'When opportunity knocks, have your bags packed' - United Hub

'When opportunity knocks, have your bags packed'

By Matt Adams

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.

One of the more interesting things about pilots is the fact that most of them, from an early age, knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. Captain Glendon (Glen) Fraser is no exception. In fact, he can still pinpoint the exact moment the aviation bug bit him. "I was eight years old in Jamaica, lying in the grass, and I saw this white streak in the sky," he remembers. "I asked my mother what it was, and she told me. She said, 'One day you'll be able to fly on one yourself.' From that day forward I wanted to be a pilot, and I never took my eyes off of that goal."

More than four decades later, Glen is still living that young boy's dream as a 777 Captain and Assistant Chief Pilot at United's Newark base. But it wasn't always so easy. When he was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, there weren't many black pilots in the ranks of commercial airlines. For a young black man with aspirations of flying, finding a role model could be difficult. Glen managed to find his in an unlikely place. "I was in a Burger King in the Bronx (Glen, his mother and his six siblings immigrated to New York when he was young) when I was about 12 or 13, and I saw an African American guy in line. I knew he was a pilot because of the uniform, but I didn't let on; instead, I asked him what he did. He told me that he worked for United Airlines. It was the first time that I saw someone who looked like me who was a pilot. It made me believe that I could become one, too."

777 Captain and Assistant Chief Pilot, Glen Fraser Glen Fraser (left) at a Tuskegee Airmen event

Throughout high school, Glen excelled at baseball while harboring his dream of flying. One day during his senior year those two passions intersected in a most fortunate way. "We had a college recruitment fair in the school gymnasium, and the first booth I went to was the one for Embry-Riddle (the prestigious aeronautics university). The recruiter just happened to be the baseball coach; it was perfect." Glen went on to play ball at Embry-Riddle while taking flight training courses before being drafted by the Houston Astros. When an injury to his throwing arm derailed his baseball career, he turned his attention back to flying. It was during that time that he found another source of inspiration: The Tuskegee Airmen. Admitting that he knew very little about the famed World War II fliers, a book about the airmen titled The Lonely Eagles caught his attention. Not only did their story encourage him to become a pilot, it encouraged him to serve.

"I had always wanted to be in the military to pay a debt to this country, the country that helped me get where I was, but I also wanted to serve because of the Tuskegee Airmen."

After he was hired as a pilot by People Express, Glen was selected for the New York Air National Guard. While in the Guard, he attended a National Tuskegee Airmen convention in Chicago and found himself face-to-face with General Benjamin O. Davis, the legendary leader of the 99th Fighter Squadron at Tuskegee Army Air Base. That encounter led to him serving as president of the Major General Irene Trowell-Harris Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, a position that he occupies to this day. "We go around to schools, libraries, clubs — anywhere that will have us — and we talk about the Tuskegee Airmen and the difference that they have made not only in my life, but in the lives of so many others."

Glen most enjoys telling young people the story of the pioneering pilots. "I show them that you can do whatever you have a passion for, but you have to be determined, persistent and prepared. In our classroom we have a quote that says, 'When opportunity knocks, have your bags packed.' You can advance based on your merits, but you have to be ready and you have to have put in the work." After 31 years in the cockpit, Glen is acutely aware of the impact that he could have on the next generation of aviation, much like that pilot in the Burger King, or the one who flew over his home all those years ago. "Once, I was flying from Newark to Lima, and as we passed over Jamaica, I looked down to see where I used to live, and the thought hit me — what if there was another eight-year-old down there looking up at me?"

United Awards Free Flights for a Year to Winners of "Your Shot to Fly" Sweepstakes

Grand prize winners live in Bradenton, FL; Cleveland, OH; Goodyear, AZ; Oakland, CA and San Francisco, CA
By United Newsroom, July 29, 2021

CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines today announced the five lucky grand prize winners of its "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes, who will each get to fly anywhere in the world United flies with a companion over the course of the next year. The winners of the "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes are:

  • Ashley Cronkhite from Bradenton, FL
  • Robert Simicak from Cleveland, OH
  • Sean Husmoe from Goodyear, AZ
  • Lauren Aldredge from Oakland CA
  • Lauren M. from San Francisco, CA

The sweepstakes was in support of the Biden administration's ongoing national effort to encourage more people to get their COVID-19 vaccination and encouraged United's MileagePlus® loyalty members to upload their vaccine records to United. In less than a month, more than one million MileagePlus members uploaded their vaccine cards to the United app and website for a shot to win one of the grand prizes. In June the airline awarded 30 first prize winners with a pair of roundtrip tickets anywhere United flies.

United First U.S. Airline to Offer Economy Customers Option to Pre-Order Snacks and Beverages

New pre-order option builds on the airline's contactless payment technology and is another example of the customer experience transformation underway at United
By United Newsroom, July 28, 2021

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Starting today on select flights, all United customers – no matter what cabin of service they're flying in – can use the airline's award-winning mobile app and website to pre-order meals, snacks and beverages up to five days before they're scheduled to travel. United is the first and only U.S. airline to offer economy customers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages, a reflection of the customer experience transformation underway at the airline.



United Airlines to Operate More than 40 Weekly Flights as England Re-Opens to U.S. Travelers

In August, United is adding a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. to London
By United Newsroom, July 28, 2021

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- With today's announcement of England reopening to fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. beginning Aug 2, United Airlines is making it easier for business and leisure customers to jet across the pond with the addition of flights to London. In August, United will have six daily flights between the U.S. and London, including a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. and increasing service from Houston to daily. United looks forward to resuming additional London service in the coming months as well as launching new nonstop service between Boston and London. Customers traveling to England must be fully vaccinated in the U.S. with vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and must take a test before departure as well as a PCR test within the first two days of arrival. Passengers vaccinated in the U.S. will also need to complete a passenger locator form prior to traveling to England and provide proof of U.S. residency.

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