Doing our part to #SheddTheStraw
You may think that foregoing a single plastic straw won't effect change, but small actions can lead to big changes. That's why we are eliminating non-recyclable plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks on our aircraft, and replacing them with an environmentally-friendly alternative made out of bamboo. Starting in early November, you'll see these items onboard our planes. It's a small, but meaningful step to help minimize the impact plastic products have on our environment.
With 8.8 billion tons of plastic in our oceans, our collective efforts have the ability to go a long way. Plastic products can take up to 22 years to degrade and even then aren't ever completely gone, as plastics are not fully biodegradable. And we're not just stopping there. The elimination of plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks is just one part of a larger initiative we're taking here at United. We recycle aluminum cans, paper including newspapers and magazines, and plastic products onboard our planes. These efforts are part of our company-wide commitment to operating sustainably and responsibly. We're also evaluating more sustainable options for our onboard catering operations beyond our current partnership with brands that are committed to sustainable practices like illy coffee, which we proudly serve onboard our planes and in United Clubs℠ and lounges.
Additionally, we're partnering with the Shedd Aquarium in our hometown of Chicago, whose goal is to spark compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world, and which is doing its part to help animals and protect our waters through their #SheddTheStraw campaign. "We've partnered with Shedd Aquarium for over 30 years and we're proud to do our part to #SheddTheStraw and help conserve our oceans from excessive plastic waste," said Catering Operations Vice President, Charlean Gmunder.
Join us and the Shedd Aquarium to #SheddTheStraw.
"We are thrilled to work with United Airlines to reduce single-use plastic items used globally, which often pollute waterways and can harm wildlife," said Cheryl Mell, Senior Vice President, Conservation Partnerships and Programs. "United's commitment to Shedd the Straw by removing plastic stirrer sticks and cocktail picks is a shining example that plastic comes in different shapes and we can all be part of the solution to reduce our plastic footprint. A supporter of Shedd for 30 years, United's leadership toward environmentally-friendly business operations brings a positive impact that extends worldwide."
It's easy to go about our daily lives forgetting every little bit helps when it comes to protecting our environment. Here are a few things you can do to help when traveling:
- Bring along a refillable bottle to use while you travel. Remember to fill it up once you have gone through security
- Make sure to recycle any paper products like old magazines or newspapers
- Separate your garbage items from your recyclable items until collected by a flight attendant
- Use our United mobile app instead of a paper boarding pass
For more information on our commitment to the environment, visit our United Eco-Skies® page.
Fit for the runway: We begin testing new uniforms
Last year we announced new partnerships with Tracy Reese, Brooks Brothers and Carhartt — best-in-class fashion and apparel designers — to help reimagine uniforms for more than 70,000 of our employees. Focusing on high quality fabrics, improved breathability and overall enhanced fit, our goal is to design and develop a more cohesive collection that looks good, feels good and enables employees to perform at their best on behalf of our customers.
United employees can learn more on the uniform designs by visiting Flying Together.
An insider's guide to Boston
Boston is a pack-it-all-in kind of place. Founded in 1630, one of America's oldest cities does many things well. Boston's many claims to fame include many of America's oldest historic landmarks and one of its oldest ballparks. It's a destination for history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, sports fans, families and more. No matter who your travel companions are or what they're interested in, everyone will find something to pique their interest in Beantown.
Getting there & around town
Fly direct to Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) from many U.S. cities — visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight. Flights are 90 minutes from New York, two hours from Cleveland and five to six hours from California. From Logan International Airport, it's easy to hail a taxi, use ridesharing apps or take public transportation. If you want to take the scenic route, take a water taxi across Boston Harbor directly into downtown.
Downtown Boston is easy to navigate. It's walkable and taxis are plentiful. The MBTA, Boston's public transportation system, offers affordable access to Cambridge, many attractions and the suburbs. Keep in mind it's one of the oldest transportation systems in the country, so expect a few bumps. Because the city is dense, parking can be expensive or hard to find, so avoid driving if you can.
When to visit
Summer and fall are the most popular seasons to visit. Summer is prime time to enjoy Boston's many parks, outdoor eateries, open-air concerts and baseball games at Fenway Park. Mild fall weather, beautiful autumn foliage and Halloween festivities in nearby Salem, Massachusetts make October one of Boston's busiest months. The city also sees an influx of visitors for the Boston Marathon in April. You'll find smaller crowds and more affordable prices in winter, but brace yourself for the cold.
What to do
There's so much to take in just by walking through Boston's cobblestoned streets. Downtown is quaint, compact and easy to explore by foot. The small city is packed with historic sites, New England's finest food, proud sports fans and friendly locals.
As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston's historic sites are an attraction in themselves. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to visit 16 of them around the city, including Revolutionary-era museums, churches, buildings and an impressive warship. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is on the trail, too, and is one of Boston's top attractions, with plentiful shopping, dining and live music. Not much of a walker? Boston Duck Tours operate land-and-water historic tours on World War II-inspired vehicles, which transform from truck to boat mid-tour.
Many museums and sites are tucked along Boston Harbor. The waterfront is always bustling with activity year-round. The harborwalk is the perfect place to meander and explore without a strict agenda. Plan to visit a major attraction or two, but leave time to enjoy the scenery or to pop into a café for a coffee and sweet treat (award-winning Flour Bakery + Cafe is a local favorite).
Deemed the “Athens of America," Boston boasts not only some of the country's oldest and most architecturally significant buildings, but also a thriving arts and culture scene. You could spend your entire trip touring its dozens of world-class museums. Take in classical music at the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra, or take a leisurely stroll through Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the city's most well-known public parks. Riding the giant Swan Boats through the Public Garden lagoon is a kitschy, yet delightful experience, especially for kids.
What to eat
What must you absolutely eat in Boston? In short, everything. Long ago the city was nicknamed Beantown, allegedly after slow-cooked molasses baked beans served to sailors and traders. Today, Boston continues its reputation as a great eating city. From clam chowder to cannoli, the most popular dishes here are often hearty and decadent. Boston is also known for fresh lobster rolls, roast beef sandwiches and, of course, Boston cream pie.
Ask any Bostonian where to find “the best" of anything, and everyone will recommend a different spot. Cannoli from Mike's Pastry, Boston cream pie from Omni Parker House (where it was invented) and the roast beef 1000 sandwich from Cutty's frequently top the must-try lists. If you make it to a ball game at Fenway Park, Fenway Franks are a Boston staple.
Our role in ‘Spider-Man™: Far From Home’
In Columbia Pictures upcoming release in association with Marvel Studios, "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," our web-slinging hero finds himself – yep, you guessed it – far from his home in New York City. And since flying is one of the few superpowers Spider-Man doesn't possess, we gave him a little help, meaning United is featured in the film.
The scenes of Peter Parker and his pals traveling to Europe take place on one of our Boeing 777s with the all-new United Polaris® business class, and several of our employees – including members of our Tech Ops, Inflight, Flight Operations and Airport Operations teams – served as actors and production support during shoots at New York/Newark (EWR) and London-Stanstead (STN).
London-Heathrow (LHR) Customer Service Representative Manjit Heer and LHR Cargo Warehouse Operations Manager Richard Miller were background extras on board, and multiple flight attendants had a role, including San Francisco (SFO) Flight Attendant Tammy Harris.
"It was extremely surreal," said Tammy. "I was in my element because I was on the plane in uniform, but not really, because I'm not an actor."
Tammy said she hit her mark and delivered her line with gusto, and she's excited to see if she made the final cut when "Spider-Man™: Far From Home" hits worldwide theaters this summer.
"Hopefully, I'll have my two seconds of fame and all will be well," she joked.
Los Angeles (LAX) Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor Fernando Melendez is a veteran of several film shoots but said this one was his favorite. When the production went to London, he was one of five members of LAX Tech Ops who went over to look after our airplane and make adjustments to its interior based on the filmmaker's needs.
"When we parked the plane at Stanstead, there were lights and cameras surrounding us. It was like the plane was the star of the movie," he said. "Each day, we would work with the assistant director; he would go through and say, 'Okay, for this shoot we need these seats, or these panels removed,' so they could get the camera angles. Pretty much, the airplane was our responsibility; we opened it in the morning and closed it at night. We were the first ones there and the last ones to leave every day."
Fernando said the actors were all very gracious and engaging, and said the whole experience was fantastic from start to finish. It also earned him a little cooler cred with his 18-year-old son, who is a massive Marvel fan.
Leading up to the film's premiere this year, there will be plenty of ways for employees and customers to get into the Spidey spirit in anticipation of our cameo. Stay tuned for more details.
Peter Parker returns in "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," the next chapter of the Spider-Man™: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!
Directed by Jon Watts, the film is written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The film is produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Thomas M. Hammel, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Stan Lee, Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach serve as executive producers. The film stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.
"Spider-Man™: Far From Home" makes its way to North American theaters on July 5, 2019.
What to expect from our improved app
20 million miles and counting...
On November 7, while flying from Newark Liberty International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport, United customer Tom Stuker made history when he reached 20 million miles flown on a single airline. We were fortunate enough to capture the milestone he reached with us.
To mark the special occasion, we hosted a celebration in Mr. Stuker's honor at the United Polaris lounge at O'Hare International Airport on Saturday. The celebration was delayed a couple of months, so Mr. Stuker could celebrate the event with his family.
The party included a room full of employees, media members and Mr. Stuker's friends and family enjoying food, cocktails, stories and laughs. To thank him for his long-standing loyalty to United, we also presented Mr. Stuker with gifts made specially for him.
"United makes my dreams come true," Mr. Stuker said to the room full of people.
He also praised United's MileagePlus program, the United Polaris lounges across our system and Oscar's leadership of the airline but, most of all, he praised the service he receives from our employees.
"My favorite part of United is the people. United is such a big part of my life…you are a family to me," he said addressing the United employees. "It would take me days and days and days to say thank you in the right way to the right people. They all know me by now and know how much I care about them as people, how much I care about this airline and its success, and how much I care about the greatest leader this airline has ever had, Oscar."
Bora Bora: The most beautiful island in the world
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 Chicago-based United Club Customer Service Representative Amile Ribeiro.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know it can be very subjective but, once you set your eyes on it, I'm sure you'll agree with me: Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.
There are very few things that can get me out of bed early in the morning, and airplanes are one of those things. We were already in Tahiti and woke up at the crack of dawn to catch our quick flight to Bora Bora. After checking in at the airport and getting a quick breakfast, we headed over to the gate to line up for our flight. Air Tahiti has an open seating arrangement, and we wanted to make sure we got the best possible seats. We were able to secure two windows seats. Travel tip: Sit on the left side of the plane when landing in Bora Bora. We took off from Papeete and within minutes we were flying over Mo'orea. Then we flew around Ra'i ātea and Taha'a, and finally arrived in Bora Bora, the island that Polynesians call "First Born." Pora Pora is the actual local pronunciation, but the first explorers misunderstood it and 'Bora Bora' stuck. Though after setting foot on the island, I've come to call it "Paradise on Earth."
At the airport we were met by a representative of our resort, given flower leis and directed to our high-speed boat. I couldn't believe the color of the water; it was as if Paul Gauguin himself had painted it. After a thrilling ride, we reached our hotel's dock, where a local playing the ukulele welcomed us. We were then given a tour of the astonishing property and were taken by golf cart to our overwater bungalow. We have stayed in many beautiful properties around the world, but when we opened the door of our bungalow our jaws dropped. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that all should have at least once in their lifetimes. And worth every penny. The view of majestic Mount Otemanu is something right out of a fairy tale. After the sun set, the nighttime dance show was equally enchanting.
We had planned to be in Bora Bora during the final leg of the famous Hawaiki Nui Va'a canoe competition, which happens to be a major event in the cultural life of French Polynesia and has the reputation for being the toughest canoe race in the world. The center stage was at the island's most beautiful beach, Matira. We stood in awe as the winners reached the finish line after several hours (and days before that) of frantic paddling from island to island, showcasing the power of human strength and endurance. Besides being an incredible sporting challenge, it is also a colorful spectacle that filled the beach with flower-clad women and the air with the pulsating beat of drums. We were also able to celebrate and dance with them later that night at the local ball in Vaitape (Bora Bora's largest city). It was a marvelous way to get a deeper understanding of another culture!
Besides having the time of our lives at the resort's infinity pools, inner lagoons and beach, we also went to the Turtle Center and had a chance to feed these amazing creatures while they're being rehabilitated to go back into open waters. From there, we took a boat tour of the main lagoon and went swimming with stingrays and sharks. Few things scare me in life, and sharks are on the very top of that short list, but I mustered the courage and what a thrill it was! To commemorate my bravery on the last day of our trip, I got my very first tattoo: a hammerhead shark. Polynesians believe that such sharks act as guardian angels to humans and protect us from the Great White. My husband got a Polynesian design that was custom made just for him, and it represents travel, freedom and courage. We also got a set of matching Polynesian wedding bands. Since the art of tattoo originated in Polynesia, this is the most enduring souvenir one can get from such an amazing culture, but I'm sure the memories of our trip will also stay with us forever!
Weekend inspiration: Singapore
Singapore is, in a word, a marvel. With over 5.5 million people, it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. However, over 50 percent of the land on this island is covered by green spaces, including 50 parks and four nature reserves. Given all its greenery, and how spotless the city is, the city doesn't feel congested or cramped. Instead, it's a stunning confluence of Asian and ex-pat culture.
When you arrive in Singapore, we recommend making reservations at Lavo Italian Restaurant & Rooftop Bar in Marina Bay Sands Hotel Tower 1. Try to go early for a drink and a walk around their scenic balcony.
If you have enough room after dinner, head over to Non-Entrée Deserts for desserts that will blow your mind. Make sure to order The Chocolate Avalanche or the Rubber Ducky, depending on if you like chocolate or mango sorbet, respectively.
There's no time to waste in this stunning Asian metropolis, so we recommend waking up early and checking out a local favorite for breakfast: Toast Box. We love the Kaya Toast, a sweet coconut based jam with butter on toasted bread.
After breakfast, grab a cappuccino and make your way over to the famous Gardens By The Bay. Stroll through all of it, but if you have a limited amount of time, don't miss the Cloud Forest - home to the tallest man-made waterfall in the world. If it's not raining, you have to see The Garden's "super trees," man-made trees that are each 25-50 meters tall and full of vertical gardens. After you've had your fill of the most beautiful flowers & greenery in the city, continue your walk to the Art Science Museum.
The Art Science Museum sits in the unique intersection of art and science. Each installation is interesting and many are interactive. Make sure to grab a coffee at their cute gift shop on the main floor on your way out.
The Marina Bay Sands Mall sits right next to the Museum. Head to the mall for an afternoon of shopping and, if you're hungry, grab lunch at Black Tap Burgers in the mall. Although you should expect a line, their crazy milkshakes are well worth the wait. Their cake batter milkshake is our personal favorite.
Dinner at Caffe Fernet with a beautiful view of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is a must. After dinner, if you have the energy, we recommend walking to Merlion Park to see Singapore's most famous foundation.
Wake up and grab a Kopi coffee in a to-go bag at Singapore Zam Zam, then continue your walk down Haji Lane and be on the look out for cute shops & restaurants. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Selfie Coffee – You can take a selfie and they'll print it on a coffee for you.
- Juice Clinic – Perfect for healthy foods and really fantastic juices.
- 68 Haji Lane – Cute boutique for jewelry, purses and handbags.
- Windowsill Pies – This is, hands down, the best smelling shop on the lane. Grab a slice of pie and head upstairs to their second floor to watch the bakers bake. If you go up one more floor you'll find a cozy Harry Potter-feeling attic room.
- Funq – A great place for drinks, people watching or a light lunch.
- Arab Street – This street right next to Haji Lane is incredibly cute with some great shops.
If you're looking for a pre-dinner drink stop by Atlas, a stunning bar. If you have time, make reservations beforehand – we arrived at 3 p.m. when they opened and there was already a line.
Cap off the night with a drink on the rooftop bar at Andaz Singapore. Enjoy a cocktail with an incredible 360-degree view.
On your way out be sure to stand with our botanically inspired #WhatLiftsYou wing mural on the 25th floor.
The little things that count the most
It was a scene that many customers on our flights wouldn't necessarily have noticed: an elderly woman slowly making her way up the aisle from the lavatory, holding onto the seatbacks as she shuffled along. But Denver-based Flight Attendant Ali Scully saw her. And it was clear to her that the woman was struggling.
Gracefully, Ali went up to her, crouched down and let the customer place her hands on her shoulders for support, then guided her to her seat. After sitting down, the customer thanked Ali, who smiled and went back to her onboard duties, and that was it. The whole interaction lasted only a brief moment. Just a bit of kindness in an otherwise unremarkable day at work.
Sometimes, though, an act transcends the effort put forth. A customer seated nearby saw it all unfold and was so moved by what Ali did that he wrote about it on the travel blog Live and Let's Fly.
"Thankfully I had my sunglasses to put on as I started to get a bit misty eyed," he wrote. "There are a lot of people out there and even a simple gesture goes a long way."
When she found out the story ended up online, Ali was stunned. She said when she saw the woman, she immediately thought of her grandmother, and she just did what she hopes anyone would do for her in a similar situation. Besides, it was what she was raised to do, her actions reflecting the values her mother, retired Flight Attendant Betty Lou Summers, instilled in her.
"My mom was a United flight attendant for over 20 years, so I grew up watching her help people. Not just on airplanes but wherever she was. She had already retired by the time I followed in her footsteps, but even though I can't work with her, I feel that I am an extension of her in that way."
Each day, Ali said, she tries to connect with the people who fly with her. Everyone on the plane, whether they are customers or employees, are passengers on the same trip, both literally and in a more universal sense, and Ali strives to make it a pleasant one for all involved. Before putting on her uniform, she reminds herself of that and of the difference one person can make. The fact that someone saw that in action and blogged about it was beside the point. To that woman, the customer whom Ali helped, her simply being there was enough.
"If your eyes are open, you will see that opportunities to help someone are everywhere," she said. "On the plane, I'm always looking to make people comfortable in any way I can. I've been non-revving since I was a baby, so I'm very comfortable in the air, but a lot of people aren't. They don't fly often, and I don't want them to feel like the journey was the hardest part."
The feedback from customers and employees was clear: we needed to improve our boarding process. As part of our ongoing efforts to put customers at the center of everything we do, we identified boarding as an opportunity to improve the airport experience. We tested a variety of different boarding processes on thousands of flights across multiple airports. Best practices emerged from each test, and combined, they now form what we are calling "Better Boarding".
Better Boarding consists of three key improvements
Less time in line:
By reducing the number of boarding lanes, there is more space for customers to enjoy the gate areas, many of which have been completely remodeled with more comfortable seating and in some airports, the ability to have food and drinks from within the airport delivered directly to the gate area. Over the years, we have invested millions of dollars in our terminals, and now with less time spent standing in line, customers will have more time to dine, shop, relax, work or enjoy a United Club℠.
Simplified gate layout
Say goodbye to the five long lines we see today
Group 1 will board through the blue lane.
Group 2 will board through the green lane, followed by groups 3, 4, and 5.
Late arriving customers in Group 1 and 2 will use the blue lane.
Customers in groups 3, 4, and 5 always use the green lane.
We are providing customers with more information throughout the boarding process so that they feel more at ease, and more equipped with the latest information about their flight. Customers with the United app can receive a push notification once their flight starts boarding. Customers will only receive the notification if they've opted in for push notifications and have a mobile boarding pass in the app's wallet.
Be in the know about boarding
Customers will receive boarding notifications through the United app (if they've opted in for notifications).
Improved gate area digital signage to guide customers through boarding.
Balanced groups and better recognition:
United MileagePlus® Premier 1K® customers will now pre-board and United MileagePlus Premier Gold customers will be boarding in Group 1. For more information on our boarding groups, visit: https://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/travel/airport/boarding-process.aspx
Improved premier customer recognition
We're happy to make them happy
Improved premier recognition and better positioning of customers to create balanced boarding groups.
The new Better Boarding process is just one of the steps we are taking to improve the customer experience. We will continue to collect feedback from customers on ways we can further improve boarding and you may receive a post-travel survey to tell us more about your experience
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Neighbors, coworkers, parents, protectors, heroes. All of these labels and more encompass the men and women whose devotion to our country serves as the truest embodiment of the American spirit. We're talking about Veterans. Join host Phil Torres as he heads to our nation's capital to learn more about these heroes and to explore just how many United employees are veterans on this Big Metal Bird.
From players and personnel to thousands of pounds of equipment, it takes not only a game plan, but a team to get the San Francisco 49ers to their next game and back all within 24 hours. This process is a little thing in the airline business we call chartering. Learn more about how our Charter team gets professional sports teams to their away games and back on the newest episode of Big Metal Bird.
On March 8, 2018, we announced a new global relationship with Special Olympics, an organization we've partnered with for many years focusing on supporting the spirit of inclusion with our employees through local communities and through our Charity Miles Program. United's increased sponsorship includes support for major Special Olympics events, including the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago, site of the very first International Special Olympics Summer Games in 1968, and the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
In addition, United will engage with local Programs in our key markets around the world. Special Olympics embodies our shared purpose to connect people and unite the world. With more than 5 million athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers in 172 countries, our employees and customers will join forces with Special Olympics to achieve our shared vision of inclusion. Together, we hope to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.
Our relationship with Special Olympics represents a continued effort to break down barriers and further build on the organization's remarkable legacy by engaging our customers and employees around the world. Working together, we created new training that specifically reflects insights from Special Olympics, including training scenarios with real-life situations that individuals with intellectual disabilities face when traveling. By the end of 2018, more than 60,000 United frontline employees will have participated in the new training modules that reflect Special Olympics insights as United takes steps to deliver a world full of inclusion.
Check back this summer for coverage from Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.