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United Airlines: 20 Things That’ll Surprise Every Traveler

Do you have a favorite airline? There are only a few really well-known ones, but most people tend to choose one as their go-to. Generally, these major airlines have dominated the market. Southwest Airlines, Am. Airlines, Delta, and United are typically the big ones that you can choose from when flying anywhere. Sure, you may fly Canada Air or on a small, private plane if you're going to Alaska, but for most major destinations, one of the biggest airlines will offer the most flights. Southwest is known for having a great points system and AA is known for being the all-around best with the most flight options, but United still has a loyal following that continues to grow despite recent media scandals.

United is the founding member of Star Alliance, the biggest airline alliance in the world, and actually employs over 86,000 employees. If you're looking to travel around the U.S. or even internationally, United will most likely have a flight that works with your travel plans. While you may have heard of United or even flown with the airline in the past, you probably don't know these 20 pretty surprising facts about United Airlines. Check them out here to learn more, and maybe you'll choose United for your next flight!

20 United Was the First Airline to Begin Hiring Female Flight Attendants: It Broke Ground For Women Around the World

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In the 1930s, airlines were not interested in hiring women. But thanks to a lady named Ellen Church, all that changed. When Church (a pilot and a nurse by trade) was not hired as a pilot, she proposed that Boeing Air Transit (the predecessor to United Airlines) hire nurses to carry out some of the responsibilities then managed by co-pilots, such as carrying luggage, bolting down the seats before takeoff, and presenting lunches, as well as assisting airsick travelers and helping calm passengers who were afraid of flying.

Church’s proposal was a success. Officials said yes to her pitch and agreed to hire eight women, but only on a three-month trial. So on May 15, 1930, Ellen Church and seven other women began their first day of work as the industry’s and the country’s first "air hostesses." On two separate flights, one group of four flew from San Francisco to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the other four flew from Cheyenne to Chicago, making history.

19 It Is Rated One of the Safest Airlines in the World: Choose Safety and Security

via:liveandletsfly.boardingarea.com

Airlineratings.com compiled its annual list of 20 companies with the fewest safety violations as determined by FAA endorsements, international certifications, and past fatalities. The airline safety rating for each carrier is based on a details analysis using information from the world’s aviation governing body and leading industry associations, along with government findings and crash data.

With a full 7 of 7 stars, United Airlines ranks sixth on the list and has only 0.0000407 incidents per flight. United's fatalities record is 0.31 per million miles, which is considered a very good score in terms of other airlines and makes passengers feel safer booking flights!

18 United Airlines Had the First Flight Kitchen Ever Made: The Food Has Only Gone Up Since Then

via:condenasttraveler.com

Who doesn't love to eat some great food in the air? To keep their passengers happy and to find a way to encourage them to fly again, United Airlines was the leader in one of the greatest moments in flight history for foodies around the world.

In 1936, they showcased the first commercial flight kitchen. In the early days of passenger flight, and in a list of many firsts, United was the first carrier who was able to uniquely offer passengers a menu with their choice of either fried chicken or scrambled eggs. Airplane kitchens have clearly come a long way since then, but United definitely began a new trend that won't go away anytime soon. You can now get all kinds of delicious foods and even order months ahead of time!

17 United First Introduced the 777: The Plane That Would Become Standard

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Flying back in 1995? You could have been on the first flight United offered using the world’s largest twin-engine jet airliner: the Boeing 777 wide-body. The first aircraft of its kind was designed when United and Boeing joined forces to develop an airplane intended to fly medium to ultra-long distances with 300 to 400 passengers. The 777 was the first plane to replace the standard manual flight controls with an electronic interface.

United Airlines has the first claim to fame for partnering with Boeing. Although Boeing is now the standard on almost any airline you might fly, United still likes passengers to know that Boeing first became so famous from a partnership with United. 

16 It Earns More Than Any Other Airline by Having Extra Charges: Beware of the Extra Add-Ons

via:outpostmagazine.com

Have an extra bag or two? You’ll need to pay for that. If you are a passenger who is using United’s new pricing tier to buy the cheapest ticket available, make note that you will be allowed only one personal item and that it has to fit under a seat. With this new format, United expects to add $4.8 billion to its annual operating income by 2020.

In a recent news release, United’s chief commercial officer Julia Haywood stated: “Customers have shared that they want more choices and the Basic Economy rate delivers just that." She also noted that this will make the boarding process much faster, making all of the passengers happier initially.

15 United Charges Customers for Usage of the Overhead Bins: Another New Bill You Should Look Out For

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You’ll need to pay for overhead bins as well with the “basic economy” plan. United explained that this is all for the benefit of passengers. However, gone are the days of the complimentary meals and the free headphones. No more free overhead bin use and definitely no more free extra leg room.

According to the company’s website, surveys have shown that most people actually don't like storing things in the overhead bins, but only do so as to not be charged for luggage. United said there are no new fees; it was just designing a fare structure that did not include use of overhead bins, creating more options for customers.

14 The Airline Doesn’t Fly to Africa: Double Check Your Destination

via:thedailyself.com

United stated that cancelling the nonstop service between the USA and Africa was due to poor financial performance and weakness in the energy sector. This was done recently, but has upset some passengers who fly exclusively United throughout the world.

United also stated that this route has been doing pretty badly for years, and was mainly only used by Houston-based customers. Whatever the reason, there was an initial backlash from folks who enjoyed flying United to Africa, but after a few months this died down and customers seem to be okay with the change. There are many other airlines that do fly to Africa as well.

13 United Flight Attendants are Required to Try and Sell You a United Credit Card During the Flight

via:moneycrashers.com

Water? Pillow? United Explorer Card? If you have been on a domestic or international United flight recently, you might be part of the new promotion which isn't going over so well. Travel industry experts report that United is now offering new sales training for their co-branded credit card which requires the flight crew to pitch a new United Explorer Card.

United will now pay $100 stipends to “ambassador” flight attendants, up from the current $50, for successfully signing up new customers. These cards offer bonuses of between 40,000 to 60,000 miles after reaching certain spending targets, but passengers are usually not given all of the details on the plane and may be forced into a bad situation if they sign immediately.

12 United Had a Big Scandal for Forcibly Removing a Doctor Off a Plane

via:usatoday.com

Flight overbooked? Take the money or you might be taken off. On an overbooked United Airlines flight that was departing from Chicago to Kentucky, United Airlines staff asked for volunteers to re-book their flight for the next afternoon to accommodate crew members needed in Louisville.

After offering up to $1,000 in compensation, no one came forward, so the flight crew informed passengers they would have to choose four people to exit the plane. Based on a frequent-flyer status, the time he or she checked in to the flight, whether the passenger had a connecting flight, and the fare class of the ticket, four passengers were chosen.

Three passengers went quietly. The fourth, who refused to get off the plane, was David Dao, a physician from Elizabethtown, Kentucky. United said its agents “were left with no choice” except to call Chicago Aviation Police, and the man was forcibly dragged off the plane in a scene that was very prolonged and upsetting to other passengers. He was finally removed and the flight departed three hours later. This became a huge scandal in the news as the doctor had to recover from his injuries in the hospital. The videos shed some light on just how badly he was treated and the airline received quite a bit of bad press.

11 The Airline Has Also Refused to Allow Customers to Board Due to Clothing Choices

via:bravotv.com

According to a United customer service official, the airline’s Contract of Carriage allows airline personnel to refuse service to, or even remove passengers for, “the safety of such Passenger or other Passengers,” which includes passengers “who are barefoot or not properly clothed.” Apparently, this meant that some leggings are not allowed.

United Airlines refused to board three young ladies who were trying to go from Minneapolis from Denver because they were wearing leggings. The passengers in question were United Pass Riders (passengers who fly under employee pass privileges) and were either employees or family members of employees. A United spokesperson explained that, “The three passengers in question were not permitted to board because they didn’t meet the criteria for Pass riders, who are held to the company’s internal dress code standards.” She also noted that “yoga pants or leggings are more than welcome for regular paying customers.” However, this wasn't obvious to the press and United again had some heated accusations thrown their way in the media.

10 United Has Strict Grooming Requirements for Its Cabin Crew: No Facial Hair Allowed

via:aviationinternationalnews.com

With the length of skirts and lack of personal hygiene brought to the attention of higher-ups, the need for awareness was called for by some of United’s own flight crew and attendants. United standardized its internal rules and made it clear that facial hair is not allowed by any of the crew and nails must be neat and clean.

United has also begun asking flight attendants to become more aware of their appearances so that the airline can become known for top-notch service. Crew will actually be sent home if they don't look up to par! While standards may be strict for guests, they're also just as strict for the crew.

9 Traveling to England? United's UK Presence is Large

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United operates a large domestic and international route network, with an extensive presence in the United Kingdom. You might be surprised to learn that you can fly almost anywhere in the U.K. on a United plane! Many English residents feel that United is their airline of choice, despite having so many other European airlines in the area.

United also has quite a few non-stop flights from the U.S. to England. Some of the most notable are from Boston and New York. Although most of United's main hubs are in the U.S., the airline is no stranger to international travel and there are hints that United tends to expand internationally even more.

8 United Was the First Airline Carrier to Fly to All 50 States

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From Arizona to Alaska and Wisconsin to Wyoming, United was the first airline to serve all 50 states. “The Friendly Skies” offered the most flights to passengers at one time.

Although no airline is currently serving them all now, United was the “one and only” airline to head to all of the 50 states by starting flights to Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Fargo, Casper, Jackson, and Charleston in 1984. Many people don't know that United holds a lot of these firsts and has a reputable history as an airline, although other airlines have inched ahead in the recent years.

7 United Boards Window Seat Customers First: Not a First Come First Serve

via:airlinereporter.com

According to SeatGuru, WilMA decides what's best. Because they're always working on to improve your travel experience, United Airlines uses a boarding process known as WilMA, which stands for Window, Middle, Aisle. The outside-in method allows Elite passengers with window seats to board first before boarding middle seat passengers then aisle seat passengers.

Although this may seem a little strange if you fly with another airline, it apparently works, and United customers really love how quick and painless the boarding process is. Other airlines are looking into this method and studies are currently being conducted to figure out (officially) which method works the best.

6 United’s Headquarters are in Chicago: The Main Hub

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Known as "The Windy City," Chicago is also known for it being the United Airlines Headquarters, which makes sense since Chicago is such a central hub for air travel. United's Headquarters are now in the Willis Tower, and the company is known for being huge in Chicago: the United offices actually take up a quarter of the tower alone! United is actually the largest tenant in a Chicago skyscraper, something which shows how old and well-known the airline is.

Although United was looking to move to other locations, the city of Chicago and state of Illinois made great efforts to keep United located where it was founded, stating it would "encourage United to fly more in and out of Chicago.”

5 You Can Get Up to $10,000 for Giving Up Your Seat on a Full Plane

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No seat? No problem for $10,000. If a flight is excessively overbooked and no one shows signs of switching, the United crew is authorized to offer up to $10,000 to anyone who is willing to switch, although they certainly don't start at that number. While CEO Oscar Munoz continues to apologize for United's recent PR problems, United is hoping to make the “the Friendly Skies” friendlier again by instating new policies, reducing the amount of overbooking, and improving customer service.

The airline says it can offer compensation up to $10,000, although the compensation won't necessarily begin at that number, and also promised to institute actions to reduce overbooking and improve customer satisfaction. United is also instituting new training methods for staff to better customer service.

4 United Also Has Some Scandals for Failing to Properly Help Disabled Passengers

via:nydailynews.com

In response to complaints by disabled passengers regarding incidents that occurred in 2007 and 2008, the Aviation Enforcement Office investigated United Airlines and found that they had failed to offer disabled passengers the help (required under federal laws) to get on and off the plane.

According to federal records, the involved disabled passengers made headlines when it was determined that they were left in wheelchairs, unattended for up to 30 minutes either on the plane or in a terminal, after other passengers had departed. The airline recently announced plans to spend $5.3m on making its hub airports more disabled-friendly.

3 Until 1970, United Airlines Actually Had Mens Only Flights

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Forget Business Class; United Airlines used to have an entire "executive" plane for men only. These flights were operated in two routes: New York to Chicago, and Los Angeles to San Francisco. Flights would leave at 5 p.m. in each of the four cities, six days per week, excluding Saturdays.

With no women or children aboard, the "New York" and "Chicago Executive" flights were understood as "a club in the sky for men only." In the exclusive company of other like-minded businessmen, first class offerings such as free cigars, cocktails, and special meals were available, and served by the only women on board (the stewardesses).

2 United’s Longest Flight Takes 17 Hours: Sit Back and Relax

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Did you know that United Airlines has some of the longest flights of any airline company? The airline now offers a straight shot flight from Los Angeles to Singapore. This trip takes 17 hours and 55 minutes! The opposite return flight is also offered, and takes about 15 hours and 15 minutes.

Luckily, United offers a lot of amenities to passengers staying on the plane overnight. The airline is known for having super comfy chair-beds, soothing lighting, and great customer service, making it easier for travelers to actually get a bit of rest on an overnight flight. If you need to take a trip around the world, check United's flights first and you might get lucky.

1 In 2010, United and Continental Merged to Create a Great Airline

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Based on their stockholders' strong vote of confidence backing a multi-billion dollar deal, United Airlines partnered with Continental Airlines and merged to create one massive (very successful) airline.  This once in a lifetime deal now helps the airlines compete with low-cost carriers in the US and foreign airlines that may have previously outperformed each airline separately.

The two companies don't often fly in the same geographical patterns. United has most flights condensed in the western part of the United States, as well as Pacific flights, and Continental tends to have more flights across the eastern and southern states as well as some to Latin America.  The combined companies have been successful in keeping both airlines strong and creating an even bigger name for United Airlines.

References: Liveandletsfly.boardingarea.com, Telegraph.co.uk, United.com

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