Winter Festival in the Ice City of Harbin - United Hub
Employee Travel Blog

Winter festival in the city of Harbin

By The Hub team, January 20, 2017

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By San Francisco based Airport Operations Station Support Senior Coordinator, Maridol Olarte

Winter is often considered cold, gloomy and miserable. I didn't realize the true definition of cold until our recent trip to Harbin, China. Misery, however, was far from what I felt. Harbin is known for its bitterly cold winters. It is called the "Ice City" for its well-known Ice Sculpture Festival during the winter season. A festival that is claimed to be the largest of its kind in the world and the reason why we ventured to Harbin during the cold winter months.

Winter ice sculptures in Harbin, China

Starting our trip from San Francisco we traveled to Beijing and once there we joined a locally organized all-inclusive private tour to the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival with co-workers and our families. Well prepared for subzero temperatures, our suitcases were full of bulky winter outfits. On our first day we started with three layers of winter clothing plus our winter coats, double layers of head covers and thick wool socks. The temperature that day was around 10 degrees. The next day it was negative 8 degrees so we added another layer of clothing, a neck warmer plus a jacket and an extra coat as well. On our third day it was even more cold with temps at negative 17 degrees so we added another thermal and a face mask. As you can imagine, we felt like we were dragging our bodies under this weight. To make matters worse, our cell phones froze and lost power in the cold very often. We had to use hand and foot warmers while holding them, as well as recharge them often. Going indoor to defrost every hour or so was a must. I know you're wondering… Is it worth going to this place with such drastic temperatures? The answer is: absolutely yes.

Colorfully lit ice sculptures at night in Harbin, China

We started our first morning with a visit at the center of Stalin Park where stands the Flood Control Monument, built to commemorate the tremendous feat of the Harbin people in controlling the massive flood of 1957. On our way to the park, you can see giant snow sculptures all over the city, which are made from giant blocks of ice from the frozen Songhua river. Afterward, we continued on to Central Street, which is lined with stores and restaurants. Intrigued by locals eating ice cream on this bitter cold winter day, we decided to try it too and it was delicious. We then proceeded to the Ice Lantern Show in Zhaolin Park. The magical and extraordinary ice lanterns and sculptures have literally made the park an icy wonderland with colorful humongous ice sculptures.

Ice sloping, a cold-weather winter activity in Harbin

Can you imagine swimming in freezing cold water? We watched a winter swimming performance on Songhua River and took part in some activities such as ice sloping and ice tubing. Taking a cable car ride across the river with the sight of the frozen water beneath you is a sight to behold. At the Ice and Snow Festival, there are many awesome ice and snow sculptures created by artists from all around the world. The freezing cold penetrates the bones, especially when you stay outside for longer periods of time, but the sight of the beautiful and impressive sculptures was so enjoyable we forgot about the cold.

An ice sculpture in the city of Harbin, China

This festival spreads across much of the city. You can see massive snow sculptures at Sun Island as well — located on the northern side of Songhua River and in downtown Harbin City. Sun Island is the only floodplain wetland ecology in a city center in China. The island is the pride of the locals and the pursuit of visitors. Each year, Sun Island becomes a paradise for the ice and snow festival sculptures art show. The island also has a zoo for Siberian tigers and provides a bus tour, allowing us to get close to the tigers. It was quite the adventure. Lastly, we visited Polarland, a theme park combining animal shows, polar land sights and interactive activities into one. Polarland is also located on Sun Island. This trip was a travel experience like no other on earth. The subzero temperatures didn't stop us from enjoying all of what the city has to offer. It was truly a trip of a lifetime.

United Airlines Plans to Begin Flights Between Washington, D.C. and Lagos, Nigeria in November

United to operate the first ever nonstop flight between Washington, D.C. and Lagos and offer more flights between D.C. and Africa than any other carrier
By United Newsroom, September 17, 2021

CHICAGO, Sept. 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines announced today that new service between Washington, D.C. and Lagos, Nigeria will begin November 29 (subject to government approval). The airline will operate three weekly flights connecting the U.S. capital to Nigeria's largest city, which is also the top Western African destination for U.S-based travelers. Tickets will be available for sale on and the United app this weekend.

"This new flight to Lagos has been highly anticipated by our customers and offers the first ever nonstop service between Washington, D.C. and Nigeria, as well as convenient, one-stop connections to over 80 destinations throughout the Americas including Houston and Chicago," said Patrick Quayle, United's vice president of international network and alliances. "On behalf of all of United we'd like to offer our sincere thanks to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and U.S. Department of Transportation for supporting our plans to provide this service."

"We are honored to work with our partners at United Airlines to welcome their second nonstop connection from Dulles International to the African continent," said Carl Schultz, acting vice president of airline business development at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. "Lagos joins nearly 50 other nonstop international destinations currently served by the National Capital Region's gateway to the world."

United will operate this route with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner featuring 28 United Polaris® business class lie-flat seats, 21 United Premium Plus® premium economy seats, 36 Economy Plus® seats and 158 standard economy seats. This flight is the only service between the U.S. and Nigeria to offer premium economy product. Flights will depart Washington, D.C. on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and return from Lagos on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

This new flight builds on United's expansion into Africa and solidifies United's leadership position to Africa from the D.C. metro area, with more flights to the continent than any other airline. Just this year, United launched new service between New York/Newark and Johannesburg, South Africa and between Washington, D.C. and Accra, Ghana. And this December and January, United will increase its service to Accra from three weekly flights to daily* as customers travel home for the winter holidays. United is also returning its popular service between New York/Newark and Cape Town, South Africa on December 1.

United's new flights comply with each country's COVID-19 protocols and customers should check destination requirements before traveling.

Making International Travel Easier

United is the only U.S. airline to offer its own one-stop-shop where customers can conveniently get "travel-ready" by finding a location to schedule a COVID-19 test as well as upload and store their test results and vaccination records directly through the airline's website and award-winning mobile app with the Travel-Ready Center. The airline's easy-to-use travel tool available on United's mobile app enables customers to reduce stress and save valuable time at the airport right from the palm of their hand. United also announced a collaboration with Abbott and became the first U.S. carrier to set up an easy way for international travelers to bring a CDC-approved test with them, self-administer while abroad, and return home.

United Next

United is more focused than ever on its commitment to customers and employees. In addition to today's announcement, United has recently:

  • Launched an ambitious plan to transform the United customer experience by adding and upgrading hundreds of aircraft as well as investing in features like larger overhead bins, seatback entertainment in every seat and the industry's fastest available Wi-Fi.
  • Announced a goal to create 25,000 unionized jobs by 2026 that includes careers as pilots, flight attendants, agents, technicians, and dispatchers.
  • Announced that United will train at least 5,000 pilots by 2030 through the United Aviate Academy, with the plan of at least half being women and people of color.
  • Required all U.S. employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Became the first airline to offer customers the ability to check their destination's travel requirements, schedule COVID-19 tests and more on its mobile app and website. 
  • Invested in emerging technologies that are designed to decarbonize air travel, like an agreement to work with urban air mobility company Archer, an investment in aircraft startup Heart Aerospace and a purchase agreement with Boom Supersonic.
  • Committed to going 100% green by 2050 by reducing 100% of our greenhouse gas emissions without relying on traditional carbon offsets, including a recent agreement to  purchase one and a half times the amount of all of the rest of the world's airlines' publicly announced Sustainable Aviation Fuel commitments combined.
  • Eliminated change fees for all economy and premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S.

About United

United's shared purpose is "Connecting People. Uniting the World." In 2019, United and United Express® carriers operated more than 1.7 million flights carrying more than 162 million customers. United has the most comprehensive route network among North American carriers, including U.S. mainland hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  For more about how to join the United team, please visit and more information about the company is at United Airlines Holdings, Inc. is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol "UAL".

*daily flights to Accra this winter are subject to government approval


SOURCE United Airlines

For further information: United Airlines Worldwide Media Relations, +1-872-825-8640,

United, Honeywell Invest in New Clean Tech Venture from Alder Fuels, Powering Biggest Sustainable Fuel Agreement in Aviation History

United agrees to purchase 1.5 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) over 20 years - which is one and a half times the size of the rest of the world's airlines' publicly announced SAF commitments combined
By United Newsroom, September 09, 2021

CHICAGO and DES PLAINES, Ill., Sept. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- United and Honeywell today announced a joint multimillion-dollar investment in Alder Fuels – a cleantech company that is pioneering first-of-its-kind technologies for producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at scale by converting abundant biomass, such as forest and crop waste, into sustainable low-carbon, drop-in replacement crude oil that can be used to produce aviation fuel. When used together across the fuel lifecycle, the Alder technologies, coupled with Honeywell's Ecofining™ process, could have the ability to produce a carbon-negative fuel at spec with today's jet fuel. The goal of the technologies is to produce fuel that is a 100% drop-in replacement for petroleum jet fuel.

United Airlines to Present at the 14th Annual Cowen Global Transportation & Sustainable Mobility Conference

By United Newsroom, September 01, 2021

CHICAGO, Sept. 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- United (NASDAQ:UAL) will present at the 14th Annual Cowen Global Transportation & Sustainable Mobility Conference on Thursday, September 9. The presentation will begin at 10:30 a.m. CT / 11:30 a.m. ET.

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