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.

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.

Scroll to top