United Airlines


United Airlines
United Airlines
IATA
UA
ICAO
UAL
Callsign
UNITED
Founded April 6, 1926 (1926-04-06)
Boise, Idaho, US
(as Varney Air Lines)[1][2]
Commenced operations April 6, 1926 (1926-04-06)[3]

1927 (as Boeing Air Transport)[4]

AOC # UALA011A[5]
Hubs
Frequent-flyer program MileagePlus[6]
Airport lounge United Club [7]
Alliance Star Alliance[8]
Subsidiaries
Fleet size
Destinations 216
Company slogan "You're going to like where we land!"
Parent company United Continental Holdings, Inc.
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois, US
Key people
Revenue decrease US$16,335 million (FY 2009)[10]
Operating income increase US$–161 million (FY 2009)[10]
Net income increase US$–651 million (FY 2009)[10]
Total assets decrease US$18,684 million (FY 2009)[10]
Total equity decrease US$–2,452 million (FY 2009)[10]
Website united.com

United Air Lines, Inc., (NYSEUAL) is a major airline based in the United States and the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees (which is a facts for entire holding company [UCH])[11] and 356 aircraft.[12] It is a subsidiary of United Continental Holdings, Inc. formerly, UAL Corporation, with corporate headquarters in Chicago. United's largest hub is Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. United also has hubs in Washington Dulles International Airport, Denver International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Narita International Airport near Tokyo.[13] United is a founding member of the Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world, and offers connections to over 1,000 destinations in over 170 countries worldwide.[14] The airline's regional service is United Express.

On May 2, 2010, the boards of directors at Continental Airlines and UAL Corp. approved a stock-swap deal that would combine them into the world's largest airline in revenue passenger miles and second largest in fleet size and destinations after Delta Air Lines. The new airline will take on the United Airlines name, Continental's logo, and be headquartered in Chicago. Once combined, United's largest hub will be in Houston.[15] It will also be the largest carrier serving the New York City area via its hub at Newark Liberty International Airport. As of October 2011, the United hub airports that have completely rebranded are Chicago-O'Hare, San Francisco, and Denver. The Tokyo-Narita hub is currently in the first phase of rebranding. The Washington-Dulles hub began rebranding its United-operated ticket counters and gates on November 9, 2011; Continental-operated ticket counters and gates will be rebranded when both airlines receive a single operating certificate in late first quarter of 2012.[16] The parent company of the new carrier will be called United Continental Holdings, Inc. The new United will be run by Continental's CEO, Jeffery Smisek, along with United Airline's CEO, Glenn Tilton, serving as non-executive Chairman of the board until his retirement two years hence.

On August 27, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice approved the US$3 billion merger.[17] Share holders of both companies approved the deal on September 17, 2010. The transaction was completed on October 1, 2010.[18]

Contents

History

Beginnings

United Airlines traces its claim to be the oldest commercial airline in the United States to the Varney Air Lines air mail service of Walter Varney, who also founded Continental Airlines. It was founded in Boise, Idaho. Varney's chief pilot, Tanner "Lee" Lueders, flew the first Contract Air Mail flight in a Swallow biplane from Varney's headquarters in Boise, Idaho, to the railroad mail hub at Pasco, Washington, on May 17, 1926, and returned the following day with 200 pounds of mail.[19] May 17 is regarded in the United Airlines company history as both its own birthday[20] and the date on which "true" airline service—operating on fixed routes and fixed schedules—began in the United States. Varney Airlines' original 1925 hangar served as a portion of the terminal building for the Boise Airport until 2003, when the structure was replaced.

In 1927, airplane pioneer William Boeing founded his own airline, Boeing Air Transport, and began buying other airmail carriers, including Varney's. Within four years, Boeing's holdings grew to include airlines, airplane and parts manufacturing companies, and several airports. In 1929, Boeing merged his company with Pratt & Whitney to form United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC). In March 1928, Boeing Air Transport, National Air Transport, Varney Airlines and Pacific Air Transport combine as United Air Lines, providing coast-to-coast passenger service and mail service. It took 27 hours to fly the route, one way.

In 1930, as the capacity of airplanes proved sufficient to carry not only mail but also passengers, Boeing Air Transport hired a registered nurse, Ellen Church, to assist passengers. United claims Church as the first airline stewardess.[21] On May 7, 1930, UATC completed the acquisition of National Air Transport Inc, a large carrier based in Chicago.[22] On March 28, 1931, UATC formed the corporation United Air Lines, Inc. to manage its airline subsidiaries.[23]

Following the Air Mail scandal of 1930, the Air Mail Act of 1934 banned the common ownership of manufacturers and airlines. UATC's President Philip G. Johnson was forced to resign and moved to Trans-Canada Airlines, the future Air Canada. UATC was broken into three separate companies. UATC's manufacturing interests east of the Mississippi River became United Aircraft (the future United Technologies), while its manufacturing interests west of the Mississippi became Boeing Airplane Company. The airline interests became United Air Lines. The airline company's new president, hired to make a fresh start as airmail contracts were re-awarded in 1934, was William A. Patterson, who remained as president of United Airlines until 1963.[24]

Expansion into a national carrier

An early United 727 hanging overhead at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

United's early route system, formed by connecting U.S. air mail routes, operated east-to-west along a transcontinental route from New York City via Chicago and Salt Lake City to San Francisco, as well as north-and-south along the West Coast. The early interconnections during this era became the basis of major United hubs in Chicago and San Francisco, followed later by Denver and Washington, D.C. These four cities remain United's principal hubs to this day.

United introduced the Boeing 247 in 1933; for the first time passengers could fly across the US without an overnight stop or changing planes. That summer the fastest flight left Newark at noon (probably EST) and arrived San Francisco at 0655 PST after eight stops; fare was $160 one-way.

On the night of October 11, 1933, a United Boeing 247 exploded in mid-air and crashed near Chesterton, Indiana, killing all seven people aboard. Investigation revealed that the explosion was caused by a nitroglycerin bomb placed in the baggage hold. The United Airlines Chesterton Crash is believed to be the first proven case of air sabotage in commercial aviation history. No suspects or motives were ever discovered.

United Air Lines route map, 1940
A United Airlines Sud Aviation Caravelle seen in 1965.

During World War II, United-trained ground crews modified airplanes for use as bombers, and transported mail, material, and passengers in support of the war effort. Post-war United benefited from both the wartime development of new airplane technologies (like the pressurized cabin which permitted planes to fly above the weather) and a boom in customer demand for air travel. This was also the period in which Pan American Airways established a Tokyo hub and revived its Pacific route system that would later be acquired by United.

On November 1, 1955, United Airlines Flight 629, which was flying from Stapleton Airport in Denver to Portland, Oregon, was bombed, killing everyone on board the Douglas DC-6B aircraft. The bomb was planted by Jack Graham who placed the device in his mother's luggage with the intent of collecting on her life insurance policy. Graham was arrested, tried, and was executed a year after the explosion.[25]

United merged with Capital Airlines on June 1, 1961 and displaced American as the world's second largest airline, after Aeroflot. In 1968 the company reorganized, creating UAL Corporation, with United Airlines as a wholly owned subsidiary.

United Airlines has the distinction of being the only commercial airline to have operated Executive One, the designation given to a civilian flight which the U.S. President is aboard. On December 23, 1973, then President Richard Nixon flew as a passenger aboard a United DC-10 flight from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles. White House staff explained that this was done to conserve fuel by not having to fly the usual Boeing 707 Air Force aircraft.[26] In keeping with the common practice of having two aircraft immediately available at all times during Presidential travel, an Air Force aircraft flew behind in case of an emergency.

Revenue Passenger-Miles[27] (Millions) (Sched Service Only)
United Capital
1951 1835 604
1955 3968 792
1960 5759 1492
1965 12249 (merged 1961)
1970 23768
1975 26226

De-regulation

The third DC-10 delivered to United in 1972

United had begun to seek overseas routes in the 1960s, but the Transpacific Route Case (1969) denied them this expansion. It did not gain an overseas route until 1983, when they began flights to Tokyo from Portland and Seattle. United became a leading proponent of deregulation due to its perception that regulation, as it existed at the time, was a major constraint on United's ability to profitably grow. After years of focused work to bring about deregulation, the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act became law.

In 1985, United agreed to purchase Pan American World Airways' entire Pacific Division, Boeing 747SPs, and L-1011-500s, and flight crew staffs for $750 million. By the end of 1986, United operated flights to 13 Pacific destinations, most of which were purchased from the ailing Pan American World Airways.

Economic turmoil brought about largely by the economic climate of the 70's which lead to "stagflation", labor unrest, and the pressures of the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act greatly hampered the industry and United, which incurred losses at a time when it was also undergoing significant changes at the top of both United Airlines and its parent company UAL Corp. Some changes due largely to the retirement of long term senior management members as well as performance driven changes at the very top in 1969 and again in 1985 following the pilot strike.

In May 1981, one week after rival American Airlines launched AAdvantage, the first modern frequent flyer program, United launched its Mileage Plus.

In 1982, United became the launch carrier for the Boeing 767, taking its first delivery of 767-200s on August 19.

In 1984, United became the first airline to serve all 50 states when it introduced service to Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Fargo, Casper, Jackson, and Charleston.

Strike of 1985

On May 17, 1985, United's pilots went on a 29-day strike claiming the CEO, Richard Ferris, was trying to "break the unions." They used management's proposed "B-scale" pilot pay rates as proof.[28] American Airlines already had a non-merging B-scale for its pilots.[29] Ferris insisted United had to have pilot costs no higher than American's, so he offered United pilots a "word-for-word" contract to match American's, or the same bottom line numbers. The United ALPA-MEC rejected that offer. The only choice left, to achieve parity with American's pilot costs, was to begin a B-scale for United's new-hire pilots.[30]

Ferris wanted that B-scale to merge in the captain's ranks, which was more generous than American's B-scale, that never merged at all. But, the ALPA MEC insisted they merge in the new pilot's sixth-year with the airline. In the final hours before the strike, nearly all issues had been resolved, except for the time length of the B-scale.[31] It appeared that would be resolved too as negotiations continued. ALPA negotiators delivered a new counter-proposal at 12:20 am in an effort to avoid the strike. However, MEC Chairman Roger Hall, who was hosting a national teleconference from the Odeum (a convention center in the Chicago suburbs) with F. Lee Bailey, declared the strike was on at 12:01 am, on May 17, without further consulting the negotiators, some of whom believed they could find agreement on all contract terms, if the negotiations were allowed to continue. Moments before the ALPA announced strike deadline, they began a "countdown of the final 30 seconds from Chicago" (the Odeum teleconference). Doing that made it impossible to extend the strike deadline, so that the final issues could be resolved without a strike.[32][33]

Mr. Ferris changed United's parent company's name from UAL Corporation to Allegis in February 1987 but the name change was short lived.[34][35] Following Ferris' termination by the board, Allegis divested its non-airline properties in 1987 and reverted to the name UAL Corp. in May 1988.[34]

Record-setting flight

In 1988, using a 747SP-21 purchased from Pan American World Airways, United flew a two-stop around-the-world flight to raise money for the Friendship Foundation, to which the plane was 'loaned'. The flight made a very short-lived record for fastest flight around the globe; within a month, a Gulfstream IV business jet had broken Friendship One's record.[36]

Employee Stock Ownership Plan

The decline of Pan American World Airways continued to offer new opportunities for United. In 1991 the company expanded dramatically, purchasing Pan Am's routes to London Heathrow Airport. In direct negotiations with the UK government, United also obtained rights to fly to Heathrow from Chicago. However, the aftermath of the Gulf War and increased competition from low-cost carriers led to losses of USD $332M in 1991 and USD $957M in 1992.[37] In 1992, United purchased now-defunct Pan Am's Latin American and Caribbean routes and Miami gates, but United allowed months to elapse between Pan Am's demise and its launch of service.

In 1994, United's pilots, machinists, bag handlers and non-contract employees agreed to acquire 55% of company stock in exchange for 15% to 25% salary concessions. The flight attendants voted to not participate in the deal, and at the beginning some wore buttons saying "we just work here." The Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) made United the largest employee-owned corporation in the world. United used the opportunity to create a low-cost subsidiary, Shuttle by United, in an attempt to compete with low-cost carriers.

United Airlines Boeing 777–200 taking off at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the "Battleship Grey" livery, used 1993–2004 and commonly seen well into 2011

United made substantial use of its employee-ownership in its marketing communications, with slogans such as "the employee-owners of United invite you to come fly the friendly skies," "we don't just work here," and "thank you for calling United Airlines; please hold and one of our owner-representatives will be with you shortly."

The financial outcomes of the ESOP were decidedly uneven for different players. As part of ESOP agreement, United CEO Stephen Wolf resigned and took a consulting job with Lazard Freres, the very investment company he had hired to advise United's board during the ESOP buyout process. Stewart Oran, the key legal advisor to the pilots' union, received a $5.5 million package to join the management of the new employee-owned company as legal counsel after the ESOP was formed.[38] United's unions, having larger voice in running the company, later successfully bargained for significant pay increases, but the effect was only short-term. The rank and file employees were locked into their stock, which got wiped out in the eventual bankruptcy. It was around this period (in 1993) that United introduced its grey and blue color scheme. It had been criticized that the color scheme blended with the darkness during nighttime operations.[39]

Turn-of-the-century developments

In 1997, United co-founded the Star Alliance with Air Canada, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines and Thai Airways. That same year, United opened a major hub at Los Angeles International Airport.

United planes parked at San Francisco International Airport, one of its main hubs. United is also one of the founding members of Star Alliance.

United was the launch customer of the Boeing 777 and had significant input on its design. It was also the first airline to introduce the twin-jet in commercial service.

In 1998, Delta Air Lines and United introduced a marketing partnership that included a reciprocal redemption agreement between SkyMiles and Mileage Plus programs and shared lounges.[40] This scheme allowed members of either frequent flier program to earn miles on both carriers and utilize both carriers' lounges.[40] Delta and United attempted to form an even cozier codeshare relationship, but this deal was effectively killed by ALPA.[41] The marketing partnership ended in divorce in 2003, but paved the way for a future alliance with US Airways.

In May 2000, United announced plans to acquire competitor US Airways in a complex deal valued at $11.6 billion. The offer drew immediate scorn from consumer groups and employees of both airlines. By the following year, regulatory sentiment was against the deal, and United withdrew the offer just before the Department of Justice barred the merger on antitrust grounds in July. The two airlines subsequently formed an amicable partnership that led to US Airways' entrance into the Star Alliance.

United Airlines Boeing 777–200 landing in the Blue Tulip livery.

May 2000 also saw a bitter contract dispute between United and its pilots' union, again. The pilots wanted their pay restored to the levels that existed prior to deregulation. Planning for the busy summer season, United had counted on its pilots flying overtime. However, the pilots could not be forced to work overtime, and most pilots refused to fly the extra hours. Although United knew they would have to cancel numerous flights if this were to happen, they did not hire new pilots to make up for the potential shortage. Over the summer, United had to cancel a large portion of its schedule at its major hubs. Eventually, CEO Jim Goodwin and the rest of the management had to get the pilots back in the cockpits and quickly offered the pilots a 48% increase over four years with up to 28% upfront.

September 11, 2001

As part of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, two United Airlines planes were hijacked by terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda. One aircraft was N612UA, a Boeing 767–222 (Flight 175) that crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City and the other was N591UA, a Boeing 757–222 (Flight 93) that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Flight 93 was suspected to have been directed towards the United States Capitol building according to the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Bankruptcy and reorganization

Airbus A320-200 landing at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

With a strong presence on the West coast, United benefited from the dot-com boom which boosted traffic (especially premium traffic) to the San Francisco hub. This increase was only temporary and when the bubble finally burst, United was in a worse position than before because it had failed to keep costs under control, possibly due to giving its pilots pay raises of up to 28% in the summer of 2000.[42] Coupled with a battered network, the September 11 attacks and skyrocketing oil prices, the company lost $2.14 billion in 2001 on revenues of $16.14 billion. In the same year United applied for a $1.5 billion loan guarantee from the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board established in the wake of the September 11 attacks. When the IAM union failed to approve the loan guarantee—while all other unions approved it—the application was rejected in late 2002 and the company was forced to seek debtor-in-possession financing from commercial sources to cover the expected future losses. United made several attempts to obtain the government loans, even enlisting several congressmen and senators for help. The government rejected the application claiming United "could probably obtain the $2 billion in financing it needs to emerge from protection without a federal loan guarantee".[43]

Unable to secure additional capital, UAL Corporation filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2002. The ESOP was terminated, although by then its shares had become virtually worthless. Blame for the bankruptcy has fallen on the events of September 11, which triggered financial crisis in all the major North American airlines, coupled with the economic slowdown that was underway.[44]

United continued operations during its bankruptcy, but was forced to cut its costs drastically. Tens of thousands of workers were furloughed, and all city ticket offices in the US closed. The airline canceled several existing and planned routes, and eliminated its entire Latin American gateway and flight crew base at Miami International Airport after March 1, 2004. Furthermore, they reduced their mainline fleet from 557 (before 9/11) to 460 aircraft.

At the same time, the airline continued to invest in new projects. On November 12, 2003, it launched a new low-cost carrier, Ted, to compete with other low-cost airlines. In 2004 it launched its luxury "p.s." (for "premium service") service on re-configured 757s from JFK Airport in New York City to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The service was targeted to business customers and high-end leisure customers in the coast-to-coast market. In February 2004, the airline introduced the new Blue and White livery with the Blue Tulip on the tail to coincide with a new advertising campaign.

Financial pressure on the airline was heavy. The SARS epidemic in 2003 depressed traffic on United's extensive Pacific network. The soaring cost of jet fuel ate away remaining profits United made. United implemented several fare hikes on overseas routes, citing rising fuel costs, in 2004 and 2005. Two days after its triumphant first flight to Vietnam, United announced that it would cut U.S. flight capacity by 14% after the holidays and add more international flights, which were more profitable.

United took advantage of its Chapter 11 status to negotiate hard-to-cut costs with employees, suppliers, and contractors, including cancellation of feeder contracts with United Express carriers Atlantic Coast Airlines (which became Independence Air) and Air Wisconsin (which became a US Airways Express carrier).

Most controversial of all, however, was the 2005 cancellation of its pension plan, the largest such default in U.S. corporate history. It renegotiated its contracts with the pilots' and mechanics' unions and the Association of Flight Attendants for lower pay. Criticism was also leveled at the CEO, Glenn Tilton, for demanding pay cuts from employees while receiving the highest salary of any major U.S. airline CEO.[45]

Originally slated to exit bankruptcy protection after 2½ years in the third quarter of 2005, United requested yet another extension in light of record-high fuel prices. On August 26, 2005, the bankruptcy court extended the airline's exclusive right to file a reorganization plan to November 1, although it also stated firmly this extension would be the last. United announced at the same time it had raised $3 billion in exit financing and filed its Plan of Reorganization, as announced, on September 7, 2005.

The bankruptcy court approved the restructuring plan on January 20, 2006, clearing the way for United to exit bankruptcy on February 1, 2006, and finally return to normal operations.

Beyond Chapter 11

On December 9, 2004, the airline made history when UA869 (747–400) landed at Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam. The scheduled flight from San Francisco via Hong Kong (SFOHKGSGN) was the first by a U.S. airline since the end of the Vietnam War, when Pan Am halted service shortly before the fall of Saigon in 1975.[46]

United's management called for consolidation in the industry and looked for a suitor in 2006. The Wall Street Journal revealed in late 2006, that Continental Airlines was in merger discussions with United. A deal was not "certain or imminent," with the talks being in a preliminary state.[47][48] In the interim, it increased its ties with British carrier BMI and Aloha Airlines. In April 2007, United and British carrier BMI announced that they would 'effectively merge their trans-Atlantic operations'.[49][50] The merged operations would have begun in March 2008, however Lufthansa’s takeover of BMI preempted the two carrier’s plans when BMI’s transatlantic flights were terminated. United’s May 2007 acquisition of an equity stake in its longtime partner Aloha Airlines was short-lived as Aloha ceased operations in March 2008.[51] On June 14, 2007, CFO Jake Brace said his company is still looking to tie the knot with a suitable merger partner.[52]

In the years following United’s exit from bankruptcy, two large financial firms, Bank of America and Fidelity Investments, accumulated shares to become the second largest owner with an 11 percent stake in the company.[53] As mentioned earlier, the industry environment was ripe with pressures to merge and consolidate. Pardus Capital Management LP, a hedge fund that owned 7 million shares of Delta and 5.6 million shares of United, called for the two carriers to merge. This action sent shares of both airlines up but this was short-lived and became moot because Delta wedded Northwest.[54][55][56]

The surge in jet fuel prices caused disruption to United’s impending start of non-stop long-haul services. Though the FAA had already awarded the SFO to Guangzhou, China to United, they postposted the launch citing high fuel prices. Other long-haul city pairs, such as its 2009 application to fly between Los Angeles and Shanghai, were denied by the FAA.

During this time of turmoil brought on by external forces, United explored options to reestablish its financial footing and raise capital. These changes included:[57]

  • Divesting of the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul operations at SFO.
  • Spinning off the cargo division.
  • Spinning off the Mileage Plus frequent flier program.

These spin-offs and divestitures have not come to fruition.

On February 19, 2008, Westin Hotels & Resorts announced a refreshed partnership with United where Westin will provide products from their Heavenly Bed line on p.s. routes.

In May 2008, the American Customer Satisfaction Index scored United Airlines second-last among US-based airlines in customer satisfaction with a 21% decrease since the study began in 1994 and a 11% decrease over the previous year.[58]

On June 12, 2008, United announced it would charge $15 for the first checked bag, becoming the second United States airline to do so, the first being American Airlines.[59] The charges, while not affecting every United flight, were created in an effort to offset high fuel prices.

On June 28, 2008, United announced the cessation of several international routes including San Francisco–Nagoya and Chicago – Mexico City.[60][61][62]

On September 8, 2008, the price of UAL shares fell by nearly 99% in fifteen minutes to $0.01 US amid rumors of another bankruptcy, before NASDAQ temporarily halted trading. The rumors were traced to an old story on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel website about the 2002 bankruptcy being picked up by Google News and subsequently presented by Bloomberg LP as breaking story. The share price subsequently recovered most of its value.[63] On February 1, 2006, United emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under which it had operated since December 9, 2002, the largest and longest airline bankruptcy case in the history of the industry.[64]

On April 27, 2008, it was reported that UAL Corporation and US Airways Group, Inc. were in the advanced stages of merger negotiations as well. Sources stated that a merger was expected to be announced within two weeks of the report.[65] United pilots vociferously rejected the proposal and vowed to fight it.[66] Star Alliance co-founder Lufthansa CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber threw his support behind a marriage of partner carriers United and US Airways.[67]

On June 4, 2008, United announced it would close its Ted unit.[68] and reconfigure them for a return to mainline configuration to compensate the removal of United's Boeing 737s that were to be retired. That retirement plan included Boeing 737s and Boeing 747s, reducing the mainline fleet from 460 to 359 aircraft and furthering the airline's goal of cutting domestic capacity by 15 percent. On January 6, 2009, Ted ended operations converting its entire fleet into United mainline fleet. All Ted flights were changed into United mainline flights.

In January 2009, United announced a code-sharing agreement with Aer Lingus for flights between Washington Dulles International Airport and Madrid, Spain. Aer Lingus will operate the service, which is permitted under recent open skies agreements between the US and EU.[69]

In 2009, United Airlines entered into an extensive partnership with Continental Airlines. This partnership includes codeshare and frequent flyer agreements. As a part of the agreement, Continental left the Delta-led SkyTeam alliance to join United's Star Alliance. Elite members of each airline's frequent flyer program receive benefits on both airlines.

As of May 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation rated UAL eleventh among 19 US carriers in lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered baggage with 3.67 complaints per 1,000 passengers.[70] In July 2009, a viral music video, "United Breaks Guitars"[71] was released about a disputed damaged baggage claim with the airline. United said it would like to use the video as a staff training tool to help the company improve its internal "corporate culture" relating to its customer relations in that area of its services.[72]

On October 28, 2009, United flew its final Boeing 737 flight, as United Flight 737. The retirement flight flew from Washington-Dulles to San Francisco via Chicago-O'Hare, Denver, and Los Angeles, United's main hubs. United's 737 retirement was particularly significant, as it was the U.S. launch customer of the 737 family in 1967, and operated variants of the type for 42 years. (With the merger complete, United now again flies 737s.)

2009 recession, fuel efficiency issues and new jet orders

A United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER taking off from London Heathrow Airport, England. (2007)

In June 2009, United asked manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to submit proposals to sell the airline up to 150 jets in a winner-take-all competition. United is taking advantage of declining sales at both plane makers to reap steep price reductions; the large size of this prospective order will also influence pricing.[73] The Wall Street Journal cited the average ages of four types of jets in United's fleet as follows:

  • Boeing 747 – 13 years
  • Boeing 777 – 10 years
  • Boeing 767 – 14 years
  • Boeing 757 – 17 years

Merger with Continental

United Airlines Boeing 777 taking off from Los Angeles International Airport on December 25, 2010. The post-merger United brand combines the United name with the 1991 Continental branding and livery.

On April 16, 2010, United resumed merger talks with Continental Airlines. The board of directors of both Continental and UAL Corporation's United Airlines reached an agreement to combine operations to create the world's largest airline on May 2, 2010. The combined carrier will take the United Airlines name but will use Continental's logo and livery. The carrier will be based in Chicago and Continental CEO Jeff Smisek will be CEO of the combined airline.[74] The merger is contingent upon shareholder and regulatory approval.

The Continental-United merger was approved by the European Union.[75]

Continental and United Airlines revealed a new logo, based on Continental's logo, that will be used for the post-merger United.[76] On August 27, 2010, the US Justice Department approved the Continental-United Merger. This is partially because United and Continental agreed to lease 18 take-off and 18 landing slots at Newark Liberty International Airport to Southwest Airlines.[77] On September 17, 2010, United shareholders approve the merger deal with Continental Airlines.[18] Both carriers plans to begin merging operations in 2011 to form the world's biggest carrier and is expected to receive a single operating certificate by 2012.[78] Continental's single operating certificate (SOC) (using the "United" name) will be retained, whereas, those of United and Air Mike will be surrendered.[79] On the other hand, United's maintenance certificate will survive and Continental's will be abandoned.

On October 1, 2010, UAL Corporation (the parent company of United Airlines) completed its acquisition of Continental Airlines and changed its name to United Continental Holdings, Inc. Although the two airlines remain separate until the operational integration is completed (by mid-2012), as of mid-2011 both airlines are corporately controlled by the same leadership.[citation needed] United and Continental announced that United Mileage Plus would be the remaining frequent flyer program of the two airlines, and renamed the frequent flier program to MileagePlus.

Company affairs and identity

Headquarters

United Continental Holdings World Headquarters, 77 West Wacker Drive in the Chicago Loop

United Airlines has its corporate headquarters in 77 West Wacker in the Chicago Loop, Chicago, United States.

In 2006 United Airlines announced that it would be moving its headquarters and its 350 top executives from 1200 East Algonquin Road in suburban Elk Grove Township to 77 West Wacker Drive.[80][81] Before making its choice, United was considering moving its headquarters to Denver, Colorado, or San Francisco.[82] In the Chicago Loop United had considered 115 South LaSalle Street, 190 South LaSalle, and 200 West Madison Street.[80] Douglas F. Beaver of the Los Angeles Times described the United Airlines operational center in Elk Grove Township as "sprawling for acres over the northwest Chicago suburbs."[83]

The top 350 executives were moved in the first half of 2007 to 77 West Wacker. The Elk Grove Village campus was renamed an Operations Center, and United Airlines consolidated several of its offices in the suburbs of Chicago into the Elk Grove Village campus.[84] After the City of Chicago submitted a $35 million incentive, including $10 million in grants for United to move its remaining employees to Chicago, United proceeded to schedule a move of about 2,500 employees out of the former Elk Grove Township headquarters into the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) in Chicago in fall 2010. Monica Davey of The New York Times said that the move may have contributed to United's decision to base the new merged airline out of Chicago instead of Houston.[85] The move was begun in October with 280 employees and one thousand are expected by the end of 2010.

Other facilities

United owns a crew training center in Denver, Colorado with 36 flight simulators and 90 computer-based training stations. Its primary maintenance base is at San Francisco International Airport and has nine hangar bays and 2.9 million square feet of floor space. United also owns a hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii which is used by its flight crews.[86]

Fuel burn reduction strategy

Despite a pursuit to cut fuel burn and reduce carbon output, United was one of the last US based carriers to pursue blended winglet additions to their 757 aircraft certified for the fuel saving installation and has been slow to implement similar improvements on 767 aircraft. This while Continental has made every certified retrofit to its fleet to boost efficiency and has commenced biofuel flight testing. On December 9, 2009, United officially announced orders for 25 Boeing 787–8 aircraft and 25 Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft[87] The orders are worth $4 billion and $6 billion, respectively, at list prices. United's purpose is to reduce fuel burn on typical flights by up to one-third, saving 175 million gallons of fuel per year, and to simplify maintenance by reducing the number of classes of aircraft used on United's network. The 787 will replace the 767; the larger variant of the A350 will replace the 747. Ultimately, United intends to fly only three types of widebody aircraft: The 777, 787, and the A350. Narrow body replacement bids for the 737-300/-500 fleet are expected to begin in 2010, with Embraer of Brazil and Bombardier of Canada participating along with Boeing and Airbus.[88] On November 7, 2011 United Airlines flew the world's first commercial aviation flight on a microbially-derived biofuel using Solajet™, Solazyme's algae-derived renewable jet fuel. The Eco-skies Boeing 737-800 plane was fueled with 40 percent Solajet and 60 percent petroleum-derived jet fuel. The commercial Eco-skies flight 1403 departed from Houston's IAH airport at 10:30AM and landed at Chicago's ORD airport at 1:03PM.[89]

Labor

Scope clause

United and Continental pilots have differing “scope clauses” that enforce different capacity constraints on regional jet service. Relatively speaking, United has a more relaxed scope clause that allows regional carriers to operate jets with up to 70 seats, whereas, Continental has a more restrictive clause of 50 seats. This remains an obstacle for a single pilot contract.[90]

Brand

A United Boeing 747SP was converted into the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy in 1997
The old United Airlines logo used before the merger with Continental. The tulip was first introduced in 1973.

United adopted a red, white and blue shield logo in 1936, but its use varied widely and was eventually abandoned altogether in the early 1970s. In 1973, the airline commissioned designer Saul Bass to develop a new logo. The "tulip" logo of colored stripes representing overlapping letter "U"s remained in use until the Continental merger with only slight modification. United's grey livery featured the words "Worldwide Service" near the front of the aircraft.

On May 3, 2010, it was announced that United and Continental Airlines would merge. The combined airline will take the United name but use Continental's "globe" identity and livery. There has been some negative reaction to the new livery, and some people have started campaigns on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to keep the Tulip logo. The "United" typeface was updated in August 2010, resembling more like the most recent United typeface. The merger was approved in September 2010, and the two companies merged on October 1, 2010. Currently, over 100 planes have been painted in the "new" livery.

The early slogan "The Main Line Airway," emphasizing its signature New York-Chicago-San Francisco route, was replaced in 1965 with "Fly the Friendly Skies." The "friendly skies" tagline was used until 1996. The current slogan and ad campaign since 2004, is "It's time to fly." Other United Slogans include:

  • "The Great White Way to New York" (1971–1972)
  • "The Friendly Skies of your land" (also known as "Mother Country", 1972–1976)
  • "You're the boss" (1976–1977), "United we fly" (1977–1978)
  • "That's what friendly skies are all about" (1980)
  • "You're not just flying, you're flying the Friendly Skies" (mid 1980s)
  • "From the ground up, rededicated to giving you the service you deserve. Come fly the friendly skies" (Late 1980s)
  • "Come fly the airline that's uniting the world. Come fly the Friendly Skies" (late 1980s)
  • "Come fly our Friendly Skies" (The early ESOP years)
  • "United. Rising." during the late 1990s
  • "Come fly Chicago's hometown airline. Come fly the friendly skies."
  • "Feel United ... Be United ... Worlds United ... Stay United ... United"[91] (the late 1990s)
  • "It's important for the human race to stay United"
  • "Life is a journey – travel it well; United"
  • "We Are United" following the September 11 incident
  • "Relax, Stretch Out" with the rollout of EconomyPlus
  • "It's time to fly" for the animated commercials (voiced over by Robert Redford), banners, and magazine advertisements of the campaign first unveiled during Super Bowl XXXVIII. (2004 – 2011). The campaign was reintroduced in August 2008 when United premiered five new TV commercials during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

United's theme song is George Gershwin's 1924 "Rhapsody in Blue", which it licensed from Gershwin's estate for $500,000 in 1976.[92] "Rhapsody" would have entered the public domain in 2000, but the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 extended its copyright another 20 years.

United is a sponsor of all five of Chicago's major professional sports teams, as well as the US Olympic team—the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox. The Blackhawks and Bulls play their games in the United Center, which the airline holds the naming rights to until 2014. The Cubs use a United 757 as their charter jet for transport between games, and the White Sox, similarly, use an Airbus A320 as their charter operating under flight number UAL9904. Similarly, United is also the charter carrier for the US Olympic team. In addition, the luxury seating area directly behind home plate at the White Sox U.S. Cellular Field are the "United Scout Seats."

Destinations

United Airlines mainline flies to 73 domestic destinations and 41 international destinations in 25 countries across Asia, Americas, Europe, Oceania, and Africa not including cities only served by United Express.

United Airlines, along with Air France, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Emirates Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and South African Airways, is one of the few airlines that fly to all six inhabited continents.

Route network

United's old logo as seen at United hub Denver International Airport
United Airlines B747-400 at Beijing

United operates an extensive domestic route network concentrated in the Midwest and western United States. United is also prominent in transcontinental, transatlantic, and transpacific service. It is the leading US carrier to Hawaii and largest to Asia and Australia, flying 26.15 billion transpacific revenue passenger miles in 2006 on 306 weekly departures. United also is the leading carrier in transpacific flights.[93]

In 1988, the bilateral (though not reciprocal) treaty with Japan was amended to allow additional routes between the two countries. United's application to fly from Chicago to Tokyo, a significant gap in its routes previously, was approved.[94]

United is focusing on its international presence, notably in the People's Republic of China, with nonstop flights to Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the former British territory of Hong Kong from its hubs in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. In September 2007 United was granted a route from San Francisco to Guangzhou.[95] These routes offer a higher proportion of premium fare passengers while being relatively insulated from the cut-throat competition in the domestic market, especially from low-cost carriers. United competes vigorously with discount carriers on about 70 percent of its domestic market. United has also focused more on Latin America, a region from which it had largely retreated in the last decade, and added new destinations and frequencies to Mexico and the Caribbean. The airline was granted service from Los Angeles to Shanghai that began on May 20, 2011.[96]

United began service to Bahrain on April 18, 2010.[97] United also began service to Accra, Ghana on June 20, 2010 (which was the carrier's first African destination), making it the second-US carrier to fly to all six inhabited continents after Delta Air Lines, which has had that distinction since July 2009. United also began service to Lagos, Nigeria, via Accra on December 12, 2010, making it the carrier's second African destination. Services to Bahrain, Accra, and Lagos are served from the airline's Washington-Dulles hub.

Codeshare agreements

In addition to its Star Alliance and United Express partnerships, United codeshares and/or marketing agreements with the following airlines as of January 2010:

Hub information

Current hubs, focus cities and maintenance bases

Future hubs

Former hubs, maintenance bases, and focus cities

United's route network has been trimmed and streamlined to a few central hubs, resulting in the closure of these former hubs or de-listing as focus cities:

  • Miami (Latin gateway) – purchased from Pan Am, dismantled in 2004 due to retrenchment and competition with American Airlines[98][verification needed]
  • Cleveland (Hub) – former United east coast hub to re-emerge as a hub inherited from Continental.[99]
  • Seattle (Focus city) – some destinations downgauged to United Express, due to consolidation to SFO and LAX[100]
  • Oakland (Maintenance base) – Oakland Maintenance Center (OMC)
  • Indianapolis (Maintenance base) – Indianapolis Maintenance Center (IMC)

Fleet

Current

United Airlines operates 356 aircraft with an average fleet age of 13.5 years (at January 11, 2010).[101][102] United also contracts (but does not own or operate) 292 regional jet aircraft, including 38 Embraer EMB 170s, and 100 Bombardier CRJ700s, bringing the total number of aircraft for in operation for United parent UAL Corporation to 652 aircraft.[103]

The Boeing customer code for United Airlines is 22, yielding a model number such as 747–422.[104]

United announced plans to provide Wi-Fi internet service from Panasonic on mainline aircraft beginning in 2012 and plans to have all mainline aircraft equipped with WiFi by 2015.[105]

United Airlines fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Options Passengers Notes
F C Y+ Y Total
Airbus A319-100 55 8 40 72 120
Airbus A320-200 97 12 36 90 138
42 144
Airbus A350-900 25 50 TBA
Boeing 747–400 24 12 52 70 240 374 747s to receive wireless streaming video
Boeing 757–200 13[106] 12 26 72 110 All to receive winglets
80 24 50 108 182
44 118 186
Boeing 767-300ER 35 6 26 71 80 183 13 domestic/Hawaii 767s to be retrofitted with lie flat seats
All to receive winglets
34 64 146 244
Boeing 777–200 19 36 89 223 348
12 49 77 114 252
8 40 107 269
Boeing 777-200ER 33 10 45 84 114 253
12 49 77 252
8 40 107 269
Boeing 787–8 25 50 36 63 120 219[107] Entry into service: 2011–2019[108][109][110][111][112]
Total 356 50 100

Retired

United Airlines Retired Fleet[113]
Aircraft Year retired Replacement Notes
Boeing 80A 1934 Launch customer
Boeing 40A 1937 Launch customer[114]
Boeing 247 1942 Launch customer, all 59 of the base model were built for United[115]
Ford Tri-Motor
Laird Swallow J-5 Single seat biplane used to carry US Air Mail (CAM 5) by predecessor Varney Air Lines.
Douglas DC-3
Boeing 377 1954
Douglas DC-7 1964
Convair 340 1968
Vickers Viscount 1969
Douglas DC-6 1970
Sud Aviation Caravelle 1970 Boeing 737–200
Lockheed L-1011 TriStar[116] 1989 McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Bought from Pan Am; Sold to Delta
Boeing 720 1976 Boeing 727 Launch Customer
Douglas DC-8 1992 Boeing 757–200 Launch customer,[117] Largest DC-8 operator in the world
Boeing 727–100 1993 Boeing 737–500 Launch customer
Boeing 747SP 1995 Boeing 747-400 Bought from Pan Am
Boeing 747–100 1999 Boeing 777-200/200ER
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 2001 Boeing 777-200/200ER Launch Customer (Along with American Airlines)
Boeing 747–200 2000 Boeing 747-400
Boeing 727–200 2001 Airbus A320 family Launch customer
Boeing 737–200 2001 Airbus A320 family Launch customer
Boeing 767–200 2005 Boeing 767-300ER Launch customer
Boeing 737–300 2009 May be replaced with Bombardier C-Series or Embraer Jets[118][119]
Boeing 737–500 2009 May be replaced with Bombardier C-series or Embraer Jets, some sold to S7 Siberia Airlines

United was the launch customer for a number of aircraft types, including the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and several Boeing aircraft: the Boeing 727, the Boeing 737–200, the Boeing 767 and the Boeing 777. Although not a launch customer, jet aircraft operated by United has included the Lockheed L-1011 (received in the Pan Am Pacific Route purchase, later traded with Delta Air Lines for the DC-10 aircraft Delta received in their merger with Western Airlines), Douglas (later McDonnell Douglas) DC-8, and Sud (later Aerospatiale) Caravelle. In 1965, United placed an order for six BAC/Sud (now BAe and Aerospatiale) Concordes but the order was later canceled.

United has stated it would rather wait until the next generation of narrow-body aircraft arrive as they will be able to replace their A319-100, A320-200, and 757–200 fleets at the same time. To cut down on money going out of the franchise, United had retired its entire Boeing 737 fleet. On June 3, 2009, United announced they have submitted proposals to both Boeing and Airbus for an order for up to 150 new aircraft. The order is expected to include new widebody aircraft to supplement the current Boeing 777-200/200ER aircraft and new narrow-bodies to supplement United's 96 strong 757–200 fleet.[120]

In December 2009, United announced it would to split a 50-aircraft order between upcoming Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.[121]

On April 2, 2008, United Airlines temporarily withdrew its entire fleet of 19 Boeing 777–200 and 33 Boeing 777-200ER aircraft until functional testing of the fire suppression system could be completed. The move was the latest in a series of temporary groundings by U.S. airlines in late March 2008 following a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review of compliance with airworthiness directives.[122] United has expressed interest in becoming the sole GoldCare maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider for the Boeing 787.[123][124]

United Airlines will take the Continental Airlines globe, and color scheme for all aircraft. The "Continental" title will be replaced with "UNITED" printed across each aircraft.[citation needed]

Cabin

First Class Suite Seats on a United Airlines Boeing 747-400 in 2005.

United offers in-flight entertainment on all mainline aircraft, the only mainline legacy carrier to do so. Audio programming is provided by Zune.[125] The entire fleet features "From the Flightdeck" on channel 9. This program allows passengers to listen to live radio communications between the cockpit and Air Traffic Control. "From the Flightdeck" can be disabled at the pilot's discretion. United also has partnerships with various television networks who provide programming for video-equipped aircraft. The most prominent of these programming partners was NBC, which provided branded "NBC on United" programming. This long-standing partnership ended in early 2009, when NBC signed a two-year deal with American Airlines.[126] Despite the loss of this partnership, United's television entertainment continues to include several prime time NBC programs.

Travel classes

First class

"United First" is offered on all flights.[citation needed] United First passengers check in at separate counters and can use priority security screening where available. On board, passengers receive a pre-flight beverage service, table linens (on mainline flights) and (on international flight segments only) a five course meal. Passengers are also given priority when boarding, priority baggage handling and access to the International First Class Lounge (on international and p.s. flights only). United announced that it will keep its First Class seating after the merger with Continental.[127]

  • (Old) United First Suites are offered on most internationally configured Boeing 777-200/200ER aircraft and feature 78 inch-pitch flat-bed seats which recline to 180 degrees. Each seat has a personal video screen with a collection of compact videocassettes. Passengers have access to personal satellite phones, laptop power ports, noise-canceling headsets, pillows and blankets.
  • (New) United First Suites are offered on all Boeing 747-400, all internationally configured Boeing 767-300ER, and 16 Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. United has begun retrofitting this new seat on its entire international fleet. The new First Suite is 6 feet-6 inches long and has 180 degrees of recline, creating a fully flat bed. All seats are equipped with a personal 15.4-inch screen personal LCD television with Audio-Video-on-Demand (AVOD), an adjustable headrest, lumbar support, a USB power port, an Apple iPod adapter (to play audio or video through), XM Satellite Radio, a US-style 120V/60 Hz power outlet, a reading light, noise-cancelling headphones and a large tray table.[128] The 767–300 international continues to use the original (smaller) overhead bins.
  • United First (Domestic) is offered on all domestically configured United aircraft. Domestic United First includes a cradle seat similar to the old international United Business seat, but without the personal reading lamps, legrests, or personal entertainment units. The seats have a 38 inch pitch, and passengers receive priority boarding and baggage handling, pre-departure beverages, free meals and separate check-in desks. United has updated substantially all of these seats with leather seat covers. Occasionally, 3-cabin widebodies will fly between hubs and Domestic First Class will feature the United First Suites (old and new).
  • United First (p.s.) is offered on all flights from JFK to SFO and LAX and features twelve angled-flat, leather-trimmed seats, with a 68-inch pitch, along with individual portable digital media players offering a wide selection of movies, TV shows, music and games through noise-reducing headsets. Passengers receive full meals, chocolates and signature champagne cocktails, as well as an invitation to the United International First Class Lounges at Los Angeles, New York-JFK, or San Francisco. Seats include personal reading lights, privacy screens and laptop power ports.

United International First Lounge

United also offers an International First Lounge which feature snacks and a self-serve bar at several airports. Access is restricted to customers traveling in long haul international first class or P.S. first class. Seven lounges are currently operated in seven different airports worldwide, including Chicago-O'Hare, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco, Tokyo-Narita, and Washington-Dulles.[129]

United Arrivals Suite

United also offers United Arrivals Suite service which has shower facilities and complimentary breakfast. Access is restricted to international United First and full-fare United Business customers. There are presently four Arrival Suite locations including London, San Francisco, Chicago, and São Paulo.[130]

Business class

Business Class Seats on the Upper Deck of a United Airlines Boeing 747-400 in 2005.

"United Business" is offered on all internationally configured aircraft and on a few select domestic flights. United Business passengers check in at separate counters and can use priority security screening where available. In-flight service includes pre-departure beverages, table linens and (on international flight segments only) three course meals designed by chef Charlie Trotter. Passengers are also given priority when boarding, priority baggage handling and access to the United Red Carpet Club (on international and p.s. flights only).

  • (Old) United Business Seats are offered on internationally configured Boeing 777-200/200ER aircraft and feature recliner-type seats with a pitch of 55 inches and 150 degree recline. The seat also features laptop power ports which require EmPower adapters. Each seat includes an individual entertainment system offering nine channels of video (seven films and two short-subjects) and noise-reducing headsets.
  • (New) United Business Suites are offered on all Boeing 747-400, all internationally configured Boeing 767-300ER, and 16 Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. United has begun retrofitting this new seat on its entire international fleet. The seats alternate between front-facing and rear-facing.[131] All seats are 6 feet-4 inches long and have 180 degrees of recline, creating a fully flat bed. United Business Suite was the first flat-bed business seat to be offered by a U.S. airline. All seats are equipped with a personal 15-inch screen personal LCD television with Audio-Video-on-Demand (AVOD), an adjustable headrest, lumbar support, a USB power port, an Apple iPod adapter (through which to play audio or video), XM Satellite Radio, a US-style 120V/60 Hz power outlet, a reading light, noise-cancelling headphones and a large tray table.[128]
  • United Business (p.s.) is offered on all flights from JFK to SFO and LAX and features twenty-six leather recliner seats with 54 inch pitch, individual portable digital media players offering a wide selection of movies, TV shows, music and games through noise-reducing headsets. Passengers receive full meals, chocolates and signature cocktails as well as an invitation to the United Red Carpet Club. Seats include personal reading lights and laptop power ports.
  • United Business (Domestic) is offered on select domestic flights between hubs when 3 class international widebodies are being repositioned between international flights. There is never any guarantee of which routes these planes will appear on as schedules will change according to United's international needs. Aside from the superior International Business Class seats, service is similar to Domestic First Class. Note that Rows 13 and 14 on the 767s receive Business Class service despite being sold as economy seats as they are physically located within the Business cabin.

Economy class

A United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER in the 1993–2004 "battleship" livery taxiing at San Francisco International Airport, California. (2009)
Passengers in flight in the Economy Section (International) of a United Airlines Boeing 747-400 in 2006.
  • United Economy (International) is available on all internationally configured aircraft in United's fleet. Seats range from 17 to 18 inches wide, and have 31 inches of pitch. All United Economy seats on Boeing 767-300ER and 777-200/200ER aircraft feature an adjustable headrest and a 5 inch personal television at the back of each seat showing videos on loop. United Economy's in-flight entertainment system on these aircraft features nine channels of entertainment (Seven films and two short-subjects.) Some B777-200/200ER's are already updated to Audio-Video-on-Demand (AVOD) with a 7 inch Panasonic eFX touch screen LCD. This system gives United Economy passengers the option to purchase the entertainment options shown in United First and United Business besides the standart United Economy media. United serves free meals on international flights between the US, South America, Europe, the South Pacific and Asia. Shortly after takeoff, passengers are served cocktail snacks and free non-alcoholic drinks. On flights with meals, the main meal consists of a salad, an appetizer, a choice of hot entrées and dessert. On longer flights, United also offers a light pre-arrival meal.
  • United Economy (Domestic) is available on all domestically configured aircraft in United's fleet. Seats range from 17 to 18 inches wide, and have between 31 and 32 inches of pitch. Economy seats on all A319-100, A320-200, 757–200, and domestic-configured 767-300ER and 777-200/200ER aircraft feature adjustable headrests. United offers a buy on board program. On United flights between three and five hours in duration, snackboxes are available for a fee. On United flights of five or more hours, fresh sandwiches, salads and snackbox options are also available for a fee. Water, soft drinks, and coffee are complimentary on all flights. Alcoholic beverages are available for a fee on most flights.[132] All aircraft feature overhead television screens. Short subject television program is shown on flights between 1.5 and 2.5 hours and feature-length films are shown on flights over three hours.
  • Economy Plus is available on all aircraft in the domestic and international fleet. Economy Plus seats are located in the front 6–12 rows of the economy cabin and feature up to 6 inches of additional legroom. Economy Plus is available for free to all MileagePlus Elite members. It can also be purchased at check-in depending upon availability by members of the United MileagePlus program. Economy Plus seats are restricted solely to members of the program. All other customers including passengers from other frequent flyer programs in the Star Alliance are prohibited from purchasing Economy Plus seats at the time of ticket purchase. All seats in economy on the p.s. flights from JFK to LAX and SFO are configured into Economy Plus. United announced that it will keep the "Economy Plus" seating for the combined carrier.[133]

Frequent flyer program

MileagePlus

MileagePlus is United Airlines' frequent flyer program. United announced that its MileagePlus program will be retained after the merger.[134]

From its inception until June 29, 2011, United's frequent flier program was known as Mileage Plus. Following United's merger with Continental Airlines, United retained Mileage Plus as the frequent flier program of the new United and, subsequently, renamed the program MileagePlus.

Tom Stuker became the first United flyer to reach 10 million miles flown since the introduction of Mileage Plus; the milestone was celebrated at a reception at Chicago's O'Hare airport on July 9, 2011, where a United Boeing 747-400 was named in his honor.[135]

United Club

The United Club is the airline lounge associated with Continental Airlines, Continental Connection, Continental Express, United Airlines and United Express carriers.

Incidents and accidents

1930s NC13304 Flight 6 NC13317[136] NC13323[137] NC13355[138]
1940s Flight 14 Flight 28 Flight 404 Flight 521 Flight 608 Flight 624
1950s Flight 129 Flight 610 Flight 615 Flight 7030 Flight 16 Flight 409 Flight 629 Flight 718 Flight 736
1960s Flight 826 Flight 859 Flight 297 Flight 823 Flight 389 Flight 227 Flight 266 Flight 14
1970s Flight 611 Flight 553 Flight 2860 Flight 173
1980s Flight 2885 Flight 811 Flight 232
1990s Flight 585 Flight 863 Flight 826
2000s Flight 175 Flight 93 Flight 955
2010s Flight 663 Flight 497
  • On Monday, January 3, 2011, United Airlines Flight 940, a Boeing 777 en route from Chicago to Frankfurt was diverted to Pearson International Airport, Toronto after the pilot accidentally spilled a cup of coffee on the aircraft's communication equipment triggering a series of emergency codes including one indicating a hijacking.[139] The incident is currently under investigation by the FAA in order to determine whether the liquid caused the communication problem, or whether other factors were involved.[140]
  • On Monday, April 4, 2011, United Airlines Flight 497, an Airbus A320 en route from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to San Francisco, had to return to the airport in New Orleans after pilots smelled smoke in the cockpit. A short time later, the airplane lost power to all its instruments, and the plane began to vibrate. The pilots declared an emergency, and air traffic controllers had to guide the pilots' return trip to the airport. After landing, because of a loss of power to brakes and steering, the plane ran off the side of the runway, blowing its front tire, and getting stuck in the mud. There were no reported injuries.[141][142]

In popular culture

The Crosby, Stills, and Nash ballad "Just a Song Before I Go", released in 1977, features the lyrics: "Driving me to the airport / And to the friendly skies." It reached number seven on the Billboard singles charts, the band's greatest hit.

  • Tom Hanks' character Viktor Navorski is stuck at New York's JFK airport in the United terminal in The Terminal (2004). Viktor flew into JFK on a United 747 and the woman he falls for played by Catherine Zeta Jones, is a flight attendant for United.
  • The crash of United Airlines Flight 93 was the focus of the 2006 movies United 93 and Flight 93 (TV film).
  • In 2008, Canadian musician David Carroll had his guitar damaged by United's baggage handlers, and United refused to repair it. He and his band Sons of Maxwell wrote and performed a song about this incident, "United Breaks Guitars", and posted it on YouTube. The video was a big hit on YouTube and has reached more than nine million views; United thereafter compensated Dave Carroll.
  • In the finale of the hit television series Seinfeld, Elaine is about to admit her love for Jerry but stops herself. Instead of saying "I've always loved you," she says "I've always loved You-nited Airlines."
  • In the Fountains of Wayne song Mexican Wine, the band tells the story of a United Airlines pilot that is fired for reading High Times.
  • In the O.V.A. Read or Die, Nancy says "Thank you for flying the friendly skies." Just before attaching the chord to the train of paper dolls, causing the glider to crash.
  • In the 2001 Rush Hour 2 film a United Airlines Boeing 747-400 appeared as a commercial flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Hong Kong International Airport
  • In the premiere episode of its third season, Modern Family showed its cast flying to Jackson Hole, WY, on a United 757.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Era 1: 1910–1925". united.com. United Airlines, Inc. 2007. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20061130083901/www.united.com/page/middlepage/0,6823,2281,00.html. Retrieved January 13, 2011. "...Walter T Varney, who launched air mail service over a desolate stretch of terrain between Pasco, Wash., and Elko, Nev., on April 6, 1926." 
  2. ^ Fredericks, Darold (November 29, 2010). "Walter Varney Airfield and United Airlines". smdailyjournal.com. San Mateo Daily Journal. Archived from the original on January 3, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/5vicJ5tKx. Retrieved January 13, 2011. "He later based his business, Varney Air Lines, in Boise, Idaho." 
  3. ^ "Era 2: 1926–1933". united.com. United Airlines, Inc. 2007. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20070520233801/www.united.com/page/middlepage/0,6823,2287,00.html. Retrieved January 13, 2011. "Pilot Leon Cuddeback's historic flight for Walter T. Varney's airline on April 6, 1926, was only the start" 
  4. ^ PBS – Chasing the Sun – Boeing
  5. ^ "Airline Certificate Information – Detail View". av-info.faa.gov. Federal Aviation Administration. 2011. Archived from the original on January 13, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/5vicbC1I2. Retrieved January 13, 2011. "Certificate Number UALA011A" 
  6. ^ "Mileage Plus Rules". united.com. United Airlines, Inc. 2011. Archived from the original on January 13, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/5vieou0Rn. Retrieved January 13, 2011. "Mileage can be accrued only for flights, hotel stays, car rentals or transactions actually taken or performed by the member after the member's official enrollment date..." 
  7. ^ http://www.united.com/page/article/1,,52714,00.html?navSource=rccNav&linkTitle=rccClubNews
  8. ^ "Star Alliance". united.com. United Airlines, Inc. 2011. Archived from the original on January 13, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/5vifKwmKG. Retrieved January 13, 2011. "The Star Alliance was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance..." 
  9. ^ "2009 Form 10-K Subdocument 8 – EX-21 – List of UAL Corporation and United Air Lines, Inc. subsidiaries". ir.united.com. UAL Corporation. February 26, 2010. Archived from the original on January 13, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/5vigWbA7H. Retrieved January 13, 2011. "UAL Corporation and United Air Lines, Inc. Subsidiaries..." 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Form 10-K United Continental Holdings, Inc.". ir.united.com. United Continental Holdings, Inc. February 26, 2010. http://ir.united.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=83680&p=irol-SECText&TEXT=aHR0cDovL2lyLmludC53ZXN0bGF3YnVzaW5lc3MuY29tL2RvY3VtZW50L3YxLzAwMDExOTMxMjUtMTAtMDQxNTIzL3htbC9zdWJkb2N1bWVudC8xL3BhZ2UvMzQ%3d. Retrieved January 11, 2011. "(In Millions, except rates)...Operating revenues $16,335" 
  11. ^ [1] September 30, 2010.
  12. ^ Federal Aviation Administration – Airline Certificate Information – Detail View
  13. ^ "Press release detail". United.com. October 6, 2010. http://www.united.com/press/detail/0,7056,67943,00.html. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  14. ^ "UAL Corporation – Investor Relations – Company Information". Ir.united.com. January 1, 2010. http://ir.united.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=83680&p=irol-homeProfile. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Continental losing Houston home in United merger". Houston Chronicle. May 13, 2010. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/6986235.html. Retrieved April 25, 2011. 
  16. ^ http://www.united.com/page/article/1,,53833,00.html
  17. ^ U.S. Approves Merger of United and Continental: New York Times
  18. ^ a b Peterson, Kyle (September 17, 2010). "UAL and Continental shareholders approve merger". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68G3VM20100917. Retrieved September 17, 2010. 
  19. ^ History of Flight in the US Seventy-Five Years United
  20. ^ United Airlines Website, United History Era 1: 1910–1925
  21. ^ "Chasing the Sun – Ellen Church". PBS. May 15, 1930. http://www.pbs.org/kcet/chasingthesun/innovators/echurch.html. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  22. ^ Davies, R.E.G., Airlines of the United States since 1914, 1998, Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 75.
  23. ^ United Airlines – Timeline (entry for March 28, 1931)
  24. ^ "American National Business Hall of Fame, ANBHF W.A. "Pat" Patterson". Anbhf.org. http://www.anbhf.org/laureates/patterson.html. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  25. ^ Sabotage: The downing of Flight 629 – The Crime Library – The Crime library
  26. ^ President / Commercial Airline Flight CBS News broadcast from the Vanderbilt Television News Archive
  27. ^ Handbook of Airline Statistics (biannual CAB publication)
  28. ^ "Pilot Labor History-1985" Strike thwarted attempt to break pilots' union, alpa.org
  29. ^ "ALPA-MEC letter 6–7–85" Letter to all UAL pilots, explaining details of the last minute negotiations
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