United Airlines

United Airlines, Inc.
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded April 6, 1926 (1926-04-06) (as Varney Air Lines)[1]
Commenced operations March 28, 1931 (1931-03-28)[2]
AOC # CALA014A[3]
Frequent-flyer program MileagePlus
Alliance Star Alliance
Fleet size 754
Destinations 342
Company slogan Fly The Friendly Skies
Parent company United Continental Holdings
ISIN US9100471096
Headquarters Willis Tower, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Key people
Revenue US$37.736 billion (2017)[9]
Operating income US$3.498 billion (2017)
Net income US$2.131 billion (2017)
Total assets US$42.326 billion (2017)
Total equity US$8.806 billion (2017)
Employees 88,000 (2017)[10]
Website united.com

United Airlines, Inc., commonly referred to as United, is a major United States airline headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.[11][12][13] It is the world's third-largest airline when measured by revenue, after American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. United operates a large domestic and international route network, with an extensive presence in the Asia-Pacific region.[14] United is a founding member of the Star Alliance, the world's largest airline alliance with a total of 28 member airlines.[15] Regional service is operated by independent carriers under the brand name United Express.

United was established by the amalgamation of several airlines in the late 1920s, the oldest of these being Varney Air Lines, which was founded in 1926.[1]

United has eight hubs, with Chicago–O'Hare being its largest in terms of both the number of passengers carried (16.8 million in 2016) and the number of departures (181,488 in 2016).[16] United operates maintenance bases in Cleveland and Orlando.[17]

The company employs over 86,000[18] people while maintaining its headquarters in Chicago's Willis Tower.[19] Through the airline's parent company, United Continental Holdings, it is publicly traded under NYSE: UAL with a market capitalization of over US$21 billion as of January 2018.[20]


United traces its roots to Varney Air Lines (VAL), which Walter Varney founded in 1926 in Boise, Idaho. Continental Airlines is the successor to Speed Lanes, which Varney had founded by 1932 and whose name changed to Varney Speed Lines in 1934. VAL flew the first privately contracted air mail flight in the U.S. on April 6, 1926.[21][22][23]

In 1927, William Boeing founded Boeing Air Transport to operate air mail routes under contract with the United States Post Office Department.[24] In 1929, Boeing merged his company with Pratt & Whitney to form the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC) which then set about buying, in the space of just 28 months, Pacific Air Transport, Stout Air Services, VAL, and National Air Transport, as well as numerous equipment manufacturers at the same time.[25][26] On March 28, 1931, UATC formed United Air Lines, Inc. as a holding company for its airline subsidiaries.[27]

In 1933, United began operating the Boeing 247 airliner.[28] It was able to fly a transcontinental route in 20 hours, making it approximately 50 percent faster than its predecessors and decreasing flight times by about 33 percent.[29] After passage of the Air Mail Act in 1934, which barred common ownership of airplane manufacturers and airlines, UATC was broken up. All manufacturing interests east of the Mississippi became United Aircraft (the future United Technologies), while all manufacturing interests west of the Mississippi became a revived Boeing Airplane Company. UATC's former airline interests were folded into a single airline, United Air Lines.[30]

After World War II, United gained from a boom in customer demand for air travel, with its revenue per passenger-miles jumping five-fold in the 1950s, and continued growth occurring through the next two decades.[31] From 1953 until 1970 United offered "men only" flights which forbade children and women (with the exception of two female flight attendants per flight). Passengers were allowed to smoke and were offered complimentary cigars and drinks, and a steak dinner.[32][33][34]

In 1954, United Airlines became the first airline to purchase flight simulators which had visual, sound, and motion cues for pilot training. Purchased for US$3 million (1954) from Curtiss-Wright, these were the first of today's modern flight simulators for training of commercial passenger aircraft pilots.[35]

United merged with Capital Airlines in 1961, which helped United to regain its position as the "number one airline" in the U.S. In 1968, United Airlines became a subsidiary of the UAL Corporation. United experienced several periods of labor unrest during the 1970s, and the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 forced United to scale down its operations to remain profitable.[25]

In 1982, United became the first carrier to operate the Boeing 767, taking delivery of 767-200s on August 19.[36] In May 1985, the airline underwent a 29-day pilot strike over management's proposed "B-scale" pilot pay rates.[37]

In 1985, United expanded dramatically by purchasing Pan Am's entire Pacific Division, giving it a prime Asian hub at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, and in 1991 purchased routes to Heathrow Airport from ailing Pan Am,.[38] making it one of two US carriers permitted exclusive access to Heathrow under Bermuda II until "open skies" took effect in 2008 (American Airlines was the other, after it purchased TWA's Heathrow landing slots). The aftermath of the Gulf War and increased competition from low-cost carriers led to losses in 1991 and 1992.[25][39] In 1994, United's pilots, machinists, baggage handlers, and non-contract employees agreed to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), acquiring 55 percent of company stock in exchange for 15–25 percent salary concessions. This made the carrier the largest employee-owned corporation in the world.[40] United also launched low-cost subsidiary Shuttle by United in 1994, which was a high frequency, west coast-based carrier that remained in operation until 2001.[25]

In 1995, United became the first airline to introduce the Boeing 777 in commercial service.[41] In 1997, United co-founded the Star Alliance airline partnership. In May 2000, United announced a plan to acquire US Airways for US$11.6 billion, but withdrew the offer in July 2001 before the United States Department of Justice barred the merger on antitrust grounds due to widespread objection from employee unions, customers, and political leaders.[25][42] May 2000 also saw a bitter contract dispute between United and its pilots' union over pay cuts and concessions to fund the ESOP and overtime work, causing summer flight cancellations until a salary increase was agreed upon.[43]

During the September 11, 2001 attacks, two of the four airliners hijacked and crashed by al-Qaeda members were United aircraft. United Airlines Flight 175 was flown into the south World Trade Center tower. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers fought back against the hijackers. An airline industry downturn resulted. Economic problems, skyrocketing oil prices, and higher labor costs caused United to lose US$2.14 billion in 2001. That same year, United applied for a US$1.5 billion loan guarantee from the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board established in the wake of the September 11 attacks. United filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 9, 2002.[44] United then furloughed thousands of workers, closed its U.S. city ticket offices, cancelled several existing and planned routes, downsized its Miami operations, and closed some maintenance bases. The carrier also negotiated labor cuts with employees,[44] suppliers, and contractors. United terminated feeder contracts with United Express carriers Atlantic Coast Airlines and Air Wisconsin. In 2005, United cancelled its pension plan in the largest such default in U.S. corporate history.[44] On September 7, 2005, United announced that it had raised US$3 billion in financing to exit bankruptcy and filed its Plan of Reorganization. United emerged from bankruptcy on February 1, 2006.[44]

In 2004, United launched a new low-cost carrier named Ted[44] and a premium p.s. coast-to-coast service on re-configured Boeing 757 aircraft. On June 4, 2008, United announced the closure of its Ted unit and reconfigured the subsidiary's aircraft for a return to mainline configuration.[45][46]

In late 2006, Continental Airlines and United had preliminary merger discussions.[47][48] On April 16, 2010, those discussions resumed.[49] The board of directors of Continental and UAL Corporation agreed on May 2, 2010, to combine operations, contingent upon shareholder and regulatory approval. While United would be the surviving airline, the merged airline would adopt Continental's logo and livery. Continental's chief executive officer (CEO) Jeff Smisek would head the new company.[50] The merger was approved by the European Commission in July 2010 and by the U.S. Justice Department on August 27, 2010.[51][52] On September 17, 2010, United's shareholders approved the merger.[53] On October 1, 2010, the UAL Corporation changed its name to United Continental Holdings, Inc.[54] The carriers planned to begin merging their operations in 2011.[55] The merged airline began operating under a single air operator's certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration on November 30, 2011.[56] On March 3, 2012, United and Continental merged their passenger service systems, frequent-flier programs, and websites, which virtually eliminated the Continental brand with the exception of its logo.[57]

In October 2015, United appointed Brett J. Hart as its acting CEO, four days after CEO Oscar Munoz suffered a heart attack.[58]


Current hubs

United currently operates eight hubs.[59]

  • Chicago–O'Hare – O'Hare is United's largest hub and its hub for the Midwest. United flies approximately 36 million passengers through O'Hare every year, which is about 99,000 people per day, making it also the busiest airline at the airport.[60] United's corporate headquarters are also in Chicago.
  • Houston–Intercontinental – located in Houston, is United's second-largest hub. It is the airline's hub for the Southern United States and primary gateway to Latin America.[61] About 33.5 million passengers fly through IAH on United every year, or about 91,000 people per day.[61] United currently has about 78% of the seat share at Bush, making it the airport's largest tenant.[62]
  • Newark – The third-largest hub for United in terms of number of flights and destinations and United's primary hub for the East Coast and a gateway to Europe, Latin America and Asia.[63] About 28.5 million passengers fly on United through Newark every year, or about 78,000 people per day. United controls about 81% of the slots at Newark and carries about 68% of all passengers at the airport.[64][65] United controls all of Terminal C and uses part of Terminal A for United Express Flights.
  • Denver – The fourth-largest hub in terms of number of destinations and flights and United's primary hub for the central and western United States.[66] In 2017 United flew approximately 25.9 million passengers through DIA or about 71,000 people per day.[66] As of December 2017, United has about 42% of the market share at DIA making it the airport's largest airline. United occupies all 70 gates of Concourse B at the airport and a recently started 39-gate expansion to all three of the airport's concourses will give United another 11 gates when the project is completed in 2021.[67]
  • San Francisco – The fifth-largest hub in terms of number of flights, and sixth-biggest in terms of number of destinations, and United's primary hub for the West Coast and gateway to Asia and Australia.[68] About 22 million passengers pass through SFO every year on United, which is about 60,000 people per day.[68] United has about 46% of the market share at San Francisco International, making it the biggest airline at the airport.[69]
  • Washington–Dulles – The sixth-largest hub in terms of number of flights, and fifth-biggest in terms of number of destinations, and United's secondary hub for the East Coast and gateway to Europe.[70] United has about 65% of the market share at Washington Dulles, making it the largest airline at the airport.[71] About 14 million passengers fly through Dulles every year on United, which is about 38,465 people per day.[70]
  • Los Angeles – The seventh-largest hub for United in terms of number of destinations and flights and United's secondary hub for the West Coast and gateway to Asia and Australia.[72] About 10 million passengers fly through LAX on United every year, or about 28,000 people per day.[72] United has 15% of the market share at LAX, making it the third-biggest carrier at the airport.[73]
  • Guam – The eighth-largest hub in terms of number of destinations and flights and United's hub for the Pacific.[59]


United operates to 235 destinations and 138 international destinations in 60 countries across Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania. United's domestic route network operates from seven hubs. United also has an international hub in Guam.[74] The carrier's scheduled services to Africa have been discontinued since June 30, 2016.[75]

UA hubs listed by departures including UA Express (Qtr. 3: 2017)
Rank Airport Flights Destinations
1 Chicago–O'Hare 528[60] 188[60]
2 Houston—Intercontinental 483[61] 171[61]
3 Newark 398[63] 162
4 Denver 370[66] 136[66]
5 San Francisco 273[68] 130[68]
6 Washington—Dulles 214[70] 113[70]
7 Los Angeles 138[72] 62[72]
8 Guam 30[74] 10[74]

Codeshare agreements

As of October 2016, United codeshared with the following airlines:[76]


As of August 2018, United Airlines operated a fleet of 758 aircraft; all Boeing and Airbus.[77]

On July 20, 2011, American Airlines announced an order for 460 narrowbody jets, including 260 Airbus A320s.[78] The order broke Boeing's monopoly with the airline and forced Boeing into the re-engined 737 MAX.[79] This sale included a Most-Favoured-Customer Clause, which requires Airbus to refund to American any difference between the price paid by American and a lower price paid by United or another airline. This perpetuates United's having a Boeing-skewed fleet.[80]

On September 22, 2012, United became the first American airline to take delivery of Boeing 787 aircraft.[81] United also is the North American launch customer for the Boeing 787-9[82] and 787-10 aircraft,[83] which are stretched versions of the base 787-8 model.

In May 2018, United planned to replace its 51 Boeing 767 in a deal potentially worth $14 billion at list prices, and was in talks with both Airbus offering its A330neo, and Boeing its 787.[84] United operates 128 757s and 767s (77 B757's and 51 B767's), the second-largest combined fleet after Delta Air Lines with 206 (127 757s and 79 767s) and both has to replace them, like American to a lesser degree: they could be replaced by 737 MAX 10s, A321neos, Boeing NMAs, 787-8s or A330-800neos.[85]


United Polaris Business

These seats can be found on all Boeing 787 aircraft, Boeing 767-400 aircraft, Boeing 757-200, and select Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. United Polaris Business is offered on all wide-body aircraft, as well as all Boeing 757-200s. United Polaris Business passengers check in at separate counters and can use priority security screening where available. On international flights, in-flight services include pre-departure beverages, table linens and multi course meals designed in partnership with Charlie Trotter-affiliated chefs via the airline's partnership with the Trotter Project.[86] Passengers are also given priority with boarding and baggage handling and access to the United Polaris Lounge where available, as well as the United Club and partner airline lounges when traveling on international routes. All Polaris Business seats recline 180 degrees into a full, flat bed. On select Boeing 777-200ER and Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, the seats alternate facing forward and backwards. On the Boeing 787, Boeing 767-400, Boeing 757-200 and select Boeing 767-300ER and Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, all seats face forward.

Other domestic routes, especially hub-to-hub service and certain non "United p.s." transcontinental flights, regularly see internationally configured aircraft with United Polaris Business seating for operational reasons (such as transferring international aircraft from one hub to another). While the physical seats and entertainment are the same as on international flights, the service, catering and other amenities are the same as in domestic first class. Unlike routes marketed as United p.s., these flights are eligible for complimentary premier upgrades.

On June 2, 2016, United introduced its new, redesigned international business class seat that will replace current business class seats. The new United Polaris Business seat will be featured on Airbus A350-900, Boeing 777-300ER, and Boeing 787-10 aircraft, and will be retrofitted later on Boeing 767, Boeing 777-200ER, and Boeing 787 aircraft. The Polaris seat converts into a 6' 6" flat bed in a 1-2-1 configuration or a 1-1-1 configuration, providing all-aisle access for every seat. The seat boasts multiple storage areas, mood lighting, multiple charging ports, lumbar support, and improved dining and amenity services.[87]

United Premium Plus

United Premium Plus will be United's premium economy product, to be installed through 2020 on wide-body international aircraft. United Premium Plus seating will offer more space, comfort and amenities compared to United Economy or Economy Plus, and will offer upgraded dining on china dinnerware, free alcoholic beverages, a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow, an amenity kit and more. United expects the first aircraft with these seats to be flying by mid-2018, with the full service launch in 2019. During the interim period, United will likely sell these seats as part of Economy Plus.[88]

United premium transcontinental service

United premium transcontinental service is offered on transcontinental flights between Newark and Los Angeles or San Francisco and between Boston and San Francisco. Previously branded as p.s. (short for "Premium Service") when initially launched in 2004, through 2017, these flights utilize primarily Boeing 757-200s, with 180-degrees-flat Polaris Business seats. The premium cabin also features international style catering, while all seats have access to inflight wi-fi, on demand entertainment, and power outlets. Business class passengers also have access to the United Club at Newark, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.[89]

All premium transcontinental flights were moved from New York JFK to Newark Liberty Airport on October 25, 2015.[90]

These routes are not eligible for Complimentary Premier upgrades, although MileagePlus members can upgrade using Regional Premier Upgrades, Global Premier Upgrades, or MileagePlus award miles.[91]

Since July 2017, passengers in Economy Plus get a complimentary hot entree, dessert, fruit, pre-arrival snack, and alcoholic beverages.[92]

United First and United Business

United First is offered on all domestically configured aircraft. When such aircraft are used on international services such as services to Canada, Central America and the Caribbean destinations, this cabin is branded as United Business. United First seats on narrowbody aircraft have a 38-inch (97 cm) seat pitch, while United First seats on re-configured domestic Boeing 777-200 aircraft feature fully flat bed seats. Passengers receive priority boarding and baggage handling, pre-departure beverages, complimentary meals and separate check-in desks.[93]

In 2015, United released its new domestic first class seat design. The new leather seats feature cradling headrests, granite cocktail tables, and a tablet stand. These seats will debut on Airbus A319 and Airbus A320 aircraft, and will eventually be installed on all domestic aircraft.[94]

Economy Plus

United Economy Plus is available on all aircraft. Economy Plus seats are located in the front few rows and exit rows of the economy cabin and have two inches' (5.1 cm) more recline and at least 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15 cm) of additional seat pitch totaling 4–7 inches of recline (aircraft dependent) and 35–37 inches of pitch. Economy Plus is complimentary for all MileagePlus Premier members. Premier 1K, Platinum and Gold members may select an Economy Plus seat when booking, while silver members can select an Economy Plus seat at check-in.[95] It can also be purchased depending upon availability by other passengers.

Prior to the merger between United and Continental, United Airlines aircraft offered Economy Plus, while Continental did not. Following the merger, Economy Plus was rolled out across the combined fleet.[96]


United Economy is available on all aircraft, and usually have a pitch of 31 inches (30 inches on aircraft refurbished with Slimline seats, and 32 inches on Boeing 787s) and a recline of 2–5 inches. All economy seats feature an adjustable headrest and some form of entertainment, ranging from AVOD, inflight wi-fi, personal device entertainment, or overhead entertainment. Economy seats on Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Boeing 787, and select renovated 757-200 aircraft feature a personal 7-inch (18 cm) touchscreen television at the back of each seat with United Private Screening. Select Boeing 757-300 and elect Boeing 737 aircraft feature overhead entertainment. On Airbus A319, A320, select Boeing 737, select Boeing 757-300, select 757-200 and domestically configured Boeing 777 aircraft feature personal device entertainment, and WiFi. Other Boeing 737 and Boeing 757-300 aircraft feature DirecTV.[97] In April 2018, United upgraded all aircraft with over 70 seats to include Wi-Fi and personal device entertainment even with DirecTV equipped.[98]

Food and snacks are available for purchase on domestic, Caribbean, and some Latin America flights. These include snacks, fresh meals, and snack boxes, depending on flight time and distance. Meals are complimentary on all other international flights. Only beverages are complimentary in economy on North America flights. Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase on North America flights, but are complimentary on long-haul international flights.[99] On flights where meals are served, a cocktail snack with a beverage is served shortly after takeoff, followed by a main course, then dessert. Longer international flights feature a pre-arrival meal, which usually consists of a light breakfast or snack. United announced that it will offer free snacks on domestic, Caribbean, and Latin America flights beginning in February 2016.[100]

Basic Economy

Basic Economy is available on select routes and in addition to standard fares. Intended to be United's lowest fare, Basic Economy fares provide most of the same inflight services and amenities with standard United Economy Class.[101] With Basic Economy, group/family seating, seat selection/upgrades and bringing full-sized carry-on bags are not allowed. When booking online, it is clearly marked - with a user prompt to confirm the user is booking a Basic Economy fare. Users also have the option to pay a small fee to upgrade their booking to regular Economy. Also, certain MileagePlus and Premier member benefits are not available.[102]

Reward services

MileagePlus is the frequent flyer program for United Airlines.[103]

United Club is the airline lounge associated with United Airlines and United Express carriers. The United Club replaced the former United Red Carpet Club and Continental Airlines Presidents Club prior to United Airlines' merger with Continental.

Corporate affairs


In 2007, United moved its headquarters and 350 top executives from Elk Grove Township, a suburb of Chicago, to 77 West Wacker Drive in the Chicago Loop[104] after receiving US$5.5 million in incentives frim the City of Chicago.[105] The Elk Grove campus became an operations center after several of United's offices in suburban Chicago were consolidated there.[106]

In 2010, United accepted the City of Chicago's offer of US$35 million in incentives, including a US$10 million grant, for United to move its remaining 2,500 employees out of Elk Grove Township to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in the Chicago Loop.[105] On May 31, 2012, United opened its operations center, which occupied twelve floors of the Willis Tower.[107]

Other facilities

The Elk Grove Township former headquarters campus was gradually annexed into the Village of Mount Prospect,[108][109] and serves as an IT operations facility, with a new 172,000 square foot (16,000 m2) data center constructed in 2013.[110] United maintains a large presence in downtown Houston, having leased 225,000 sq ft (20,900 m2) of space (seven floors) for occupancy in late 2017.[111]

United has training facilities for its flight crews in Denver and Houston, a major aircraft maintenance center in San Francisco, and call centers in Houston and Chicago.

United formerly owned the Waikiki Seaside Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii which was used by its flight crews until it was sold in February 2012.[112]

Original brand image

The pre-merger United logo, commonly nicknamed the "tulip", was developed in the early 1970s after the airline commissioned designer Saul Bass to develop a new brand image.[113] The logo represented the airline's monogram as well as a modernized version of the airline's shield logo[114] which had been adopted in the 1930s, but fell out of use by the late 1960s. The ribbon-like rendering has also been said to symbolize the motion of flight.[115]

Marketing themes

United's earliest slogan, "The Main Line Airway", emphasized its signature New York-Chicago-San Francisco route, and was replaced in 1965 with "Fly the Friendly Skies". The "friendly skies" tagline was in use until 1996 in its first iteration.[116] The "It's time to fly" slogan was created in 2004. After the merger of United and Continental in October 2010, the slogan changed to "Let's fly together" until September 2013.[116] On September 20, 2013, United announced a return of the "Fly the Friendly Skies" slogan in an ad campaign to start the following day.[117] The resurrected slogan would be accompanied by the 1924 George Gershwin song "Rhapsody in Blue" as its theme song, and a voiceover provided by Matt Damon.[116]

United licensed its theme song, "Rhapsody in Blue", from Gershwin's estate for US$500,000 (equivalent to $2,150,292 in 2017) in 1976.[118] "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 announced that it would continue to use "Rhapsody in Blue" as its theme song following the merger with Continental.[119]

Environmental efforts

Because over 98 percent of United's greenhouse gas emissions are from jet fuel, its environmental strategy has focused on operational fuel efficiency initiatives and investments in sustainably produced, low-carbon alternative fuels.

On August 23, 2011, United Continental Holdings, Inc. announced a conversion to paperless flight decks, and projected that by the end of the year, 11,000 iPads will have been deployed to all United and Continental pilots. Each iPad, which weighs less than 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg), will replace approximately 38 pounds (17 kg) of paper operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks, and weather information. The green benefits include reductions in paper use, printing, and fuel consumption.[120]

On November 7, 2011, United flew the world's first commercial aviation flight on a microbially-derived biofuel. The aircraft was fueled with 40 percent Solajet, which is Solazyme's algae-derived renewable jet fuel, and 60 percent petroleum-derived jet fuel. This flight was operated by the Eco-Skies Boeing 737-800 aircraft from Houston to Chicago-O'Hare.[121]

On January 15, 2013, Aviation Partners Boeing (APB), a joint venture between Aviation Partners Inc. and Boeing, announced that United had agreed to replace the Blended Winglets on its Boeing Next Generation 737 aircraft with APB's Split Scimitar Winglet (SSW), significantly reducing drag. Once the SSWs are installed, it is estimated that APB's winglet technology will save United more than $250 million annually in fuel costs.[122]

On June 30, 2015, United invested US$30 million in Fulcrum BioEnergy, an alternative fuel company. Fulcrum's alternative fuel is produced through a clean and efficient thermochemical process and reduces lifecycle carbon emissions by more than 80 percent. As part of its investment, United will work with Fulcrum to develop up to five alternative fuel refineries near its U.S. hubs. These refineries will produce up to 180 million gallons of sustainable aviation alternative fuel per year, and United will have the opportunity to purchase at least 90 million gallons per year for a minimum of 10 years, making it the largest aviation alternative fuel commitment to date.[123]

On March 11, 2016, United became the first airline in the world to fly on commercial-scale quantities of such fuels on a continuous basis, which were procured from AltAir Fuels. This fuel was produced from sustainable feedstocks such as non-edible natural oils and agricultural wastes, and is expected to provide a greater than 60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions on a lifecycle basis when compared to traditional jet fuel. United has agreed to purchase up to 15 million gallons of sustainable alternative fuel from AltAir Fuels for use in Los Angeles over a three-year period.[124]

In 2016, United began partnering with Clean the World to repurpose items from the airline's international premium class amenity kits and donate the hygiene products to those in critical need. Clean the World provides hygiene education and soap to promote handwashing, which helps prevent hygiene-related deaths. During the first year of this partnership, United expected to divert 60,000 pounds (27,200 kg) of material that otherwise would have gone to landfills.[125]

In 2017 United started a partnership with Audubon International to protect raptors—including hawks, ospreys and owls—in and around New York-area airports and resettle the birds-of-prey at suitable golf course habitats where the species are more likely to thrive.[126]


All United Airlines pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association. A new Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified by a majority of the United/Continental pilots on December 15, 2012,[127][128] which struck down a scope clause that disallowed Continental from outsourcing the flying of regional jets with 70 or more passenger seats.[129]

Animal transport

In 2013, after pressure from PETA, United announced that it would no longer transport monkeys to laboratories. United was the last North American passenger airline to transport these animals to laboratories.[130][131] United flies more animals and has longer flight stage length than any other US airline, and accounted for one third of animal deaths of US airlines between 2012 and 2017.[132]

Effective March 20, 2018, the PetSafe program was suspended with no new reservations for cargo transport of pets accepted.[133] This came after United announced plans to mark pet carriers in the passenger cabin with bright tags[134] and legislation was introduced in the United States House of Representatives[135] and United States Senate banning the placement of pets in overhead compartments.[136] This was in response to a dog death after a passenger placed it in the overhead compartment following flight attendant instructions, but the flight attendant denied knowing that the luggage contained a dog.[137]

Cyber security

United awarded airline miles as "bug bounties" to hackers who could identify gaps in the carrier's web security. Two hackers have each been rewarded with 1 million miles of air travel as of July 15, 2015. This cyber security program was announced a few weeks before the company experienced two software glitches. The first incident delayed 150 United flights on June 2 due to a problem with its flight dispatching system. Six days later, United's reservation system delayed flights by not allowing passengers to check in. In addition to the "bug bounty" program, United said it tests systems internally and engages cybersecurity firms.[138][139]

Accidents and Incidents

1930s NC13304 Flight 6 Flight 4[140] NC13323[141] NC13355[142]
1940s 41-24027 Flight 521 Flight 608 Flight 624
1950s Flight 129[143] Flight 610 Flight 615 Flight 409 Flight 629 Flight 718 Flight 736
1960s Flight 826 Flight 859 Flight 297 Flight 823 Flight 389 Flight 227 Flight 266
1970s Flight 553 Flight 2860 Flight 696 Flight 173
1980s Flight 811 Flight 232 Flight 2885 Flight 2415
1990s Flight 585 Flight 6291 Flight 5925 Flight 826 Flight 863
2000s Flight 175 Flight 93
2010s Flight 3411

Dave Carroll Guitar

In 2008, United baggage handlers broke Canadian musician Dave Carroll's guitar. After nine months fruitlessly trying to resolve the situation, Carroll released three songs about the incident. The first, United Breaks Guitars, has over 17 million views as of 2017, and caused a significant public relations embarrassment for the airline.[144]

United 3411

On the evening of April 9, 2017, a revenue passenger was forcibly removed by law enforcement from United Airlines flight 3411 at Chicago-O'Hare, bound for Louisville.[145] United announced that it needed four seats for airline staff on the sold-out flight.[146] When no passengers volunteered after being offered vouchers worth $800, United staff selected four passengers to leave. Three of them did so, but the fourth, a doctor named David Dao, declined as he said that he had patients to treat the following morning. He was pulled from his seat by Chicago Department of Aviation security officers and dragged by his arms down the aisle. Dao sustained a concussion, broken teeth, a broken nose, and other injuries.[147] The incident was captured on smartphone cameras and posted on social media, triggering an angry public backlash. Afterwards, United's chief executive officer, Oscar Munoz, described Dao as "disruptive and belligerent", apologized for "re-accommodating" the paying customers, and defended and praised staff for "following established procedures". He was widely criticized as "tone-deaf".[148] Munoz later issued a second statement calling what happened a "truly horrific event" and accepting "full responsibility" for it.[149] After a lawsuit, Dao reached an undisclosed settlement with United and airport police. In the aftermath, United's board of directors decided that Munoz would not become its chairman and that executive compensation would be tied to customer satisfaction.[150] Following this incident, passenger complaints increased by 70 percent.[151]

See also


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