'When opportunity knocks, have your bags packed'
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."
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?"
When and where possible, we are working to repatriate travelers who are stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Our teams are working closely with government officials here in the U.S. as well as in other countries where flying has been restricted to gain the necessary approvals to operate service. In regions where government actions have barred international flying, we have coordinated with the the U.S. State Department and local government officials to re-instate some flights. Additionally, we have been operating several extra flights to countries in Central America and South America as we continue to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world.
We have operated more than 85 repatriation flights from Panama City, Guatemala City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, bringing nearly 12,000 people home. We will continue working with government officials to operate extra flights to Houston from Quito, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and from Lima to Washington Dulles and beginning April 5, we will begin operating multiple charter flights between Delhi and San Francisco. We continue to review more opportunities for flights between the United States and other countries to bring citizens home.
Video provided by the U.S. Embassy Ecuador of Americans returning home on United.
Additionally, our Customer Solutions and Recovery team is working with customers in the following markets to rebook them on flights back to the United States as capacity allows, either on our aircraft or on one of our airline partners' planes:
- Quito, Ecuador
- Managua, Nicaragua
- Roatan, Honduras
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras
- Seoul, South Korea
- Melbourne, Australia
We also recently reinstated several international flights back into our schedule to support customers and essential businesses which depend on these routes. As a result, we will be the only airline to offer service between Newark/New York and London, San Francisco and Sydney, as well as Houston and São Paulo, Brazil.
Throughout these unprecedented times, we remain committed to doing what is right and fair for all of our MileagePlus® members and are pleased to share the steps we are taking to reciprocate the trust and loyalty that you have placed in United. These steps include not only Premier status updates, but also an extension of current memberships and subscriptions. The updates will happen automatically over the next few weeks — there's nothing you need to do.
The big news: If you have current 2020 Premier status, it will be extended to January 31, 2022. At a minimum, you will enjoy the same published status next year that you have today, up to and including Premier 1K®.
For the 2021 status year, United is reducing thresholds for Premier qualification by 50% for each status level, to make reaching an even higher tier easier. You'll still need a minimum of four flight segments on United or United Express®.
Earn Premier qualifying flights
… or meet a higher PQP goal
We're also doubling PQP for United Explorer cards and quadrupling PQP for the United Club cards.
At the same time that we're decreasing the published program's PQP requirements, via a promotion from May 1 – December 31, 2020, we're doubling (for United Explorer cards) or quadrupling (for United Club cards) the maximum number of PQP that Cardmembers can earn from card spending during 2020 to help achieve a higher level of status than you already have. More details to come later.
1K® and Platinum members, we're increasing your ability to upgrade by extending PlusPoints expiration dates by six months and expanding Skip Waitlist.
- This means a six-month extension of any PlusPoints set to expire on or before January 31, 2021.
- Last year we introduced Skip Waitlist on select flights as a benefit to 1K members, giving you more opportunities to confirm an upgrade request at the time of booking. This benefit will now be available for the rest of 2020 in a significantly expanded selection of long-haul international regions and will have expanded availability in 2021 as well.
We're extending all annual membership and subscription benefits by six months.
- We want to make sure your benefits are still there when you're ready to start flying again. That's why we're extending purchased United Club℠ memberships purchased directly from United and purchased subscriptions for Economy Plus®, United Wi-Fi℠ and checked bags by six months. You should see this reflected in your MileagePlus account soon.
All electronic travel certificates now have 24 months to be used.
- If your travel plans have been disrupted, and you have an electronic travel certificate from us for the value of your ticket, you now have two years from the date it was issued to book a new flight, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. This includes all currently valid and all new electronic travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020.
We have removed some redeposit fees for the rest of the year.
- We are currently waiving all award redeposit fees for travel through end of May 2020.
- We are now also waiving all redeposit fees for award ticket cancellations made more than 30 days before departure for the remainder of 2020.
Finally, we'll be making it easier to earn status in 2021 for the 2022 program year. We recognize that getting back to travel will occur at a different pace for different members. Keep an eye out for changes we will make to help you earn status in 2021 for 2022, as we'll share details later this year.
Over the years, you have placed your trust and loyalty in United, and we are honored to do the same for you. We are all in this together.
Status extension to January 31, 2022, applies to all members that met the published criteria of the MileagePlus program in 2019, status match associated with the United/Marriott Bonvoy partnership and status offered as part of a Sales nomination. Status granted from other programs and policies may not apply.
To help with the uncertainty around future travel — be it summer vacations, conferences, events and more — customers now have until April 30 to make changes to, or cancel, any travel they have booked through the end of the year without fees. This is in addition to existing waivers already in place which allow customers to change or cancel plans for travel through May 31.If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a fee. These electronic travel certificates are now valid for 24 months from the date they were issued. This includes all currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020. You might not see this policy change reflected everywhere right away – we appreciate your patience as we work to make that happen.
Eligible travelers on domestic flights and international tickets can request a refund on united.com or may call our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19.
Certain tickets cannot be changed on united.com or the mobile app, including tickets booked through another airline (if the ticket receipt does not begin with 016). Please contact the original ticketing airline for changes.
Follow the steps below to stay up to date, change or cancel your flight.
Change your current flight:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your flight information to retrieve your flight.
- Select "Change flight" and then "Edit" to make the following changes:
- Date of travel or destination
- Add a flight
- Remove a flight
- Select "Continue" and choose a new flight option
- Continue through booking to confirm your new flight
Note: The change fee will display as waived, but any difference in fare may apply.
Cancel your flight and rebook later:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your reservation information to retrieve your flight
- Select "Cancel flight"
- Confirm flight cancellation
- If you have future flight credit, when you return to the reservation, select "Use Future Flight Credit" to shop for new flights and apply the credit towards a new flight.
Canceling or changing an award flight:
When you select "Cancel flight," you will have the option to cancel your award reservation and redeposit the miles or to cancel your award reservation and use those miles for another trip in the future.
*We're currently experiencing heavy traffic to united.com. If you experience an error while trying to change or cancel your flight, please try again later.
Click through the slideshow below for more detailed instructions:
Start on the United homepage:
User can select 'My Trips' on the homepage widget to find and retrieve their reservation.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.