Rock 'n' Roll and me.

I completed the Rock 'n' Roll Washington D.C Half Marathon, and through a twist of fate, met a group of runners who jump on planes to run races all over the world nearly every weekend. Oh, those are my kind of people! I thought to myself, "Runners are fast, they are young, they are skinny and healthy. I won't fit in."

Nothing could be further from the truth with this group. Every demographic was represented here, from young to old, fast to slow and all body types. Most of them were running at least 15 races with Rock 'n' Roll, going after this "Hall of Fame" medal that was introduced the year before. I thought to myself, "I can do this, too."

I should have known Sherry was a member of this group.

Jen and Sherry at the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in San Francisco Jennifer and Sherry

The rest, I guess, is history. I just completed my 50th half marathon at the United Airlines Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon San Francisco and have finished an additional eight full marathons, including a few in Europe. Not bad for an asthmatic, right? I don't run fast, many times I walk, and I always carry my inhaler. But I've finished EVERY race I've started.

This is what I love about the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series. They embrace every type of participant. It doesn't matter how fast you are, it just matters that you get off the couch and try. There is just as much support for the "back of the pack" runners as the people who finish first. It's common to be on the course and come across a person in their 70s, cruising along, listening to music and enjoying the race — and then get a high five from a Boston Marathon winner when crossing the finish line. It's a party, and everyone is invited.

Rock 'n' Roll loves to release specialty medals, encouraging participants to travel and complete various challenges. This year, they have released a limited-edition medal in combination with United Airlines to "run the world" by running at least two of United's five hub city races.

I was looking at my work and running schedule, and when the five hub cities came up, a friend asked me, "Which United hub city races are you going to do this year?" My answer: "All of them."

And Sherry and I are going to do them together.

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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