Three Perfect Days: Tahiti
Story by Justin Goldman | Photography by Natasha Lee | Hemispheres, October 2018
It's been 250 years since European sailors first landed on Tahiti, and to this day the very name conjures indelible images in the world's collective imagination: coconut-laden palm trees, fine-grained white sand, jagged green mountains, impossibly clear turquoise water, and the ornately tattooed people who mastered the high seas long before the colonial powers arrived. This island and its inhabitants led Captain Bligh's crew to mutiny and inspired Paul Gauguin to paint his luminous masterworks, and Tahiti is only the beginning, a gateway to French Polynesia's 118 islands and atolls, which sprawl across a span of the South Pacific the size of Europe. You'll need a lot more than three days to explore all of these far-flung archipelagos, but after a hop across Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, you'll be ready to strike out like the wayfinders of yore. Just follow the stars.
Bora Bora's main island, seen from the chapel at the Four Seasons
Day 1: Eating up the culture (and the delicious market fare) in Tahiti
I'm in a car and the sky is still pitch black, the road into the Tahitian capital of Papeete illuminated only by French lampposts that share the median with palm trees. Even when you consider the six hours I turned back the clock traveling from New York, 5:30 a.m. is a bear, but I'm up at this godforsaken hour because I've been told that I can't miss the Marché de Papeete—and on Sunday, it starts early.
"It seems as if the entire population of Tahiti is here, and that they're all greeting each other individually."
Driving past the still sleeping port, I wonder if anyone is actually awake, but when I step out of the car and into the market, it's into a burst of color and activity. There's already a long line of customers waiting to buy roast pork at a butcher counter. Fruit stands burst with mangos, sweet potatoes, bird's-eye chilis, rambutans. Beds of ice are flush with thick tuna and swordfish steaks, multicolored lagoon fish, oysters, crab, shrimp. The crowd of shoppers in the red-trimmed warehouse space moves, well, sometimes. It seems as if the entire population of Tahiti (183,480) is here this morning, and that these famously amiable people are all taking the time to greet each other individually.
I could get full just looking at the market's offerings, but I decide to sit down for breakfast a couple of blocks from the marché, at Café Roti. There's a line here, too, for the café's firi firi, a coconut doughnut twisted into a figure eight. I grab a table in the humble back room, where I munch on that piping hot treat, along with an order of the national dish, poisson cru, a sort of South Pacific take on ceviche—citrus-marinated tuna, carrots, and cucumber in coconut milk—which I chase with a cup of coffee mixed with fresh coconut milk. (Why have I never thought to make that before?)
Shopping at the colorful Marché de Papeete
Back in the car, I drive the road that traces the west (or leeward) side of the island. The coastline is magnificent, all palm trees and placid blue water dotted with canoes and sailboats. After a brief stop to snap a photo of the Grotte de Maraa, a deep cavern full of freshwater framed by hanging ferns that was once explored by Jacques Cousteau, I continue to the small town of Papara. Tahiti is sometimes pigeonholed as a transit hub for the other islands, but it's also a hub for Polynesian culture, and I've come here to get an education at the 'Arioi Experience, a center that runs workshops for tourists and local children.
In the vaulted entryway, I'm greeted by a half-dozen women in black dresses. One bangs a rhythm on a drum, another blows a call through a conch shell, another places a lei around my neck. As we walk, one of the women, director of operations Laura Théron, explains the center's name. “The 'Arioi are a caste from the ancient times," she says. “They were dancers, they would know the legends, they were very good sailors. And any person from any caste could become an 'Arioi if they were skilled."
A traditional ma'a Tahiti feast at the 'Arioi Experience
In the center's performance space, Tekura Amaru, who led the greeting earlier, teaches me how to play a few pehe, or rhythms, on the toere, a three-foot drum made from a hollowed-out log. Ta, ta, tara tata, ta ta tara, tara ta ta. Then, Tara tara ti, ta ta ta. I suck at this, but the young woman who's performing a Polynesian dance along with the music is able to overcome my rhythmic deficiencies.
My arms are surprisingly sore by the time we're done. That means I've earned lunch, right? We head outside to a sunny garden and sit for a ma'a Tahiti, a classic feast of steamed bananas and taro root grown in the garden here, coconut bread marinated in coconut milk, mango, and a turmeric-laced traditional variant on poisson cru that forgoes the vegetables. Before we dig in, I learn a new word: Manuia! (Cheers!
Just a few minutes north of the center, near the community of Paea, I stop to meet Tahiarii Pariente, a cultural ambassador in a sarong and surf hoodie and a kukui-nut necklace. He's offered me another history lesson, starting at the Marae Taata. This ancient meeting ground was used for both religious and social gatherings, and was the place where King Pomare declared himself the ruler of Tahiti in 1788. It was partly destroyed, along with many others throughout the islands, after Pomare II converted to Christianity in 1819. “Christianization took away the dancing, the tattoos, the essence of Polynesian lifestyle," Tahiarii says. “My generation is trying to recreate this lost identity."
One such effort was the 2011 rebuilding of this marae, now a preserved historical site made up of three basketball court–size spaces enclosed by waist-high walls of tightly packed rocks, each with a raised altar in the middle. “I'm very proud, because I was carrying these stones for three months," Tahiarii recalls. “It's the biggest Tetris I ever played."
Tahiarii Pariente explains the construction of the Marae Taata
As we drive back through Papeete, we chat about the Polynesian cultural renaissance, and how it has become a global phenomenon. “We exported surfing," Tahiarii says. “It's a billion-dollar industry today. We have outrigger canoes on the Thames. Every soccer player in the world has Polynesian tattoos. People ask us to bleed them so they can have our mark on them. What kind of reverse colonization is that?" He doesn't even mention Moana.
"People ask us to bleed them so they can have out mark. What kind of reverse colonization is that?"
Dinner at the roulottes in Place Vaiete
On the other side of town, we stop at Pointe Venus, a peninsula that juts out into Matavai Bay (one of the first sites of contact between Tahitians and European explorers). We walk out onto the black-sand beach to watch canoes racing across the water, and Tahiarii offers to take me out in his own outrigger canoe. (He's a trained navigator.) I'd love to, but I'm famished, so I partake of a more modern tradition: dining at the roulottes, or food trucks, that park at Place Vaiete, by the Papeete harbor. Tonight, there are about a dozen trucks, serving everything from poisson cru to crepes to pizza to Thai. I opt for the latter, at the appropriately named Tuk Tuk, ordering crunchy spring rolls and a heaping plate of pho lat na rum mit (egg noodles with chicken, beef, and shrimp), which I eat at a plastic table near a trio of musicians playing Tahitian songs on guitar and ukulele.
The only thing more full than my spirit now is my belly, so I'm ready to call it a day. It's a 15-minute drive over to the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa, where I take a seat on my balcony and sip a Hinano, Tahiti's favorite beer, while soaking in the moonlight through the palms. Good night, moon.
Day 2: Snorkeling with sharks and sipping pineapple wine in Moorea
I'm back at Place Vaiete for the sunrise, but only briefly. By the time it's fully light out, I'm on the 30-minute ferry ride to Moorea, a 52-square-mile island with a population of about 16,000. When I debark on the other side, I grab a cab, and about half an hour later I arrive at the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa.
Blacktip sharks and stingrays in the Moorea lagoon
I scarf a quick breakfast—a couple of mini chocolate croissants and some pineapple juice—because I'm due on the dock, where I'm meeting Max and Johanna, my guides with Temoana Tours, who greet me and three other passengers with gardenia leis. As Max steers us through the lagoon, past overwater bungalows and through coral outcroppings, Johanna details the mountains onshore: 3,960-foot Tohivea, which is visible from Papeete; knife-edged Mouaroa, which appears on a French Polynesian coin; Rotui, which separates the island's two great bays, Opunohu and Cook's; Mouaputa, which has a peephole carved near the top that's the subject of a nifty legend in which the demigod Pai pierced the rock wall with a magical spear to stop a heist by the god of thieves, Hiro.
"A school of flying fish skitters right in front of us, and a pod of skipper dolphins comes dashing up to the boat, almost close enough to touch."
In search of humpback whales, Max steers the boat along a stretch of coastline that appeared in the 1962 Marlon Brando film Mutiny on the Bounty (the actor later built a retreat on Tetiaroa) and past a huge yacht with a helipad. Johanna casually mentions that genetic testing has shown that some Polynesians are descended from the ancient people of Taiwan, and one of my fellow tourists, a young Asian-American woman, practically squeals. “I'm Taiwanese! I listen to the Moana soundtrack nonstop! This explains everything!" She pauses and, after a moment, calmly adds, “I'm having a moment right now."
Soon, we're through the reef break and skimming along the ocean. No whales, but a school of flying fish skitters right in front of us, and a pod of skipper dolphins comes dashing up to the boat, a couple of them peeling off to swim alongside for a few moments, almost close enough to touch.
Leaping into the Moorea lagoon
Back inside the reef, we pull up in a patch of lagoon that's crowded with boats, Jet Skis, and divers. I look down through the turquoise water and see swarms of blacktip sharks and stingrays. Johanna hands me a set of goggles. “The sharks will just swim away if you get close," she says, “but you can touch the rays. They're like puppies." I jump into the bath-warm water, coming nearly within arm's length of the quicksilver sharks, even closer to the magical rays flapping their aquatic wings. I'm hesitant to reach out my hand until Max, right behind me, gently swings a big, docile ray around so I can carefully brush the skin with my fingertips. It's astonishingly soft, like velvet
Back on the boat, we zip over to a motu (a small reef islet), where Johanna's husband, a burly Tahitian named Teva, is grilling lobsters and tuna steaks over a fire. We sit at a plastic table planted in the lagoon, our feet dangling in the water as we gobble up all the grilled fare, along with a pile of rice, a side of poisson cru, and a bottle of rosé.
I'm so exhausted and stupefied by the awesomeness of the morning that I can barely put the words together to thank Max and Johanna when they drop me back at the InterContinental. But I'm curious how the island looks from up on those mountains, so I hire a taxi to take me to Belvédêre Lookout.
Opunohu Bay, Mount Rotui, and Cook's Bay, seen from the Belvédêre Lookout
As we circumnavigate Opunohu on the rim road, we see a helicopter landing on the yacht from earlier. “That's Tom Cruise's yacht," says my driver, a perpetually bemused Polynesian named, coincidentally, Tom. I refuse to fact-check him on this.
Just past the bay, we take a right through flat farmland, past cows and horses and pineapple fields. (Fun fact: the Tahitian word for pineapple is painapo; Captain James Cook brought the fruit here from Brazil.) Then we begin to climb, mountains all around us, past bamboo groves, the road growing steeper, winding tighter, until we reach the lookout. There are about a million other tourists up here, all taking in the view of the bays and Mount Rotui. Next to me, a photographer climbs onto her friend's shoulders to get a better angle. I half expect a dragon or a pterodactyl or some Polynesian god to come soaring into her shot.
A fire dancer at the InterContinental Moorea
Tom returns me to the InterContinental, where I crack a Hinano and lounge on the deck of my overwater bungalow. Suddenly, a spotted eagle ray, glowing beautiful and alien, glides through the water right below me. I jump in to get a closer look, but in just a few seconds the creature is gone.
After a shower and a change of clothes, I lazily catch a shuttle across the road to Holy Steak House. Sitting next to the wine cabinet, I spot a bottle of Manutea Brut D'Ananas. Pineapple sparkling wine? Yes, please! I polish off a couple of glasses—god, it's sweet—along with a perfect medium-rare New Zealand sirloin fillet and a grilled lobster.
I feel as if I don't even have the juice left to make it to my bed, but as I cross the resort, I'm drawn by a hint of music on the breeze. Past the pool, I find a dozen grass-skirted dancers, some twirling torches, on a white-sand beach in front of a Polynesian band. I know what you're thinking: Fire dancers? What a cliché! And you're not wrong. But the hypnotic effect of the spinning flame (and the revolutions of those hips) leads me to the conclusion that paradise being cliché doesn't make it any less paradisiacal.
Day 3: Taking in the beauty of Bora Bora from the sky and the sea
I'm up early one more time, to catch the first flight out of Moorea's tiny airport. The plane is in the air for just 50 minutes, passing over several islands (Raiatea, Tahaa) that are so stunning I can't believe we're not landing on them. Those aren't Bora Bora?
Overwater bungalows on a motu, seen from a Tahiti Air Charter seaplane
But then I see our destination. This island has captured the imaginations of travelers perhaps more than any other in the Pacific. To even call it an island isn't quite right. There's a central landmass, and on it the undulant peak of Mount Otemanu, which soars spectacularly to 2,385 feet, but this has become the planet's premier honeymoon destination for its motus (and the overwater bungalows they house), which circle the main island, and for the lagoon water, which switches from brilliant turquoise to indigo and back again, depending on the depth and the presence of coral, shades swirling around each other as if mixed on some crazed artist's palette. If only Gauguin could have seen it from these heights.
A beachside hammock at the Four Seasons
Bora Bora's airport is on one of those motus, but while the other passengers from my flight head down to the boat dock to be ferried to their hotels, I'm intent on ascending once more. I meet Tahiti Air Charter captain Stéphane Rozain in the airport lobby, and he leads me and a few other tourists back out onto the runway, to his eight-seat Cessna 208 seaplane. Soon we're doing laps above the motus, before zipping out to nearby Tupai, known as the “heart-shaped island" because it appears as if some love-smitten goddess absentmindedly sketched a curlicue heart of white sand and palm trees around a shimmering teal lagoon. It seems impossible that French Polynesia keeps topping itself, but Tupai is the most jaw-dropping thing I've seen yet.
The flight is over in just half an hour, and while I'm momentarily aggrieved at having to set my feet on the ground, in just a few minutes I'm on a boat motoring across the lagoon to the Four Seasons Resort. I've decided to treat myself, first to eggs Benedict and mango juice at the hotel's open-air breakfast restaurant, then to a massage.
You expect a certain level of opulence in Bora Bora, at the Four Seasons, but even so, my treatment room at the spa is extravagant. It's in a private overwater building, and as I lie down I find myself looking through a window in the floor at tropical fish cruising through the coral in the lagoon below. The aquarium ceases to exist—along with everything else in the world—the moment the masseuse digs into the knots in my back.
Mushroom risotto at Restaurant St. James
Unkinked, I stop in my bungalow to change clothes (and maybe, just maybe, jump in the lagoon). Then I hop a water taxi over to the main island for lunch at Restaurant St. James. The menu offers locally tinged French fare, and I order the Polynesian Fusion appetizer, which features four preparations of ahi tuna (including, yes, poisson cru), and a rich and creamy mushroom risotto. As my waitress drops off the check, she points out a sea turtle floating in the water, no more than 15 yards from us.
I walk off lunch with a short stroll to the center of Vaitape, the biggest town (population 4,927) on the island, stopping to buy some black pearls—French Polynesia's signature jewel and largest export—from a roadside vendor. At the dock, I join a crew of scuba novices for an introductory lesson with TOPdive. I've never done a scuba dive before and am mildly terrified, and the guides definitely pick up on this. After fitting us with (extremely tight) wetsuits and giving an explanation of the basic gear and techniques, one of the instructors, a Belgian named Nicolas, turns to a newbie and tells her: “OK, we throw you in for two minutes to check for tiger sharks, and then the rest of us will follow."
In the water, it takes me a few minutes to get used to the breathing—exhale when you want to sink, inhale when you want to rise—but once I do, I find myself utterly enchanted. Bright fish dart among the coral, some swimming straight at me, only to veer off just before I can touch them. I skirt a tremendous rock wall, then dive to the bottom to touch the sand and shells on the floor. I'm only 15 or 20 feet below the surface, and yet I'm in a completely different universe.
"I'm only 15 or 20 feet below the surface, and yet I'm in a completely different universe."
When I surface at the stern of the boat, Nicolas reaches down and pulls me onboard. I tell him I can see how people get addicted to this. “Yeah," he replies. “I went to the hospital and tried to get a cure, but they had nothing for me."
Mount Otemanu, seen from the Four Seasons
Another first-timer climbs onto the boat behind me and screams, “I'm a merman!"
As amazing as I find the underwater world, I'm not quite ready to trade my feet for fins. So the TOPdive guys drop me off at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, a resort that climbs from a white-sand beach to the top of a hill on the leeward edge of an otherwise uninhabited motu. I hustle up to the top, where I have a glass of Champagne while I watch the setting sun turn the edge of the earth orange. Once the sun is down, I head back down to the resort's flagship restaurant, Iriatai. A light breeze blows across the now black lagoon and through the palms and lightly brushes my face as I enjoy an egg parfait with asparagus foam and Parmesan, and an incredible confit of mahi mahi in lemongrass-coconut sauce. I also knock back a Laga Choco Ananas cocktail, made with chocolate-infused Lagavulin Scotch, pineapple, chocolate bitters, and brown sugar.
Waiting for my water taxi on the hotel dock, I scan the skies. The moonlight glints off the lagoon, and the stars seem to burst from the heavens. After a minute, I find the constellation I'm looking for. As I start singing to myself, “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way," I hear the hum and swish of an approaching boat. But I'm not going anywhere. Not yet.
Tel Aviv: Miami of the Middle East
Tel Aviv is called the “Miami of the Middle East" by many of the Europeans who flock to the Israeli city for beach holidays. The nickname is puzzling to North Americans who are unaware of not only its fine beaches, but also its other similarities to Miami, like the vibrant restaurants and nightclubs packed with young, diverse, progressive locals. While other parts of Israel are known for their ancient holy sites and trouble spots, Tel Aviv is modern and quite safe.
You'll just need your passport when traveling to Tel Aviv. While Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages here, English is also widely spoken. The weather is mild year-round (similar to San Diego). Once you've arrived, a 20-minute shuttle-bus ride will whisk you to your Tel Aviv hotel, and once you're in the city, it's easy to get around in taxis or on foot. Most hotels and restaurants are located within a few blocks of the Mediterranean beaches.
Hit the beach
Your first day can begin with a beach stroll to shake off the jet lag. The seafront promenade lines the Mediterranean for more than three miles, with restaurants and bars overlooking a string of beaches. Some have breakwaters where you can swim in the seawater while others draw surfers. The scene changes from one beach to another, offering plenty of options for visitors.
Seeing the sights
Once you've had your share of relaxing at the beach, you can switch over to exploration mode. Northeast of the beaches, the Museum of the Jewish People, Eretz Israel Museum and Israeli Museum examine themes surrounding Israel and the Jewish people. Elsewhere are museums devoted to Israeli art and Bauhaus architecture (Tel Aviv's White City cluster of Bauhaus buildings is a UNESCO Heritage Site). Or you may be more interested in bargaining at the bustling open-air markets (shuks), including Carmel Market and nearby Nachalat Binyamin Market in central Tel Aviv and Jaffa Flea Market located in the ancient Arab port town on Tel Aviv's southern border.
Where to eat
Nosh across the city
Sightseeing works up an appetite, so now it's time to eat your way through Tel Aviv. Mediterranean and contemporary Israeli restaurants are found all over the city, as are falafel and shawarma cafes. But you can literally taste the city's international flavor in the exotic combinations found in the fusion cuisine at French/Mediterranean and kosher North African spots. A new wave of vegan restaurants and seafood restaurants that capitalize on the city's seaport location are especially popular in Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv after dark
When restaurants start to empty out, nightspots begin to fill up. Wine bars, pubs, sports bars, underground bars and rooftop bars are all popular, but the city's DJ club scene is world famous. Music throbs from dozens of dance spots. Hangar 11, a converted warehouse, and Haoman 17 are legendary concert venues where world-class DJs perform. Then there's Spicehaus, the city's largest cocktail bar, where bartenders dress like pharmacists and serve drinks in beaker bottles.
To Bethlehem and beyond
Israel is best known worldwide as the nexus of world religions — and the country is small enough that you can venture out to see many of the historic places tied to the origins of Christianity, Judaism and Islam on bus-tour day trips. These visit all the sites in and around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, only one hour away, including Jerusalem's Old City, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Nativity Church, Mount Zion and the City of David. Longer trips to northern Israel visit Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee.
United Airlines is the U.S. airline with the most flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, including nonstops from Newark and San Francisco, and will be the only airline to fly there from Washington, D.C., beginning on May 19, 2019. MileagePlus® award miles can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your trip to Tel Aviv.
Holiday magic lands in Cleveland
December 1 was a day filled with holiday cheer for dozens of children who came to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for a magical trip to the "North Pole." We invited children from the Cleveland Clinic, A Kid Again and Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital to participate in our Fantasy Flight, which every year offers families raising kids with life-threatening illnesses an unforgettable trip to the "North Pole."
Once guests arrived to the "North Pole," they entered a magical winter wonderland and enjoyed Christmas carols, festive food and even received gifts from the wish lists they shared with their parents. The day wouldn't be complete without Santa Claus, and of course the children had a chance to meet him and take photos with him and Mrs. Claus.
7 winter wonderlands around the world
Rather than heading to a beach destination this winter to avoid the cold, try something completely different by embracing winter with a trip to a winter wonderland. Whether you want to take part in some winter sports, attend a snow festival or just make a snowman with the kids, here are seven cities perfect for welcoming winter.
Sun Valley, Idaho
A-list celebs and Olympic champions have been flocking to Sun Valley for generations for the big-vertical-drop skiing — and so have snow sports enthusiasts of all ability levels. They also come for the natural beauty of the Sawtooth range and the mountain-town culture of Sun Valley and adjacent Ketchum. Activities from heli-skiing to snowmobiling and sleigh rides offer something for everyone. A Nordic-skiing festival (January 31-February 3) and symphony series (February 19-24) are among numerous upcoming special events.
Quebec City, Canada
Quebec City is a dreamy destination all winter, with abundant winter activities in and around the city, from fat biking to dog sledding. Twenty minutes away at Village Vacances Valcartier is a sprawling winter playground with 35 snow slides and North America's only ice hotel. During Carnaval de Quebec (February 8-17) — among the world's largest and oldest winter festivals — night parades are staged, a colossal ice palace is unveiled and contests range from snow sculpting to ice-canoe racing.
Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps, means “White Mountain" in English as its summit is topped by a year-round dome of ice and snow. The peak is clearly visible from Geneva, a lovely French-speaking city of 200,000 at the southwestern tip of Switzerland, and the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc ski slopes are only an hour away. While in low-elevation Geneva, it's easy to get around to visit the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum or take part in a variety of winter activities.
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Minneapolis and St. Paul boast the fittest residents — and coldest temperatures — of any U.S. metro area. That odd combination is possible because residents of the Twin Cities celebrate rather than dread winter. Mississippi River recreation paths are plowed and lakeside hiking trails become Nordic-skiing trails. And there is no bigger celebration of winter in the U.S. than the St. Paul Winter Carnival (January 24-February 3), which draws about 400,000 people to admire its multistory ice palace, cavort in its snow park and watch its parades.
As one of the most northern major cities in the world Stockholm is the best winter destination for combining outdoor winter activities and the indoor attractions of a cultural capital. Outdoor ice rinks are found in the city center and five ski areas are within an hour's drive; Stockholm is a finalist for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games and hosted the same competition in 1912. Indoor enticements include the Nobel Museum, with a Martin Luther King, Jr. exhibition through September 2019, and the Vasa Maritime Museum, the most visited museum in Scandinavia.
Apart from its ramen restaurants and Sapporo beer (with free tours at the brewery), Sapporo is best known for its winters, which bring 20 feet of annual snowfall. Not only the site of the 1972 Winter Olympic Games, this city on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido is home to one of the world's largest winter festivals. The 70th Sapporo Snow Festival (January 31-February 11) features hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures, offers snow slides and snow rafting, and attracts 2 million annual visitors — the population of the city itself.
Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Depending on which direction they head from Reno-Tahoe International Airport, winter visitors have plenty of options. They can go to North Lake Tahoe for major ski areas like Northstar, with its charming base village, or Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. They can venture to South Lake Tahoe for great skiing at Heavenly (North America's fifth-largest ski area) or Kirkwood (North America's third-highest snowfall). Or for those who are content admiring snow-covered mountains without skiing them, they can stay in Reno for the restaurants, casinos, and nightlife.
If you go
United Airlines flies to all seven of these cities, where MileagePlus® Rewards points can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your winter wonderland getaway.
The day off: Washington D.C.
Story by Ellen Carpenter | Hemispheres, December 2018
Politics, finance, tech, no matter: Deals happen in D.C. at every hour. But if you find yourself on a business trip with a rare free day, consider yourself lucky: The city has never been cooler.
Wake up in your spacious room at the InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf, with floor-to-ceiling views of sailboats gliding down the Washington Channel, and forget for a moment that the craziness of Capitol Hill is just five miles away. Snap a photo of the waterfall chandelier in the lobby before popping next door for a delicious egg and bacon biscuit sandwich at Dolcezza, the first outpost of the D.C. mini-chain to offer a full breakfast menu.
Photo by Mark DeLong
Hop a cab to the National Portrait Gallery, where you can take a selfie with Barack Obama (well, Kehinde Wiley's depiction of the 44th president) before viewing an entire exhibit on the art of the selfie, Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today, which features works by James Amos Porter, Elaine de Kooning, and more. Afterward, muse on the concept of identity under the undulating glass ceiling in the gallery's stunning Kogod Courtyard.
Photo provided by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution/gift of Dorothy Porter Wesley
Take the Metro's Green Line up to U Street for a taste of Little Havana at Colada Shop. The small counter spot dispenses flaky empanadas, decadent Cubanos, and the café's namesake—four shots of espresso commingling with sweet Cuban crema. You know you want one.
Time to hit the National Mall and work off that caffeine injection. Every winter, the fountain at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden becomes an ice rink, where you can take in Alexander Calder's Cheval Rouge and Louise Bourgeois's Spider while practicing your triple lutz.
Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Cab over to the Kennedy Center for the free 6 p.m. show at Millennium Stage, offered every single night as part of the cultural hub's Performing Arts for Everyone initiative. Whether it's modern dance, West African blues, or experimental theater, it'll broaden your horizons.
Photo by Teresa Wood
Give in to your carb cravings at the Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat, a relaxed yet polished restaurant in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Toss back the complimentary shrub (tart!) and then dive into the red fife brioche (topped with chicken liver mousse, blueberry marmalade, and wood sorrel) and goat lasagna with tomato, anchovy, and salsa verde.
Catch a ride to Blagden Alley—a historic area that used to house the stables and workshops behind stately row houses—for a cocktail at Columbia Room, a lounge that has topped every best-of list imaginable. Score a seat in the leather- and mahogany-lined Spirits Library and order a Maryland, made with rye, applejack, and chartreuse. Then get another.
Photo by Karlin Villondo Photography
3 under the radar places to visit in December
With the end of the year approaching, it's time to utilize those unused vacation days. If you're not traveling for the holidays, take an excursion to one of these under-the-radar destinations. Treat your family to fun in the sun in Florida, kick back on an island in Mexico that takes relaxation seriously, or take advantage of the slow season at a popular Arizona national park.
Isla Holbox, Mexico
For a leisurely vacation to relax on uncrowded beaches
Seeking a destination where you can unplug and sink your toes into the sand while surrounded by natural beauty? Isla Holbox is the spot. This laid-back island sits on the northwest tip of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. It boasts spectacular beaches with endless turquoise ocean views.
What to do
Pack your flip-flops and beach reads for a seriously laid-back trip to Isla Holbox. Come here to sit on the beach (or in a hammock) while you kick back and relax as you've never relaxed before. Enjoy spectacular beaches without crowds.
Isla Holbox is small — just 26 miles long and one mile wide, with only 2,000 full-time residents. Bright colors and painted murals throughout the area evoke a bohemian vibe. Instead of cars, most people get around by golf cart or bike. (In fact, its taxi cabs are actually golf carts.) Isla Holbox won't give you the lively nightlife of popular tourist destinations like nearby Cancun, but there are plenty of beachside bars serving cocktails, food vendors and restaurants serving fresh Mexican fare.
Go on a wildlife excursion to spot whale sharks, crocodiles or flamingos. Head to the Yum-Balam Nature Reserve to see other exotic animals.
The closest airport is Cancun (CUN). From Cancun, head to Chiquila, where you can take the ferry to Isla Holbox.
St. Petersburg, Florida
A family-friendly beach destination for fun in the sun
With award-winning beaches offering 35 miles of sand along Tampa Bay, calm waters and plenty of sun, St. Petersburg is quickly gaining momentum as a warm-weather destination for families. Downtown is home to many shops, restaurants, bars and unique attractions, such as an impressive Salvador Dali museum.
What to do
St. Pete beaches are known for their calm, warm and shallow waters. Add 360 days of sunshine per year and an average temperature of 73 degrees, and it's surprising that this sunny beach city still flies under the radar. Keep it laid back by relaxing on the shore, or bump up the action by parasailing, windsurfing or kiteboarding.
After a day of R&R, head downtown to enjoy the lively St. Petersburg culture and nightlife. There are 35 local craft breweries to choose from and many seafood restaurants ranging from casual fare to upscale. The most extensive collection of Salvador Dali's artwork outside of Europe resides in The Dalí Museum. You can even meet a local celebrity at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium — Winter the dolphin starred in the Dolphin Tale movies and is famous for her prosthetic tail.
United offers direct service to Tampa / St. Petersburg (TPA) from many U.S. cities.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
To have one of the most magnificent national parks (almost) to yourself
Though the weather is crisp and the temperature a few degrees chillier, the sun shines all month long at Grand Canyon National Park. Traveling here during the low season means fewer visitors will crowd your panoramic views of one of the world's largest canyons and most magnificent natural wonders.
What to do
From scenic drives to backcountry hiking, visiting in the winter makes for a more tranquil and peaceful adventure. The South Rim remains open all year round. The national park offers many trails to view the Colorado River snaking through snow-dusted temples and buttes. Try to catch at least one sunset or sunrise, and be sure to arrive with enough time to stake out a good vantage point. The visitors center and park website have recommendations for the best spots.
Ride the Grand Canyon Railway and travel back in time. A 64-mile stretch of railroad has been transporting passengers from the South Rim to the small town of Williams, Arizona, since 1901. The historic train has an observation dome car to catch the spectacular scenery and even has Wild West-themed entertainment aboard. Every evening in December, the Grand Canyon Railway transforms into the Polar Express and makes a stop at the North Pole where Santa boards the train to greet everyone.
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is the closest major international airport to the South Rim. United offers service to Phoenix (PHX) from multiple U.S. cities.
Evolving our brand design
The United brand is heading in a new direction as we evolve the colors and patterns we use. Where did these new colors come from, exactly? Check out the video below to learn about the research, logic and thoughtfulness that went into this evolution as we took inspiration from the spaces around us, the environments we work in, our heritage, the United globe and much more.
Three Perfect Days: Riviera Maya
Story by Jordan Heller | Photography by Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock | Hemispheres, December 2018
There is some dispute as to how Playa del Carmen, the metropolitan heart of the Riviera Maya just 40 miles south of Cancún, got its name. Some say it's after Our Lady of Carmel, the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelites. But the more compelling story is the one told by locals.
As legend has it, in the 1970s and '80s, when the area first became a destination, tourists traveling by boat from neighboring Cozumel would disembark in Playa—then known as Xaman-Ha—on their way to the ruins of Tulum. A local Maya woman named Carmen would happily invite these travelers into her modest home for a traditional meal of fresh-caught seafood. She may not have had any experience with immaculate conception, but when it comes to Playa, this Carmen is definitely a matron saint. Today, her spirit can be felt throughout the Riviera Maya, which also includes the village of Tulum, the ruins of Cobá, and a number of small Maya communities on the Caribbean side of the Yucatán Peninsula where, if you're lucky, a woman not unlike Carmen will happily invite you into her home for a meal.
Exploring a Maya temple, befriending a butler and feasting on cochinita pibil
I eat grasshoppers for breakfast. No, this is not my way of saying I know how to handle a subordinate. I'm literally eating toasted grasshoppers sprinkled onto a dish of huevos rancheros with green tomatillo salsa, hoja santa, and goat cheese. I've just woken up at Playa del Carmen's Rosewood Mayakoba, which is perhaps the most luxurious resort I've ever stayed in (and I'm a travel writer). There's a private heated plunge pool outside my back door looking over a secluded lagoon, a spa Forbes rated one of the best in the world, and Tavo, my personal butler, who is at my beck and call through a Rosewood messaging app.
The sikil-p'aak tomato salad at La Ceiba Garden & Kitchen
A bottle of tequila and some toothpaste?
Certainly, Mr. Heller.
Despite all this luxury, I'm eating bugs—albeit with a Bloody Mary at a beachside restaurant overlooking the Caribbean. The toasted grasshoppers are crunchy (like perfectly burnt popcorn), incredibly delicious, and an appropriately indigenous start to a morning in which I'll be exploring the ruins of an ancient civilization.
After traveling inland to the village of Cobá, I trade my rental car for a “Maya taxi." It's the Yucatán version of a rickshaw—a padded bench fashioned atop the front wheel of a bicycle with a beach umbrella protecting me from the rain. My driver, Gustino, is transporting me through a mile of jungle and more than a millennium back in time, to the Late Classic (AD 550–830) Maya ruin of the Nohoch Mul Pyramid. The dirt path bustles with all manner of tourists riding Maya taxis, pedaling rented beach cruisers, or walking, excitedly talking about the sites of this ancient city in English, Spanish, German, Russian, and who knows what else.
As Gustino struggles to pedal through a particularly rough patch of mud, I ask him what nationality of tourist is the hardest to transport.
The Ixmoja pyramid at Cobá
“The Germans," he says. “It's not that they're overweight. They're just a very sturdy people. Americans are preferred: very easygoing and friendly people. Everybody wants an American fare."
When we arrive at Nohoch Mul, the panoply of tourists is suddenly speaking the same language: speechless. At 138 feet tall, the sheer scale of this temple is rivaled only by the gleaming hotels going up on the coast. But out here in the Cobá jungle, after I break the canopy and reach Nohoch Mul's summit, it's nothing but green as far as the eye can see, under which is apparently some 30 square miles of ancient city, most of it still obscured by the jungle. I'm told that just 5 percent of Cobá has been excavated since the project started in the 1970s.
"Today, if you come early in the morning, you find corn and beans here left by the local Maya, who continue to offer sacrifices to the gods."
“And what did they do with this little platform?" I ask Diego Viadero, my knowledgeable Tours by Locals guide, who's been schooling me on all manner of Maya history.
“Ah, yes," he says. “That's where the rulers would offer sacrifices to the gods, in hopes that they could avoid a collapse of the city."
“You mean like in the movie Apocalypto, where they chopped off the heads?" I ask.
“Just like in Apocalypto," says Viadero, doing his best to hold back an eye-roll. “Today, if you come early in the morning, you'll find corn and beans here left by the local Maya, who continue to offer sacrifices to the gods."
“Do you think it's enough?" I ask, making the comparison to the more (ahem) substantial offerings of yore. Let the eye-rolling commence.
The Rosewood Mayakoba's Sense Spa
Next, Viadero takes me to Nojoch Keej, which is Mayan for El Venado Grande, which is Spanish for “The Big Deer." It's a sanctuary for endangered animals run by a Maya man named Manuel Poot Dzib out of his back yard in the village of Nuevo Durango. Poot Dzib started the sanctuary in 2005, after Hurricane Wilma destroyed the habitats of many local animals. He now looks after bees (which produce honey that's said to have healing qualities), white-tail deer, paca, curassow, and ocellated turkeys, which he aims to repopulate in areas that are protected from hunters. From the looks of these turkeys, I think ocellated must be Mayan for peacock. They're vibrant, multicolored, and beautiful to look at.
"Tavo leaves me to my plunge pool, where I enjoy my cocktail to the sound of a rainbow-billed toucan flapping around the lagoon."
Poot Dzib asks us to stay for lunch, which is great, because I'm starving. “We're having cochinita pibil—es muy delicioso," he adds, giving off some of that Carmen spirit.
I breathe a sigh of relief when I learn that cochinita pibil is not Spanish for ocellated turkey. It's achiote-marinated pork that's been cooking with banana leaf in a hole in the ground in Poot Dzib's front yard since 8 this morning.
“They normally only do this for the Day of the Dead or other special occasions," Viadero says as we watch Poot Dzib remove the dirt and corrugated metal covering his subterranean oven.
A home-cooked meal, Maya-style
“We used to cover it with banana leaf instead of metal, but that's a much harder and longer process," says Poot Dzib. “This is more modern."
Modern? I'm not so sure, but I grant Poot Dzib that it's certainly an update. In any event, when put on a handmade tortilla with pickled onions and habanero, this cochinita pibil is definitely mouthwatering.
I say “Taakulak k'iin" (“See ya later" in Mayan) to Poot Dzib and his ocellated turkeys and head back to the Rosewood, where Tavo the butler awaits with that bottle of tequila, plus some fresh lime juice and agave nectar for mixers.
Certainly, Mr. Heller.
Tavo leaves me to my plunge pool, where I enjoy my drink to the sound of a rainbow-billed toucan flapping around the lagoon. Just one cocktail, however, as I'm hopping onto my complimentary beach cruiser (every guest gets one) to take a spin around the property, where geckos, iguanas, and even a tarantula skitter into the mangroves as I come rolling down the jungle path.
Appetite sufficiently worked up, I'm off to the Rosewood's La Ceiba Garden & Kitchen, where executive chef Juan Pablo Loza serves a communal dinner of Maya-inspired dishes with a contemporary touch. Seated at a long wooden table with 17 other guests, I ask the chef what he's learned from the local Maya villages, which he visits often to pick up cooking techniques.
“My top lesson from the Maya is less about food than it is about perspective," he says, before recounting a delicious meal he had with one family. “The woman who cooked for me had referred to her neighbor as poor. I found it an odd comment, because the assumption in a Maya village is that nobody is exactly rich. 'Why do you say your neighbor is poor?' I asked. She said because she has no family and no garden. If you don't have a garden, you can't get food from it, and if you don't have a family you have nobody to share it with. For them, having a family and a connection to nature is what it means to be rich."
“And now you have this beautiful garden," I say, pointing to his planters of lemongrass.
“And a family, too," he replies. “Including a daughter named Maya."
And then we feast. There's grilled octopus with black recado and burnt lime vinaigrette, zarandeado-style lobster, roasted plantains, and a k'úum salad of squash, arugula, orange, oregano, and ocosingo cheese, finished off with fresh fruits in guava honey and lemongrass.
Tavo, I'm stuffed! Turn out the light and have a pot of coffee waiting for me in the morning, please.
Certainly, Mr. Heller.
Scaling ruins, swimming in cenotes, and taking a turn on the karaoke mic
In the small village square outside Tulum National Park, the Voladores de Papantla are performing their ancient fertility ritual, or rain ceremony—named an “intangible cultural heritage" by UNESCO. Five men in traditional bright red pants and flowing white blouses with multicolored adornments sit atop a 90-foot pole. The man in the center taps an adagio beat on a simple drum and blows a gentle bird-like tune on a wooden flute while the other four men tie ropes around their waists. When the musician ups the tempo to allegretto, the other two men fall backward, like scuba divers dropping into water, and slowly descend upside down in a merry-go-round fashion, the spinning top ceding rope like a reel feeding line to a fish. It's absolutely beautiful.
On a path cutting through the mangroves and almond trees on the way to the park entrance, a guide shares a mnemonic device that will be helpful should I run into any venomous coral snakes: “red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, friend of Jack." I assume I'm a Jack.
"The water is high and crisp as we float past stalagmites growing ever so slowly out of the cave floor."
Thankfully, there are no snakes to be seen in the ancient Maya city of Tulum, an open patch of manicured lawns and stone ruins protected by walls to the north, west, and south, and an ocean reef to the east. Or so it was protected until around 1500, when the Spanish came ashore. This beachside community, established circa 1200, was populated by a few hundred of Tulum's elite (and the sea turtles that still come ashore to lay their eggs), with thousands of people living outside the walls. It wasn't until the 20th century, when archaeologists began studying the region's various Maya sites, that we began to understand how advanced their civilization was—especially in the area of astronomy. As I walk the city's white gravel paths, I can imagine a well-heeled society covered in jade and obsidian jewelry enjoying the same ocean breeze and studying the same night sky. One glance at the view, and it's clear the Maya knew something about real estate. This plot right here, with a lighthouse perched on the cliff, would go for a boatload of jade and obsidian.
Maya ruins at Tulum
After fortifying my stomach with a few al pastor tacos (don't forget the guacamole) at Tropi Tacos in Tulum Pueblo, I meet back up with Diego Viadero for a drive out to Sistema Sac Actun (White Cave System), one of the world's largest underground cave systems, a 164-mile maze of freshwater flowing through subterranean limestone. This afternoon, we're exploring just one mile of the system. The rain-conjuring Voladores de Papantla must be in top form lately; the water is high and crisp as we float past stalagmites growing ever so slowly (less than 10 centimeters every 1,000 years) out of the cave floor and reaching up toward stalactites hanging like icicles from the cave ceiling. It's like the setting of a science fiction movie, so otherworldly I try to prolong my stay by floating as slowly as the calcium deposits are forming in front of me.
“Be careful," says Viadero, as I get a little too close to a stalagmite that's been a million years in the making. “You wouldn't want to break it."
“I certainly wouldn't want that on my conscience," I agree.
After emerging from a cenote (a natural sinkhole where groundwater is exposed to the sky), I offer an adiós to Viadero and make my way to Tulum's Route 15—the narrow street that cuts through the jungle, parallel to the shore, and is lined with trendy restaurants, bars, and “eco-chic" (their word, not mine) hotels. Twenty years ago, this strip wasn't much, but now there's not a speck of beachfront that isn't occupied by an Instagram-ready boutique property. (The number of rope swings is astounding.) In recent years, Route 15 has played host to Demi Moore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Gina Rodriguez, Reese Witherspoon, and, after today, me. I'm staying at Sanará, a stylish wellness hotel that attracts young and hip sunworshippers from around the world who like partying and yoga in equal measure.
A shop on Tulum's Route 15
I check into my beachside room (furnished with my very own yoga mat and dream catcher), flop down on the bed, and open up the “Wellness Menu." On offer are a Pudzyah Mayan Healing that “transforms pain to love at the cellular level … It harmonizes your DNA by applying fractal geometry energy"; a Multivibrational Massage and Chakra Balancing; and a Solar Plexus Healer. I opt for the complimentary “Sound Bath" of light yoga and didgeridoo before balancing out my chakras with a burger, a beer, and some fresh ceviche at Clan Destino.
This laid-back spot is all about the ambience: a wooden deck with chandeliers hanging from the jungle canopy and a cenote smack dab in the middle of the club, should you need refreshing after one too many cervezas. The bar offers a free shot of mezcal for those who take a turn on the karaoke mic (“Suspicious Minds" for me, thank you very much); after accepting my applause and draining my shot, I turn the glass over on the bar and take the plunge.
Floating down a canal, swimming in the Caribbean, and eating gelato on the beach
A cabana at Mía
At The Real Coconut, Sanará's beachside restaurant, I dig into a light breakfast of coffee and avocado toast (piled high like Nohoch Mul with a squirt of lime and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes). It's a deliciously healthy start to a morning that's going to include traipsing through the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve and swimming in Laguna Chunyaxché.
At Sian Ka'an—a protected area of tropical forest, marshes, and lagoons about a 40-minute drive from my hotel—I follow my guide, Joaquin Balam of Community Tours, down the narrow boardwalk of Sendero Muyil, which cuts through a forest of zapote and ficus trees. I'm told there are jaguars, pumas, and howler monkeys about, as well as some 330 species of birds.
“Are those the howler monkeys?" I ask of a muted rumbling in the distance.
"We're floating in the current like a couple of astronauts in space, limbs slowly twirling."
“Oh no," says Balam. “When you hear them, you'll know it."
The closest we get to this array of wildlife, however, is some jaguar claw marks on a ficus tree. By the looks of the marks, I'm happy that we're strolling alone.
Baby back ribs at Mía Restaurant & Beach Club
At the end of the path, we reach the sandy shoreline of Laguna Chunyaxché, a bright body of water that reflects both the green wetlands and the blue sky above. We cross the lagoon by boat, to a shoreline of mangroves and seagrass, and step onto a dock at the entrance to a canal.
“Take your life vest off and wear it like this," Balam says, putting his legs through the arm holes of the vest, as if it were a diaper.
“If you say so."
Balam jumps into the canal and I follow, and I immediately understand the Baby Huey getup. We're floating in the current like a couple of astronauts in space, limbs slowly twirling as our seemingly weightless bodies travel down the canal. Cue the opening horns of the score to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Back on Route 15, I stop in at Mía Restaurant & Beach Club for baby back ribs rubbed with chili and tamarind, washed down with a glass of Château Gloria St Julien Bordeaux from the restaurant's wine cave—the biggest collection of fine wines in Tulum. It's as decadent as the beachgoers lazing in the sun not far from my table.
Head still swimming in that lovely Château Gloria, I decide to take the rest of my body for a little dip. The Caribbean is bathwater warm and crystal clear—in other words, perfect. I walk out for what seems like half a mile, and the water still only comes up to my waist.
Gelato at Origami
Refreshed and sun-dried, I'm ready to trade in the historical and ecological sights of the last few days for the fashion runway of Route 15. The women wear bikinis and sarongs, the men wear linen shorts and loafers, and everybody wears designer shades, brimmed hats made of straw, and suntans of golden bronze. Origami, a beautifully designed gelato shop, is the perfect place to have a seat and watch the catwalk. I have a Ferrero Rocher and crunch on the hazelnuts drenched in icy chocolate and cream while the fashion models play street chicken with Vespas and the delivery trucks distributing tanks of fresh water to the five-star eateries
If Route 15 is for the well-heeled, then Calle Centauro Sur is for the flip-flop set. It's a strip in the center of town, about two miles inland from the beach, where the more casual tourists and locals congregate. Call it the Brooklyn to Route 15's Manhattan. At Batey—a hip, open-air bar and music venue decorated with paintings of Miles Davis and the Beatles—I take a sidewalk seat and listen to a Mexican Elvis impersonator singing Simple Minds' “Don't You (Forget About Me)." As I sip on a Don Julio Reposado, a patchouli-scented parade of 5 o'clock shadows and hot pink hair dye ambles by.
“Are you going dancing tonight?" a young man in a tank top, cut-off jean shorts, and tattered Chuck Taylors asks a friend sitting at the table next to me.
The bar at Mur Mur, in Tulum
“I'm dressed and ready to go."
Back on Route 15, the revelers are stepping out as if their outfits are going to be scrutinized by bouncers holding clipboards and manning red velvet ropes. Thankfully, no such velvet ropes exist as I enter Rosa Negra for an indulgent meal of burrata, besugo sashimi with black salt and citrus, soft-shell crab tacos, and Pescadores—a fine craft beer made right here in Riviera Maya.
The food is as comely as the patrons, who are bopping their well-coiffed heads to a drum-and-bass DJ. But before I have a chance to pass judgment on an ambience that may appear a touch too buttoned-up, a live conga player steps in front of the DJ.
A rat-a-tat tat, bop ba-da ba-bop, dup du-duh dup du-dup!
The congas add a touch of that Carmen spirit—their organic vibrations reminding me that despite all the Manolo Blahniks and slinky black dresses, my T-shirt and flip-flops are welcome at the party. I shimmy my shoulders, take a swig of my Pescadores, and nod to the beat as I dig into my tacos.
A rat-a-tat tat, ba dop ba-da ba-dop, dup du-buh dup bu-dup!
For Oscar, United's turnaround is a journey
Our CEO, Oscar Munoz, sat down with Texas Inc. to discuss our turnaround strategy, stating it's a journey. Read the full interview here featured on the Houston Chronicle.
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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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.
"Many years ago at an air show, I saw a T-shirt that said 'Chicks fly,'" said Orlando-based Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor and Chix Fix team coach Laura Spolar. "And I told my husband, 'Chicks can fly, but chicks can also fix!' A lot of people don't know that women are aircraft mechanics."
Laura didn't know it at the time, but that conversation would serve as the inspiration for the team name of our history-making, all-female team of technicians that competed in the
2018 Aerospace Maintenance Competition (AMC). Of 69 teams at this year's AMC, only three were made up entirely of women, and Chix Fix was the only one representing a commercial airline.
"It's so important for us to show young girls and women that this is a career option for them," said Airframe Overhaul and Repair Managing Director Bonnie Turner, the Chix Fix team captain.
Chix Fix is made up of technicians from five stations. As a group, they only practiced together three times before the competition, but they bonded instantly.
"I feel like I've known these women my whole career," said Denver-based Line Technician Janelle Bendt. "It's been a lot of fun getting to know them and learning from them."
"As a team we just communicate really well; we all respect each other," said San Francisco-based Base Technician Katrina Oyer. "The biggest thing I've taken away from this experience is confidence. Working with these ladies is an eye opener. We really can do anything."
Watch the video above to learn more about Chix Fix and their journey to the AMC.