Welcome to the flight attendant life
Standing in the Chicago O'Hare International Airport inflight lounge in mid-September, waiting as the minutes ticked down to her departure, United Airlines flight attendant Kaylee Bruno paced back and forth, nervously checking her phone. Other flight attendants moved about the lounge with their black roller bags in tow, but Kaylee was busy watching the clock.
Before her flight was scheduled to leave for Cleveland, Kaylee took an elevator up to the concourse level, walked to her gate and watched as the aircraft taxied to the passenger loading bridge. Two customers noticed her uniform and began to chat with her, asking questions familiar to many crew members, “What's it like being a flight attendant?" “How long have you worked at United?" The first question was tough for Kaylee to answer at that moment, but the second was easy — it was her first day on the job.
Nearly two months earlier, Kaylee arrived at United's flight attendant training center in Houston for the six-week-long new hire training course. From a young age, she was attracted to the idea of living a life on the move and meeting new people, and she dreamed of becoming a flight attendant. She bided her time in college until her 21st birthday, when she was finally able to apply for a position.
Kaylee was well-prepared, but she quickly realized that training would be challenging and engaging. The course schedule and topics are designed to give participants a realistic look into the world of flight attendants. They experienced the varied hours that crew members keep, with classes scheduled both day and night. The standards are high; procedural and safety violations can mean being sent home. “The instructors are tough on you," she recounted, “but it's only because they want you to look and act the part of a professional flight attendant from day one."
Naturally, since flight attendants are the face of United to our customers, service is an important part of their training regimen. But being a flight attendant is about so much more; they are also first responders in the sky. “We went through CPR training, learned how to put out fires and evacuate aircraft, and were taught what to do in the event of a water landing. Safety is a big part of it," said Kaylee.
She described her time in Houston as intense, but rewarding. “Training is not at all like what most people expect," she said. “There were a lot of tears of joy and relief shed when we finally got those wings." Aside from graduation and earning your wings, arguably no event is as memorable in a flight attendant's life as his or her first working flight.
The day of her first trip, Kaylee arrived at the airport earlier than was required. She was scheduled for a 3-day turn, first to Cleveland, then on to Buffalo and Salt Lake City before returning home (after Salt Lake City, she was rescheduled to a unexpected fourth trip to Washington, D.C.). At the gate, Kaylee met the first of her fellow crew members, flight attendant Aja Clark. “I'm going to stay close by your side," Kaylee joked as they boarded the Boeing 737 together.
The first leg was only 51 minutes long, and turbulence kept the flight attendants in their seats for most of it. Shortly before they began their descent, the captain turned off the fasten seatbelts sign, so the crew began a truncated beverage service. Even with the time crunch, Kaylee handled it like a seasoned pro. She was friendly, patient and accommodating to each customer, an excellent representation of United. Her co-workers gave Kaylee their approval. “I had no idea that it was even her first trip," said fellow flight attendant Lisa Blackstone. Kaylee, too, felt good about her performance, saying, “For some reason, I wasn't really nervous. I was much more nervous on a later leg of the trip, when I had to give the safety demonstration. I had a slight moment of panic before grabbing the microphone."
After arriving in Cleveland, Kaylee and the rest of the crew took photos together to commemorate her milestone trip. Then it was back to work – they had less than half an hour to prepare the aircraft for the return flight to Chicago before continuing on to Buffalo.
A few days later, back at home, Kaylee still felt the high of that first flight. “It was fun," she said. “So far everything has been very enjoyable, and all of the people have been great." She has also adapted well to her new semi-nomadic lifestyle. On her days off, Kaylee lives in her hometown a couple of hours' drive from Chicago. When on-duty, she shares an apartment near the airport with other flight attendants, never knowing where she'll end up until the call comes in for her next trip assignment.
Looking to the future, she's grateful for the opportunities ahead of her at United. “Hopefully I'll get the chance to move around the country," she said. “I'm just ready to take each day as it comes and see where this career can take me."
On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).
A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew we were uniquely positioned to utilize our widebody aircraft and our network to keep commodities moving, so we quickly mobilized various departments throughout the airline to launch a cargo-only network of flights that would keep commodities moving," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "Thanks to those efforts, United Cargo has delivered millions of items to countries all around the world. We would not have been successful without the steadfast support of our employees, industry partners and our customers."
Since last March, United Cargo has transported almost 850 million pounds of freight on cargo-only and passenger flights. The airline will continue to monitor market trends adjust its cargo-only flight schedules to help ensure we are meeting our customer's evolving shipping needs.
Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:
1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more
Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.
Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.
2. Check out the Travel-Ready Center
Our Travel-Ready Center makes it easy to get a personalized overview of everything you need to do in preparation for your flight. Just enter your confirmation number or MileagePlus® number and you'll find detailed information on all the documents, tests and more that you'll need for your trip.
3. Read and sign the Ready-to-Fly checklist
Before completing check-in, all United travelers will need to read our Ready-to-Fly checklist and confirm that they understand and agree to our policies. These include:
Acknowledging that you haven't had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
Agreeing that you will not fly if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 21 days
Confirming that you will follow all policies regarding face masks, social distancing and other health and safety measures we've adopted
4. Arrive early; avoid the stress
Airports can be busy, especially during peak travel periods like spring break season. The TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international travel in anticipation of long security lines. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.
5. Get familiar with CleanPlus
United CleanPlus℠ is our commitment to delivering industry-leading cleanliness as we put health and safety at the forefront of your experience. We've teamed up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures and Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols, like:
Disinfecting high-touch areas on board and in the terminal
Using electrostatic spraying, Ultraviolet C lighting wands and more advanced measures to clean aircraft cabins before boarding
Redesigning our mobile app to allow for touchless check-in and contactless payment, along with enhanced travel assistance features
Implementing high-efficiency (HEPA) filters on our aircraft that completely recirculate cabin air every 2-3 minutes and remove 99.97% of airborne particles, including viruses and bacteria
Studies show COVID-19 exposure risk is minimal when air filtration systems and masks are in use, so you can rest assured that the steps we've taken to keep you safe truly make a difference.
6. Wear your mask
Federal law requires all travelers to wear a face mask in the airport, including customer service counters, airport lounges, gates and baggage claim, and on board during their entire flight. Make sure you review the requirements for face masks, including what an acceptable face mask looks like.
7. Get ready for a safer boarding process
To make boarding even safer, we now have travelers board their aircraft from back to front. At the gate, just listen for your row number to be called – we'll ask a few rows at a time to board, starting with the last row of the plane. This helps everyone maintain a safe distance from each other during boarding without slowing things down. As you step onto the plane, flight attendants will hand each passenger a sanitizing towelette, which you can use to wipe down your seat to ensure it's extra clean.
8. Pack smart
Before packing your bags, check to see what exactly you can carry on and what you should plan to check. You can also copy your confirmation number into our Baggage Calculator tool to learn about the bag allowance included with your reservation, as well as the cost of checking any additional bags.
9. Check your flight status, important notices and weather
Check the United app regularly for the latest updates on weather conditions, flight status, gate numbers and seat assignments. You can also visit our Important Notices page to find essential information and updates about travel waivers, international travel, TSA and security, airports and United Club locations.
10. Relax and enjoy your flight
Once you're on board, it's time to sit back and enjoy your flight. Our flight attendants will be happy to help you with anything else you need.
This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.
"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.
We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
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.