Uniquely American - United Hub
people

Uniquely American

By Matt Adams, February 22, 2017

In honor of Black History Month, each week we will profile an employee who is helping to break barriers. Follow along throughout the month of February for these extraordinary stories of perseverance.

Reflecting on past struggles and triumphs while looking toward a better future is at the very heart of Black History Month. Though the battle for civil rights is far from over, throughout the past few decades the United States has experienced a seismic shift in terms of racial equality. But sometimes it takes an outside perspective to appreciate just how far we have come as a country.

Gervais Tchoutan saw the United States as so many immigrants before him had: as the land of opportunity. Born and raised in the West African nation of Cameroon, he came to Chicago in 2002 to attend graduate school at Northwestern University, where he studied finance before joining United Airlines as an analyst.

Gervais Tchoutan infront of a plane engine

Cameroon is often called "Africa in miniature," owing to its diverse geography of mountains, deserts, jungle and beaches, but the country also boasts a rich cultural fabric influenced by Spanish, Portuguese, German, English and French colonialism intermixed with traditional tribal customs. Today Cameroon is still home to more than two hundred separate tribes, each with their own leadership structures and values.

"I was born in the English part of the country, but my parents are both from the French side," Gervais says. "My parents also come from a tribal royal family - my grandfather was actually a king - so they instilled in me a deep respect for that part of our culture as well."

Before moving to Chicago, Gervais lived and studied in the Ivory Coast, France and Canada, gaining a well-rounded appreciation of the world and its wide array of peoples. But it was the United States that he felt offered the most freedom to do what he wanted to do and to be who he wanted to be. And it was one of the few places where he felt that his dreams wouldn't be curtailed because of the color of his skin.

"My cousin told me that I could find more success in the United States, even more so than in Europe or in Cameroon, because everyone is equal here," he says. "Even though black people in this country originally came over as slaves, they fought hard over the years to integrate themselves into American culture. That's what sold me on coming here; no matter your background, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to."

Though he grew up roughly six thousand miles away, Gervais says that the significance of figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were not lost on him as a young man.

"In Cameroon we knew about those men and women because we struggled under colonization. We looked up to American civil rights leaders as we dealt with our own oppression, but I didn't feel how profound their impact had been until I moved to the United States. For generations, people here have confronted the issues of racial prejudice head-on."

Today, Gervais and his wife (who is also from Cameroon) are U.S. citizens and the proud parents of two children, a 10-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, both born in the United States. Just as his parents did with him, Gervais is trying to instill in his children an awareness of their multicultural background.

"I try to show them that they truly are African Americans. They are American, but they also have a unique heritage. We invite my parents over often to talk to them about Cameroon, and we remind them of the people who came before them in this country, the ones who fought for equality. I tell them that, though it might not always seem fair, they are a representation of an entire culture, and they have to work hard for the benefit of future generations."

Gervais feels a sense of optimism about those future generations thanks to a philosophy that he finds thoroughly American. "In the United States, we are constantly trying to improve; that's the big difference between America and other places - we never stop wanting to get better. United Airlines is a good example of that: we might hit our numbers in terms of diverse employees, but we have taken that next step toward true inclusiveness. I like celebrating Black History Month because it's a celebration of the fact that we are unique in this diverse nation, but it's also a recognition of the fact that we are still working to improve race relations while honoring past successes."

United's regional presidents join respective Governor's COVID-19 task force

By Ryan Wilks, May 21, 2020

As a member in the tourism, travel and transportation industries, United offers a unique perspective into the economic and operational effects rippling across the U.S. To advocate United's efforts, and in anticipation of a bright future, New York/New Jersey President Jill Kaplan and California President Janet Lamkin have both been named to their states' respective governor's COVID-19 response task force committees.

A message from Scott Kirby, United’s new CEO

By The Hub team, May 20, 2020


Hello. I'm Scott Kirby, the new CEO of United Airlines. I'm a proud Air Force Academy graduate and have spent my entire career in and around aviation, including the last four years as President of United.

While I had planned for my first communication with you to be about the meaningful investments we were making to the travel experience and our continued growth across the U.S. and expansion to exciting new destinations around the world, today, the situation rendered to us by the COVID-19 pandemic leads me to a different type of message.

First, I graciously and humbly thank you for your business. Now, more than ever, our customers' loyalty is so deeply appreciated by every member of the United family.

As essential workers, the men and women of our airline have been hard at work over the past two months to transport vital medical supplies and critical goods to places that need them most, to provide free travel to healthcare professionals and to help thousands of individuals repatriate to their home countries.

Safety has always been our top priority, and right now in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it's our singular customer focus. We recognize that COVID-19 has brought cleanliness and hygiene standards to the front of your mind when making travel decisions. We're not leaving a single stone unturned in our pursuit to protect our customers and employees.

We are installing plexiglass in lobby and gate areas, we're using the same equipment used to clean hospitals to disinfect the interiors of our aircraft, all crew and customers on board are required to wear face mask coverings and we're taking the temperature of our employees before they start work.

But at United, we're not stopping there. We're teaming up with experts from Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to set a new standard for cleanliness and healthy flying that we are calling United CleanPlus℠.

Clorox is working closely with us to improve how we disinfect common surfaces and provide our customers with amenities that support a healthy and safe environment.

Physicians and scientists at the Cleveland Clinic, will advise us on new technologies and approaches, assist in training development and create a rigorous quality assurance program. And, as scientists learn more about how to fight COVID-19, Cleveland Clinic experts will help us use those discoveries to quickly implement new ways to keep our customers safe.

While we may not know when this pandemic will subside, what we do know is that travel is so deeply woven into the fabric of our global culture. We all desire to visit family, dance at a friend's wedding, hug parents…and see the wonders of this beautiful world. No matter how sharp the picture quality – or how strong the WiFi signal – there's simply no substitute for being there – in person – to collaborate, celebrate, explore. We are confident that travel will return. And when it does, United Airlines will be ready to serve you again in the friendly skies.

Thank you. Be well. And I look forward to seeing you on board.

Making every step of the travel journey safer for you

By United Airlines, April 22, 2020
United Clean Plus | Clorox

We remain passionate about connecting the world safely

United CleanPlus SM is our commitment to putting health and safety at the forefront of your journey, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness. We're teaming up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures, and over the coming months, we'll roll out Clorox products across our U.S. airports, starting in select locations, to help support a healthy and safe environment throughout your travel experience.

At the airport

  • At check-in:

  • 1
    Implementing temperature checks for employees and flight attendants working at hub airports
  • 2
    Installing sneeze guards at check-in and gate podiums
  • 3
    Encouraging use of the United app for contactless travel assistance and more
  • 4
    Promoting social distancing with floor decals to help customers stand 6 feet apart
  • 5
    Introducing touchless check-in for customers with bags
  • At the gate:

  • 6
    Disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, telephones and computers
  • 7
    Providing hand sanitizer and
    disinfectant wipes
  • 8
    Allowing customers to self-scan boarding passes
  • 9
    Boarding fewer customers at a time and, after pre-boarding, boarding from the back of the plane to the front to promote social distancing

On our aircraft

  • 1
    Providing individual hand sanitizer wipes for customers
  • 2
    Requiring all customers and employees to wear a face covering and providing disposable face coverings for customers who need them
  • 3
    Temporarily removing onboard items like pillows, blankets and inflight magazines
  • 4
    Disinfecting high-touch areas, like tray tables and armrests, before boarding
  • 5
    Reducing contact between flight attendants and customers during snack and beverage service
  • 6
    Ensuring aircraft cleaning standards meet or exceed CDC guidelines
  • 7
    Applying social distancing to seating procedures when possible, including:
    • Limiting middle seat selection
    • Moving customers seated closely together
    • De-planing in groups of five rows at a time to reduce crowding
  • 8
    Using electrostatic spraying to disinfect aircraft, to be completed on all flights by mid-June
  • 9
    Using state-of-the-art, hospital-grade, high-efficiency (HEPA) filters to circulate air and remove up to 99.7% of airborne particles

Cleveland Clinic We're working closely with the experts at Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols for the safety of our employees and customers. Visit Cleveland Clinic's website to learn more about COVID-19.

Scroll to top