Three Perfect Days: The Canadian Rockies
Story by Peter Koch | Photography by Sam Polcer | Hemispheres, November 2017
Ever since the Canadian Pacific Railway laid tracks through the Bow Valley in the 1880s—and a group of railway workers stumbled upon a hot spring on the side of Sulphur Mountain—the Canadian Rockies have been marked as a retreat for people who like their holidays a little rugged. The sublimely beautiful area that would become Banff National Park was preserved in 1885, starting a trend that would see seven parks created and united under the banner of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site. In the same stroke, Banff transformed all the barriers to westward expansion—braided blue-green rivers, snowcapped peaks, massive glaciers, and lodgepole pine forests crawling with wolves and grizzlies—into the region's greatest assets. Even today, despite the proliferation of locavore restaurants, high-end hotels, luxury retailers, and world-class ski resorts, the wilderness continues to assert itself. Rugged mountains press in on all sides. Bull elk graze on golf courses. And, from time to time, wolf howls still split the night.
In which Peter takes a black-diamond tumble, skids through a glorious canyon, and wolfs down a trio of steaks
I wake early at the Moose Hotel & Suites in Banff, anticipating a bluebird day and, with luck, first tracks on fresh powder at one of the three local ski resorts. Stepping outside, however, I quickly forget all that—partly because of the sub-zero temperatures and partly because of the view along Moose Street: the enormous, radiant face of Mount Rundle.
This astounding view is no accident. Unlike many western mountain towns that began as mining interests, Banff was developed with visitors in mind. Banff Avenue was oriented to afford the best possible views of Cascade Mountain in one direction and Sulphur Mountain in the other. Every eastbound street ends at the base of Tunnel Mountain, with Rundle looming high above—so every now and then, as you stroll past cutesy businesses, you'll look up and get the shock of your life. You can see why the Romantic painters had a thing for mountains.
At the tiny Whitebark Cafe, I grab a window seat and watch a procession of brightly garbed pedestrians, most with skis over their shoulders or snowboards under their arms. Resolving to beat them to the slopes, I inhale a yogurt parfait with housemade granola and blueberry compote, glug my latte, and hit the road to Sunshine Village, which is perched 7,200 feet up, on the Continental Divide.
The 20-minute gondola ride up Healy Creek Valley to Sunshine's high-elevation base incrementally reveals a skier's paradise: bumps, gullies, cliffs, glades, and chutes spanning three mountains. On one side, ice climbers hack away at the frozen Bourgeau Falls; on the other, hot-doggers huck themselves off sheer drops in the Wild West Freeride Zone. The bass thump of a helicopter dropping avalanche control bombs reminds me that nature, for all its beauty, can also be unforgiving, so it's best to start slowly.
I'm met at the top of the ride by Kendra Scurfield, whose family owns Sunshine and who grew up playing on these slopes. “I don't even remember learning to ski," she says, shortly before performing a series of perfectly rhythmic turns through the glades and powerful slalom arcs out on the groomers. While Scurfield skis with childlike abandon, I simply ski like a child, whooping as we cross over into British Columbia, whimpering when we reach the edge of double-black-diamond Delirium Dive. After a while, foolishly perhaps, I announce that I'm ready for a challenge.
“I have a challenge for you," Scurfield replies with a grin. I follow her halfway down Lookout Mountain to a lip that serves as the entrance to South Pocket, a seemingly vertical black diamond that's split down the middle by trees. The right-hand chute is choked with boulders that have cleaved off Brewster Rock, and the left-hand chute seems too narrow to even make a turn. I drop in, managing a few sloppy turns before I catch an edge and crash down the mountainside, clawing at the snow as I fall.
In need of de-icing, I persuade Scurfield to join me in the resort's Lookout Kitchen + Bar, where, over a spicy elk burger and arugula salad, she graciously suggests a slightly less challenging escape route.
Later, as I drive down Sunshine Road back to Bow Valley, I spot a flock of bighorn sheep ambling around on a hillside. I'm out of the car, trying to snap a half-decent photo, when one regal-looking ram indulges me by mounting a rock to assume a statuesque pose.
On my way out to Johnston Canyon, a popular hiking destination in Banff National Park, I cruise along the sinuous Bow Valley Parkway, where it's not uncommon to encounter wolves, elk, and grizzlies. The 30-mile byway meanders beside the emerald Bow River between Banff and the village of Lake Louise, offering a peaceful alternative to the Trans-Canada Highway. Soon, I reach the canyon pullout, where Ryan Capel waits for me.
A fixture on the local ski scene, Capel is remarkably athletic for a man in his mid-50s. As we pass through a fragrant spruce and pine forest, he tells me he was born in Banff and raised on the slopes of Mount Norquay. He worked with his father in the ski shop for Candian Mountain Holidays, the world's first heli-skiing operation, before taking over retail at Lake Louise Ski Resort. “The ski culture is strong here—always has been," he says, ticking off the names of pros and Olympians from this town of just over 8,000 people. And the culture endures: Capel's three kids, ages 15 to 23, are all sponsored freeskiers.
Capel strides with purpose on the catwalks that run alongside and over Johnston Creek, ascending the limestone ravine toward a series of waterfalls. Sunlight dances on the blue-green pools where snow and ice haven't settled. “I've been here my entire life, but I never take it for granted," he says. “It's a privilege to live here." I nod—in the cathedral-like silence of the canyon's depths, it feels like a sin to even speak.
Until we hit the ice, that is. Mist from the creek is frozen on the walkways—most wintertime visitors wear cleats for this journey—and what begins as awkward Bambi steps soon evolves into a spirited game of “skating" down the trail as fast as possible. It's silly and incredibly fun, and I wonder aloud why anyone would want to spoil a good slide with something so practical as cleats.
Playtime over, Capel and I agree to meet for a drink back in town, at Park Distillery Restaurant + Bar, a new bar that produces small-batch spirits using Alberta grains and Banff's glacier-fresh water. Taking a seat beneath a photo of heli-skiing pioneer Hans Gmoser, I order a gin cocktail with mint, lime juice, peach puree, and spruce tips foraged from just beyond the park boundaries.
The crowded dining room and bar is a blend of classic Canadiana—antler chandeliers, enamel tin cups—and Mid-Century Modern decor. “Banff is a small community, but it's also a fast little town," Capel says, referring to the constant thrum generated by nearly 4 million annual visitors. That said, it's not uncommon to see mule deer wandering the side streets (a couple of years ago, one of the animals was hunted down and killed by a pair of wolves just a block off the main thoroughfare).
I'm feeling a bit wolfish myself, so I say goodbye to Capel and head down the street to Chuck's Steakhouse, which takes its inspiration from the ranchlands on the Rockies' eastern slope. A waitress in cowboy boots and a denim skirt serves me no fewer than three steaks: a melt-in-your-mouth marbled wagyu, a nutty dry-aged ribeye, and a massive tomahawk. A smoky Campfire cocktail with rye whiskey, rum, amaro, and dry Curaçao rounds the meal off nicely.
Back at the Moose, I soak in the rooftop hot pool with an Alberta beer from Blindman Brewing, idly scanning the sky for signs of fresh snow, until the darkness seems to pour into me, bringing with it the urge to sleep.
In which Peter has a natural bubble bath, encounters a prima donna snail, and sees Mickey Mouse come to an untimely end
The morning breaks gray and drizzly—a perfect complement to my head. I linger by the lobby fireplace, nursing a coffee and contemplating the moose paintings by Aboriginal Canadian artist Jason Carter. I head out for breakfast at the Juniper Hotel Bistro, set on a hill outside of town overlooking the Vermilion Lakes, where I eat eggs Benedict served with buffalo mozzarella, braised rabbit, and juniper berry glaze on bannock flatbread.
With the mental fog clearing, I head for Banff Upper Hot Springs. Here, at one of three natural springs that bubble up from under Sulphur Mountain, the mineral-rich waters remain at a toasty 98 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. I hook my elbows over the edge of the pool and stare across the valley at Mount Rundle's partially shrouded western face. I don't know if these waters help with infertility or rheumatism or any of the other maladies that early operators claimed, but they're great for sore ski muscles.
Just down the mountain at Cave and Basin National Historic Site, I follow park interpreter Gareth MacKay into a dripping, craggy grotto lit by a natural skylight. In 1883, three railroad workers climbed into a mist-filled cave 37 feet deep. “When they came down that hole," MacKay says, “they had no idea they would create a national park." The men laid claim to the spring—even building a crude, cabin-size “hotel" a few feet from its entrance—but the Canadian government, which was struggling to bankroll its transcontinental railroad and saw an opportunity to do so with tourism, took control, ultimately establishing the country's first national park, and the third one in the world after Yellowstone and Australia's Royal.
One of the discoverers, William McCardell, described the cave as “some fantastic dream," and I can see why. A spring-fed waterfall pours into the pool, and rainwater percolates down through the porous limestone ceiling, dripping into the glassy water and scattering the shaft of daylight around the cave. “This place changed the course of history in the Bow Valley," MacKay says, almost reverently. “History lives here." As does the park's most endangered creature.
Before leaving, I ask MacKay to show me the Banff Springs snail, which exists in hot springs here and nowhere else in the world. He grudgingly agrees—he seems to consider the tiny mollusk a bit of a prima donna that distracts from the site's history—and soon we're on hands and knees, scanning the bubbling basin. “Right there," he says, pointing to a blob that's barely half the size of my fingernail. The moment doesn't have the raw electricity of spotting, say, a grizzly, but in its own small way, it's yet another reminder that this is a special place.
After the damp of the cave, the chill outside cuts through me, so I head for the warmth of downtown Banff's Wild Flour Bakery for a comforting lunch of carrot and fennel soup; a grilled cheese with apples, spinach, and onion jam; and a kale salad that offers a colorful contrast to the gray tableau outside. Nearly everything is organic and sourced locally, which I'm finding to be common practice here.
From here, it's a short walk to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, where Winnipeg artist Diana Thorneycroft has a witty and subversive show, O Canada (I'm Sorry), in which she painstakingly creates tabletop dioramas with handmade figurines and then photographs them. Included here are Martyrdom Near Moose Jaw, which has Mickey Mouse being drawn and quartered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Burning Braids, which shows a First Nations girl being forced to burn her braids as part of a policy of “aggressive assimilation" at a state school.
Frankly, it's a surprising exhibition for a tourist hub like Banff, especially in a year when the national narrative is centered on Canada's 150th birthday. “I had another exhibit planned," photo curator Craig Richards tells me, “but I thought this was perfect to start off the anniversary. It's challenging, it's thought-provoking, and, for some people, it's downright disturbing."
To learn more about the local arts scene, I head up Tunnel Mountain to the 53-acre Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity to meet artist-in-residence Janice Tanton. The walls of her studio are filled with monumental works in various stages of completion. “I'm the queen of unfinished paintings," she says with a laugh.
For locals, the center often solves the problem of what to do tonight, with a busy events calendar (including the world-famous Banff Mountain Film + Book Festival) and the excellent Three Ravens Restaurant and Wine Bar, which commands sweeping views of the town and valley beyond. Tanton and I make our way to the fourth-floor eatery, where we're seated beside the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Our dinner is suitably creative—from the sturgeon amuse-bouche with strawberry and mint compote to the smoked elk tartar dolloped with bright yellow sous vide egg yolk, deep brown balsamic “pearls," and blood-red pickled beets, and sprinkled with dehydrated bison. Just then, the clouds part over Bow Valley, and the sun breaks through. We sip our wine in silence, watching as, farther west, a fresh line of clouds gathers over the peaks of the Massive Range, already dropping more rain.
In which Peter goes off grid, plays pond hockey with an Alec Baldwin look-alike, and embarks on an ill-fated hike
The rain turned to big, fluffy snowflakes overnight, and they're settling on the roads as I drive north and west to drop my bags at Storm Mountain Lodge and Cabins. Once marketed as a place for “unconventional, old-clothes vacations," Storm hasn't changed much nearly a century later. It's still a secluded collection of elegant, off-grid cabins along Highway 93S; there's no Wi-Fi, no phone, and no TV, and cell reception is spotty at best.
When I pull off the Trans-Canada Highway at Castle Junction, a worker informs me that avalanches on 5,510-foot Vermilion Pass have shut down the road. I tell him that I'm staying at Storm, just three miles up; he checks my name against a guest list and waves me through. The road beyond is a blank canvas of powder, and driving it is strangely invigorating. Do these count as “first tracks," I ask myself, before throwing the rental car into reverse and doing donuts in the middle of the highway because, well, I can.
There are more conventional tracks to create at Lake Louise Ski Resort. The 4,200-acre area is legendary for its long season, extensive back bowls, and high-consequence steeps, where, each November, Alpine Ski World Cup competitors like Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety charge downhill at 80-plus mph. After getting outfitted in the rental shop, I board a chairlift with veteran ski instructor Patrick Caïs, climbing 2,800 feet to a lookout with spectacular views.
Born in Bordeaux, France, Caïs came to Lake Louise via Montreal, where he worked as an accountant. “I'm not here for the money," he says. He gestures at the sharp mountains and tumbling glaciers. “That's why I'm here."
On our first real run, Caïs and I cruise down wide-open groomers with those killer views, though he admits that his favorite place to ski is in the woods. “The press of the trees makes me feel at one with nature," he says.
For lunch, we pull in to the mid-mountain spot Whitehorn Bistro. “A lot of people think it's a bad thing that we don't have ski-in/ski-out accommodations," Caïs says, “but that's because we're in a national park. Otherwise, this view would be full of hotels and condos." The relatively sparse development here, he continues, means abundant wildlife: elk, bighorn sheep, and the elusive Canada lynx. On the backside of the hill, a few grizzly bears are hibernating in dens beneath the snow. Come spring, they'll emerge and head downhill with cubs in tow, which causes rolling closures across the resort—but that's park life for you.
Over a cheese and game platter, Caïs regales me with stories about the Klondike Gold Rush. Then I take one last ride up the mountain, steeling myself for the World Cup men's downhill course. At first I think I'll try to crush it, Ligety-style, in world-record time, but then I find myself staring at that horizon again, and it dawns on me that this is a moment to be savored, not rushed. So I finish my run with broad, sweeping turns, popping in and out of the trees.
Back on level ground, I head into Lake Louise village, where I'm meeting Wilson Mountain Sports manager Bill Keeling—a towering Alec Baldwin look-alike—for a game of pond hockey on what may be the world's most beautiful rink. Skates and sticks in hand, we make for the castlelike Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which maintains the ice on the iconic lake throughout the winter.
Dozens of visitors wobble gingerly around the ice, the mountains crowding in behind them. A sign reads: “No Hockey!" But Keeling skates past it with a shrug. “It's not written in French, too," he says, “so it doesn't really count." I'm as shaky on ice as the other tourists, but Keeling has been playing since age 4, “with a one-piece Ski-Doo suit and a pillow on my butt." He manages to rope a couple more “players" into our game. It's hilariously, joyously fun, and by the time we call it quits we're all smiling. “Most Canadian kids
play pond hockey," Keeling says, adding that adults enjoy it too, “because beer tastes
As tempting as a beer sounds right now, I've got a dogsled to catch. A few minutes down the road, I pull over at the Great Divide Trail, where I can make out a frenzy of yelps even with the windows up. Nearby, a team of Alaskan huskies are going out of their minds with anticipation as they're harnessed for a 10-mile run to Kicking Horse Pass and back with Kingmik Dog Sled Tours. The moment the musher, Stef, releases her brake, the sled lurches forward and the dogs fall silent, focused on the task of pulling. “These dogs are bred to run," she calls out from behind me, “and that is all."
Dogsledding dates back at least 1,000 years in Arctic Canada but only came to the Rockies in the early 1900s, when adventurer Ike Mills started using dogs to deliver goods to the frozen backcountry. At the Great Divide, where waters part ways east and west, we turn back. Stef offers me a chance to drive, with a warning: “If you fall off the sled, don't let go, because they're not going to stop." I don't fall, but I'm soon aware of just how tenuous my “control" over the dogs is; rather than driving them with purpose, I'm clinging to a runaway train.
With snow falling once again, I head back to Storm Mountain Lodge, where a roaring fire warms the hearth in the great room, and the local version of an Old Fashioned—with spiced whiskey and maple syrup—warms my insides. The all-Canadian dinner menu features classic alpine comfort food, with free-range bison, elk, venison, and wild boar alongside scallops from Nova Scotia and salmon from the B.C. coast. I opt for the wild boar belly and tenderloin, served with huckleberry sauce, acorn squash, and beet puree. Like everything else on this trip, it's presented with pride and care—and it's wonderful.
Before bed, I settle into a leather couch in front of the lobby fire with another Old Fashioned, watching flames lick logs as the snow piles up outside. But soon I feel restless. The lodge lends snowshoes, and a nighttime trek seems like just the thing to finish my time here. With a little bit of charm, and a promise to bring beer, I convince a young couple from Calgary to join me for a jaunt on what I think is a half-mile nature trail around the property.
It's all merriment when we set out, what with the awkward footwear, fresh snow to throw, and the novelty of moving through the pitch-black woods by headlamp. But, as 15 minutes wear on to 45, with no sign of the lodge and not a drop of beer left, my trekmates grow worried. Haven't we walked a half mile yet? (“Well, yes.") What are these tracks in the snow? (“Hmm … dogs?") Won't our tracks fill in with snow? (Clearing throat: “Yes.") Are we lost? (Silence.)
But on we clomp—one foot in front of the other, heads down—until we spot an orange light, followed by the outlines of buildings. Safely inside, we sit before the fire, get ourselves a drink and tell stories about our adventure, which was fraught with danger and fear, yes, but also a sense of wonder and of humbling perspective. Just like any other story worth telling in these parts.
Around the web
When the pandemic began, United Cargo knew it would be critical to utilize its fleet, network and industry-leading pharmaceutical handling processes to transport a COVID-19 vaccine when the time came.
Connecting vaccines to the world: United responds to mass distribution effort
On November 27, United Airlines became the first commercial airline to safely deliver the first batch of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine into the U.S. thanks to a coordinated effort between United's cargo, safety, technical operations, flight operations, regulatory and legal teams.
Now as the entire shipping and logistics industry bands together to widely distribute vaccines, United is leveraging all of its flights, including cargo-only and those carrying passengers, to transport millions of vaccines to destinations throughout our network, including Honolulu, Guam and Saipan – the first of any carrier to do so.
"United's cargo service has helped safely deliver many essential goods during this pandemic, but there is no shipment that gives me more personal pride than helping bring this life-saving vaccine to our communities," said Jan Krems, United Cargo President. "While we still face a long road ahead the promise of a widely distributed vaccine gives us hope that we are one step closer to putting this pandemic behind us and moving forward together toward a brighter future."
And United is shipping more than just vaccines to help during the pandemic in keeping the lines of commerce flowing and goods getting to where they need to be. Since mid-March, United has operated 9,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 435 million pounds of cargo. By using a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights, United Cargo has also transported 80 million pounds of medical supplies this year.
In coordination with our shipping and logistics partners, United will continue to distribute COVID-19 treatments to destinations throughout its network. The real heroes are the scientists who created these life-saving vaccines and the frontline workers who are not only administering them, but also helping care for and tend to those suffering from this virus. United is proud to do its part in helping to get this precious cargo to the people and communities who need them, and looks forward to doing our part in the months ahead.
United Cargo responds to COVID-19 challenges, prepares for what's next
September 30, 2020
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, United Cargo has supported a variety of customers within the healthcare industry for over 10 years. Three key solutions – TempControl, LifeGuard and QuickPak – protect the integrity of vital shipments such as precision medicine, pharmaceuticals, biologics, medical equipment and vaccines. By utilizing processes like temperature monitoring, thermodynamic management, and priority boarding and handling, United Cargo gives customers the peace of mind that their shipments will be protected throughout their journey.
With the global demand for tailored pharmaceutical solutions at an all-time high, we've made investments to help ensure we provide the most reliable air cargo options for cold chain shipping. In April this year, we became the first U.S. carrier to lease temperature-controlled shipping containers manufactured by DoKaSch Temperature Solutions. We continue to partner with state-of-the-art container providers to ensure we have options that meet our customers' ever-changing needs.
"Providing safe air cargo transport for essential shipments has been a top priority since the pandemic began. While the entire air cargo industry has had its challenges, I'm proud of how United Cargo has adapted and thrived despite a significant reduction in network capacity and supply," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "We remain committed to helping our customers make it through the pandemic, as well as to doing everything we can to be prepared for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution when the time comes."
Our entire team continues to prioritize moving critical shipments as part of our commitment to supporting the global supply chain. We've assembled a COVID readiness task team to ensure we have the right people in place and are preparing our airports as we get ready for the industry-wide effort that comes next.
In cooperation with our partners all over the world, United Cargo has helped transport nearly 145 million pounds of medical supplies to aid in the fight against COVID-19, using a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights. To date, United Cargo has operated more than 6,300 cargo-only flights and has transported more than 213 million pounds of cargo worldwide.
United Cargo responds to global needs, celebrates 5000th cargo-only flight
August 18, 2020
By Jan Krems, President, United Cargo
In mid-March, United took steps to manage the historic impact of COVID-19 and began flying a portion of our Boeing 777 and 787 fleets as dedicated cargo-only flights to transport air freight to and from U.S. hubs and key international business locations. More than ever, providing reliable cargo transportation was vitally important and I'm proud say our United Cargo team stepped up to support our customers.
Although we're facing the most challenging environment our industry has ever experienced, I'm very excited to celebrate a major milestone. Since March 19, United has operated over 5,000 cargo-only flights transporting nearly 170 million pounds of cargo on these flights alone. With an increased need to keep the global supply chain moving, and an even more urgent need for medical supplies, we knew we had to utilize our network capabilities and personnel to move vital shipments, such as medical kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), pharmaceuticals and medical equipment between U.S. hubs and key international destinations.
In cooperation with freight forwarders and partners all over the world, United Cargo helped transport more than 107 million pounds of medical supplies to aid in the fight against COVID-19 using a combination of cargo-only flights as well as passenger flights.
To keep military families connected, we increased the frequency of cargo-only flights between the U.S. and military bases in various parts of the world — including bases located in Guam, Kwajalein and several countries in Europe. We know how critically important it is for these families to stay connected, and I'm honored that we were able to utilize our network and our aircraft to fly nearly 3 million pounds of military supplies.
In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), our cargo teams 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 coronavirus pandemic.
United has played a critical role in keeping global supply chains stable during the pandemic as we deliver urgently needed goods around the world. These past few months have created challenges that I have never seen in my 30-plus years of experience working within the air cargo and freight forwarding industry. However, I'm proud of our teams for staying focused on our mission to provide high-quality service and to keep our customers connected with the goods they need most.
United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving
July 02, 2020
By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.
United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.
Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.
A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.
United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.
United further expands cargo-only operations to key international markets
June 9, 2020
United has played a vital role in helping keep the global supply chains stable during the COVID-19 pandemic so urgently needed goods can get to the places that need them most.
In addition to current service from the U.S. to Asia, Australia, Europe, India, Latin America and the Middle East, we are proud to now offer cargo-only flights to key international markets including Dublin, Paris, Rome, Santiago and Zurich. These new routes will connect our freight customers and further extend our air cargo network throughout the world – for example connecting major pharmaceutical hubs in Europe and perishable markets in Latin America.
"Air cargo continues to be more important than ever," says United Cargo President Jan Krems. "This network expansion helps our customers continue to facilitate trade and contribute to global economic development and recovery. I'm proud of our team for mobilizing our cargo-only flights program that enables the shipment of critical goods that will support global economies."
Since we began our program March 19, we have completed more than 2,400 cargo-only flights, transporting over 77 million pounds of cargo. We have over 1,100 cargo-only flights scheduled for the month of June, operating between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities all over the world.
United's first flight carrying cargo in-cabin takes off
May 13, 2020
United continues to keep supply chains moving and to meet the demand for critical shipments around the globe. Recently, United received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry cargo in approved storage areas in the passenger cabin.
Our inaugural cargo-in-cabin flight flew from London (LHR) to Chicago (ORD) carrying over 4,200 pounds of mail in the passenger cabin, plus a full payload of freight in the belly of the aircraft. Initially, cargo-in-cabin shipments will be loaded on the 777 and 787 aircraft operating our cargo-only flights. We will continue to evaluate additional opportunities to use this space to meet the growing cargo demand.
"We send our sincere thanks to the FAA for working with our team to enable the transport of more critical goods on United's cargo-only flights," said Jan Krems, President of United Cargo. "By loading existing cabin storage areas with cargo and mail, we can move even more critical medical equipment, PPE, and other vital shipments the world needs to manage through the pandemic."
United's cargo-only network continues to expand in order to help bring vital shipments to the people that need it most. We're now offering service between six of our U.S. hubs and 18 airports worldwide: CTU, HKG, ICN, MEL, PEK, PVG, SIN, SYD and TPE in the Asia-Pacific; AMS, BOM, BRU, DUB, FRA, LHR, TLV and ZRH in EMEIA; and SJU in the Caribbean.
Since the start of its cargo-only flights program March 19, United has operated over 1,300 cargo-only flights transporting over 44 million pounds of cargo.
For more information, visit unitedcargo.com.
United expands cargo-only flights to additional global destinations
April 16, 2020
Getting vital goods, especially medical relief supplies, into the hands of the businesses and people who need them has never been more critically important. To meet the overwhelming demand, United began operating cargo-only flights on March 19. Since we began using Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft from United's passenger fleet for this purpose, we have operated over 400 flights carrying more than 6 million kilos of cargo.
"With the global community in need, we are doing everything we can to keep supply chains moving worldwide and support the battle against COVID-19," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "We're proud to play an active role in connecting vital medical supplies like test kits and personal protective equipment with healthcare professionals around the world."
We are now operating more than 150 cargo-only flights per week between six of our U.S. hubs and 13 cities worldwide: CTU, HKG, PEK, PVG, SYD and TPE in the Asia Pacific; AMS, BRU, DUB, FRA and LHR in Europe; SJU in the Caribbean and TLV in the Middle East. We expect to add new cities soon and will continue to expand our cargo-only flights program.
|Hub||Cargo-only flights operating through May|
ORD - AMS (Amsterdam)
ORD - FRA (Frankfurt)
ORD - HKG (Hong Kong)
ORD - LHR (London)
ORD - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PEK (Beijing)
IAH - AMS (Amsterdam)
IAD - FRA (Frankfurt)
|Los Angeles (LAX)||
LAX - HKG (Hong Kong)
LAX - LHR (London Heathrow)
LAX - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PVG (Shanghai)
LAX - SYD (Sydney)
|New York/Newark (EWR)||
EWR - AMS (Amsterdam)
EWR - FRA (Frankfurt)
EWR - LHR (London)
|San Francisco (SFO)||
SFO - AMS (Amsterdam)
SFO - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PEK (Beijing)
SFO - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PVG (Shanghai)
SFO - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - TPE (Taipei)
SFO - TLV (Tel Aviv)
SFO - SYD (Sydney)
|Washington, D.C. (IAD)||
IAD - BRU (Brussels)
IAD - DUB (Dublin)
IAD - FRA (Frankfurt)
IAD - NRT (Tokyo Narita) - PEK (Beijing)
IAD - SJU (San Juan)
Flight details are subject to change, for the most up-to-date schedules, please visit https://ual.unitedcargo.com/covid-updates.
Cargo-only flights support U.S. military and their families
March 30, 2020
We are helping to keep military families connected by increasing the frequency of cargo-only flights between the United States and military bases in various parts of the world — including Guam, Kwajalein, and several countries in Europe. Last week we began operating a minimum of 40 cargo-only flights weekly — using Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft to fly freight and mail to and from U.S. hubs and key international business and military locations.
We are going above and beyond to find creative ways to transport fresh food and produce, as well as basic essentials from the U.S. mainland to military and their families in Guam/Micronesia. On Saturday, March 28, we operated an exclusive cargo-only B777-300 charter to transport nearly 100,000 pounds of food essentials to Guam to support our troops.
In addition, we move mail year-round all over the world. In response to COVID-19, and in support of the military members and their families overseas, we implemented a charter network, transporting military mail to Frankfurt, which is then transported all over Europe and the Middle East. Since March 20, we have flown 30,000+ pounds of military mail every day between Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Frankfurt (FRA). On the return flight from Frankfurt to Chicago, we have carried an average of 35,000 pounds of mail to help families stay connected.
"Keeping our military families connected with the goods they need, and keeping them connected with loved ones to feel a sense of home, is of critical importance. As a company that has long supported our military families and veterans, our teams are proud to mobilize to lend a hand." — United Cargo President Jan Krems.
Our cargo-only flights support customers, keep planes moving
March 22, 2020
We have begun flying a portion of our Boeing 777 and 787 fleet as dedicated cargo charter aircraft to transfer freight to and from U.S. hubs and key international business locations. The first of these freight-only flights departed on March 19 from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) with the cargo hold completely full, with more than 29,000 lbs. of goods.
Getting critical goods into the hands of the businesses and people who need them most is extremely important right now. To support customers, employees and the global economy, we will initially operate a schedule of 40 cargo charters each week targeting international destinations and will continue to seek additional opportunities.
With coronavirus (COVID-19) creating an increased need to keep the global supply chain moving, we are utilizing our network capabilities and personnel to get vital shipments, such as medical supplies, to areas that need them most.
"Connecting products to people around the world is the United Cargo mission," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "That role has never been more crucial than during the current crisis. Our team is working around the clock to provide innovative solutions for our customers and support the global community."
On average, we ship more than 1 billion pounds of cargo every year on behalf of domestic and international customers. For more information, visit unitedcargo.com.
CHICAGO, Dec. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- United is inviting MileagePlus members to give back on Giving Tuesday and throughout the holiday season by donating miles to nearly 40 non-profits through United Airlines' crowdsourcing platform, Miles on a Mission. Non-profits like Thurgood Marshall College Fund, College to Congress and Compass to Care are attempting to raise a total of more than 11 million miles to be used for travel for life-saving health care, continued education, humanitarian aid and more. United will match the first 125,000 miles raised for each of these organizations to help ensure they meet their goals.
"This year has posed unprecedented challenges for us all and has been especially devastating to some of the most vulnerable members within the communities we serve," said Suzi Cabo, managing director of global community engagement, United Airlines. "The need for charitable giving has not stopped during the pandemic, and neither has United. This Giving Tuesday marks an opportunity for us to all come together for the greater good and we are proud to provide a platform to support organizations with upcoming travel needs that will enable them to continue supporting the communities they serve."
The launch of these campaigns is part of United's ongoing Miles on a Mission program, which began in October 2019 and has raised more than 92 million miles to-date. Past campaigns have helped organizations travel children for life-saving medical treatment and unite parents with newly adopted children from foreign countries. Participating non-profits have 28-days to reach their mile raising goals through the platform.
The organizations that are raising miles in this campaign include:
- College to Congress: The organization provides support including travel for disadvantaged college students who otherwise could not afford to intern in Washington, D.C.
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund: This is the only national organization representing America's 47 publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and the nearly 300,000 students that attend them each year. The miles raised will cover the travel expenses to and from campus for students unable to afford them.
- My Block, My Hood, My City: This organization provides underprivileged youth with an awareness of the world and opportunities beyond their neighborhood. Miles will be used to fund educational trips for Chicago youths to help them gain a greater understanding of the world outside of their comfort zones.
- Compass to Care: The non-profit ensures all children, whose parents have a financial need, can access life-saving cancer treatment. Compass to Care is raising miles to fund travel to get children from their homes to hospitals for cancer treatment.
- Luke's Wings: This organization is dedicated to the support of service members who have been wounded in battle. Raised miles will be used to purchase plane tickets for families to visit wounded soldiers recovering in Army medical centers.
- Rainbow Railroad USA: The organization's mission is to help persecuted LGBTQI+ individuals around the world travel to safety as they seek a haven from persecution. Miles will support the organization's core Emergency Travel Support program.
This year, United's legal partner Kirkland & Ellis will also be donating $50,000 to My Block, My Hood, My City and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Other organizations launching campaigns on the platform include: Sisters of the Skies, Inc., Up2Us Sports, Airline Ambassadors International, Austin Smiles, AWS Foundation, Crazy Horse Memorial, FLYTE, Higher Orbits, Lily's Hope Foundation, Miles4Migrants, Support Utila Inc. and Watts of Love. MileagePlus members can also donate to United's 20 other existing partner charities including, Airlink, American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish, Shriners Hospitals; Clean the World, Special Olympics and more. To learn more or donate to these organizations, please visit donate.mileageplus.com.
Visit www.united.com/everyactioncounts to learn more about our pledge to put our people and planes to work for the greater good.
United's shared purpose is "Connecting People. Uniting the World." For more information, visit united.com, follow @United on Twitter and Instagram or connect on Facebook. The common stock of United's parent, United Airlines Holdings, Inc., is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol "UAL".
SOURCE United Airlines
For further information: United Airlines Worldwide Media Relations, +1-872-825-8640, email@example.com
In October 2019, we launched a first-of-its-kind airline miles donation platform, Miles on a Mission. In the inaugural year, MileagePlus members donated over 70 million miles, with United matching over 20 million miles, to 51 organizations. These miles have allowed for these organizations to do important, life-changing, life-saving work in the communities we serve around the globe.
Whether it's visiting friends and relatives, traveling for work or simply exploring a new corner of the world, we all have a reason as to why we fly. No matter the reason you fly, the miles you earn and donate help our Miles on a Mission partners soar. Take a look at how some of our partner organizations have put our MileagePlus Members' donations to work.
"To deliver life-saving cells and hope to Be the Match patients, like me!"
"These donated miles will support Born This Way Foundation's mission of supporting the wellness of LGBTQ+ youth — and all young people — by expanding access to mental health resources and promoting kindness."
"Combined Arms is uniting communities to accelerate the impact of veterans and their families."
"To help children get to life-saving cancer treatment"
"We fly to save. We fly to save lives, saving homeless veterans anywhere, any time."
"Gift of Adoption flies to unite children with their families — giving them a chance to thrive!"
"Holocaust Museum Houston flies United to educate people about the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy. Holocaust Museum Houston flies United to connect teachers with Holocaust and human rights educational resources."
"We fly today so those living with ALS can have a better tomorrow."
"At Lazarex we fly patients with cancer to clinical trials for hope and a chance at life!"
"Donate your miles to help refugees reach safe homes for the holidays."
"To get vital relief and recovery aid where it's needed most!"
"We fly to educate and empower girls in Peru."
"To collaborate with partners & promote that #FoodIsMedicine"
"United helps our medical teams deliver hope and support when people need it most!"
"We fly to bring hope to 2 million people around the globe facing food insecurity."
"To make waves to fight cancer."
"Because every LGBTQ young person deserves to be valued, respected and loved for who they are."
"My team needs me now more than ever. I will be there for them!"
"Watts of Love brings solar light and hope to those living in the darkness of poverty!"
"To bring access to clean water for everyone that needs it."
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
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.
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
To use on Microsoft Teams:
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
Watch our most popular videos
This is why we fly.
20 UCSF Health workers, who voluntarily set aside their own lives to help save lives, are on their way to New York City.
We are humbled by your selfless sacrifice.
In celebration and appreciation of all first responders and essential workers. 👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽👏🏾👏🏿
This is the story of Jason and Shantel. You see, Jason and Shantel love each other very much. They also love traveling and they love the classic Adam Sandler film, The Wedding Singer.
It all began when Jason reached out to United's social media team, hoping for assistance with his upcoming plan to propose. Some phone calls and one borrowed guitar later, the stage was set for Jason. Put all that together, mix in some helpful United employees and, voila, you have a truly memorable marriage proposal. Congratulations to this fun-loving and happy couple, and here's to many more years of making beautiful music together.
A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.