Welcome to the Flight Attendant Life - United Hub
day in the life

Welcome to the flight attendant life

By Matt Adams, October 12, 2016

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."

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.

United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving

By The Hub team, July 02, 2020

By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.

United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.

Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.

A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.

United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Celebrating Juneteenth

By United Airlines, June 18, 2020

A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group

Fellow United team members –

Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.

Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.

Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."

Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.

To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.

Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.

Thank you,

UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)

Leadership Team

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