'From One Groundbreaker to Another' - United Hub
women's history month

'From one groundbreaker to another'

By The Hub team, March 29, 2017

In honor of Women's History Month, each week we will profile one of the many strong and inspirational women of United. Follow along throughout the month of March to learn more about their stories.

CLE Customer Service Representative (CSR), Debbie Hovanitz

When Debbie was in seventh grade, her teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Debbie's father worked on the ramp in CLE, and knew she wanted to follow his lead into the industry. So, she took no time to answer -- she wanted to be a ticket agent for an airline.

On May 18, 1978, Debbie's goal was achieved when she, along with two other women, was hired by United as a skycap, becoming one of the first three females in that role. The groundbreaking hire was featured on Cleveland's ABC Channel 5 in a segment focusing on women working in traditionally male roles.

"They heard about United hiring us and, as the first women to be in such roles, it was a great story for them," recalled Debbie. "[Reporter] Wilma Smith came out to the airport and interviewed us on the curb. It was a really neat experience."

However, the job came with some difficulties. The newly hired women didn't receive much support from their male counterparts, nor from male customers.

"We received a lot of resentment, mainly from men," said Debbie. "Men didn't take kindly to women lifting their bags for them."

Despite the cold shoulders, Debbie kept on a path to success, helping United create a skycap uniform for women, and later being named "skycap of the year" for the Southeast Region in 1988. She worked as a skycap for 15 years until, in 1993, due to a reduction in flights out of CLE, skycap employees were furloughed. Thankfully, Debbie was asked to consider a job as a CSR, which she gladly accepted. Her success continued as a CSR and, in 1999, she was recognized as an annual winner for customer satisfaction.

After nearly 39 years at United, Debbie's favorite part of the day is having the opportunity to help people start their day off right. Although she has interacted with hundreds of thousands of customers throughout the years, there's one encounter from early in her career that she'll never forget.

"I remember a customer named Jackie Robinson [the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century]. As I carried his luggage for him, he kept saying to me, 'This is not a job for a woman,'" recalled Debbie. "I didn't realize then that we had something in common. So I look back at that encounter and salute Jackie, from one groundbreaker to another."

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

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.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

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.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

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.

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