United through the Generaciones - United Hub

United through the generaciones

By Matt Adams

Fifty years ago, on December 16, 1966, Trans-Texas Airways — which later, through the Continental merger, became part of United — opened its first station in Monterrey, Mexico, the only U.S.-based airline doing business in Monterrey at that time, marking an important milestone in opening the door to Mexico for United's customers.

Luis Rodriguez was one of the Trans-Texas employees responsible for getting the new station up and running on day one. His career at Trans Texas and Continental spanned 33 years, and his son, Jose Luis Rodriguez, United's Puerto Vallarta station general manager, has picked up where his dad left off. Recently, both men got together to recount the early days of United in Monterrey and their shared passion for the company.

Father and son picturedJose Luis (left) and Luis Rodriguez

"We built that station from the ground up," the elder Rodriguez said, reminiscing about the Monterrey opening, "and at times, it was a rough start. I remember one story in particular — one day an immigration officer asked me to join him for coffee, and he explained to me that we had to have passenger and cargo manifests for each arrival flight; we had no idea. It was a complete learning process."

When it began, the route, which consisted of one daily turn between Houston, McAllen (Texas) and Monterrey, was celebrated for its positive economic impact on the region, connecting South Texas to the important Mexican industrial center. Today, a half-century later, United operates more flights to Mexico than to any other country, and serves more destinations there than any other U.S. carrier. Our Monterrey routes are still critical conduits for customers on both sides of the Rio Grande, providing access to and from Mexico's third-largest city and the home to several U.S. corporations' manufacturing operations.

"The flights have been very good for the city and for Mexico. Monterrey is an industrial community, and a leader in steel and glass production," Luis said. "At one point, back in the beginning of the route, the mayors of San Antonio, Austin and Houston flew with us to visit the city, [to help bring attention to the possibility of further U.S. investment] and the town hosted a big party for them."

Following in his father's footsteps, Jose Luis joined Continental in May 1981. Over the course of the next 35 years, he would have the opportunity to work in several stations around Mexico, including Mexico City, Zihuatanejo and Cancun, among others, prior to Puerto Vallarta. Listening to Jose Luis speak about his father, it's clear to see why he chose the career that he did. "My father has been my mentor all of my life," he said. "He has taught me so many lessons — how important it is to do things right the first time, to listen to your people and to work hard. Every time I need something, I call him and he gives me advice."

Luis and Jose Luis Rodriguez represent the two generations of United in Mexico, and our decades-long commitment to servicing the country and expanding our network there. As we say feliz cumpleaños to our station in Monterrey, we also say gracias to Luis, Jose Luis and each and every one of our employees in Mexico who have, and continue to, keep our operation growing.

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

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