Spotted at the South Pole: A United Flag - United Hub

Spotted at the South Pole: A United flag

By Ryan Hood

"If you care so deeply about the environment," people skeptically pose to him, "how could you possibly justify spending so much time on airplanes?"

Robert Swan has gotten this question more times than he can count.

And it's a fair question, really. And Swan, an adventurer and the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, acknowledges why it could seem contradictory for someone who has dedicated his life to protecting the planet to take 100+ flights each year.

"Travel is part of my job — it'd be a really long way to swim across the Atlantic," Swan jokes. "When people criticize me for flying, I can honestly say I fly with the airline that is the true leader in this. I would be well-screwed in terms of credibility if I wasn't flying with United, the airline that is an environmental leader."

Swan has been flying United for nearly three decades and is a Global Services member with the airline. He recently attended "Innovation in the Skies", a symposium United co-hosted at its Willis Tower home where visitors and media members heard presentations on the state of sustainable jet fuel and the importance of harnessing clean energy for use in commercial aviation.

United President Scott Kirby was the day's first speaker, telling the crowd, "United's goal is to be the most environmentally conscious airline in the world," before outlining some of the tactics United is employing to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by the year 2050.

Since 2016, United has sourced more sustainable aviation biofuel than any other carrier in the world, and earlier in 2018, United operated the longest transatlantic biofuel flight to date, from San Francisco to Zurich.

United reducing its reliance on traditional fossil fuels, and opting instead for investments in biofuels, is what enamors Swan most with United's Eco-Skies program. After all, such biofuel has kept he and his son alive.

Robert's son, Barney, is also an adventurer. He became the first person to walk to the South Pole powered solely by biofuel.

"Where we go are the coldest, most hostile places on Earth – the temperatures there can fall to Minus-75 Fahrenheit," Robert Swan says of their 600-mile, 57-day journeys. "Airplanes fly in very cold temperatures at 35,000 feet, so airlines need jet fuel, since it doesn't freeze. We have used jet fuel in these places to melt the snow to cook our food. If you don't melt water and don't eat, you die, fast."

It was on both Polar expeditions that Swan experienced firsthand the effects of environmental damage on the Polar icecaps. This shaped Swan's lifetime goal — to work for the preservation of the Antarctic as the last great wilderness on earth. He then founded 2041, an organization dedicated to this goal.

United's dedication to reducing its carbon skyprint is why the Swans felt compelled to bring a United flag with them to the South Pole.

"We decided we want to help support companies like United who are using biofuels, which are much better for our planet on our aircraft," Swan says. "We are proud to fly the Friendly Skies."

Please take a moment to read more about how United is becoming better stewards of the environment on its Eco-Skies page.

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.

Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.

"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.

We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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