United Airlines

United Airlines Boeing 737

United Airlines




Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (Guam)

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Denver International Airport

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston)

Los Angeles International Airport

Narita International Airport (Tokyo)

Newark Liberty International Airport

O'Hare International Airport (Chicago)

San Francisco International Airport

Washington Dulles International Airport

Fleet Size





Chicago, Illinois, USA


thumb|300px|right|this is how united airlines flight 175 crashthumb|300px|right|this is how united airlines flight 93 crash United Air Lines, Inc., (NYSE: UAL) is a major American airline and the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees and second-largest with 702 aircraft. It is a subsidiary of United Continental Holdings, Inc. formerly, UAL Corporation, with corporate headquarters in Chicago. United's largest hub is George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. United also has hubs at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Washington Dulles International Airport, Denver International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Narita International Airport near Tokyo, Newark Liberty International Airport, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport in Guam.[ 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. The airline's regional service is United Express. As of November 30, 2011, United Airlines was issued a single operating certificate with the former Continental Airlines, meaning both airlines are now technically one airline and thereby marking the end of Continental Airlines. While United and Continental now have a single operating certificate, some parts of both airlines, such as check-in and frequent-flier programs, will not be fully merged until the first week of March 2012


United Airlines originated from the Varney Air Lines air mail service of Walter Varney, who also founded Varney Speed Lines which later became Continental Airlines. Founded in Boise, Idaho in 1926, the carrier flew the first Contract Air Mail flight in the U.S. on April 5, 1926, marking the first scheduled airline service in the country's history. In 1927, airplane pioneer William Boeing founded his own airline, Boeing Air Transport, and began buying other airmail carriers including Varney Airlines. In 1929, Boeing merged his company with Pratt & Whitney to form the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC). In 1933, United began operating the Boeing 247, which enabled passengers to fly across the US without an overnight stop or changing planes. After passage of the Air Mail Act in 1934, UATC separated into United Aircraft (the future United Technologies), the Boeing Airplane Company and United Air Lines. 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.

Continental Airlines Ticket Jacket
United Airlines Ticket Jacket

After the war, United gained from a boom in customer demand for air travel, with its revenue passenger-miles jumping five-fold in the 1950s, and continued growth occurring through the next two decades. In 1954 United Airlines became the first airline to purchase modern flight simulators which had visual, sound and motion cues for training pilots. 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. United merged with Capital Airlines on June 1, 1961 and displaced American Airlines 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. The 1970s saw economic turmoil, resulting in "stagflation" and labor unrest. The 1978 Airline Deregulation Act, resulting in industry shakeups, further added to the carrier's difficulties in a loss-making period. In 1982, United became the first carrier to operate the Boeing 767, taking its first delivery of 767-200s on August 19. In May 1985, the airline underwent a 29-day pilot strike over management's proposed "B-scale" pilot pay rates. Then-company CEO Richard Ferris changed United's parent company's name from UAL Corporation to Allegis in February 1987, but following his termination, the company reverted to the name UAL Corp. in May 1988 and divested non-airline properties.

In 1985, United expanded dramatically by purchasing Pan Am's entire Pacific Division, giving it a hub at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, and in 1991 purchased routes to London Heathrow Airport from ailing Pan Am, making it one of two US carriers permitted exclusive access to Heathrow under Bermuda II until "open skies" took effect in 2008 (American Airlines being the other, after purchasing 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. In 1994, United's pilots, machinists, bag handlers and non-contract employees agreed to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), acquiring 55% of company stock in exchange for 15% to 25% salary concessions, making the carrier the largest employee-owned corporation in the world. The carrier also launched a low-cost subsidiary in 1994, Shuttle by United, in an attempt to compete with low-cost carriers; the subsidiary remained in operation until 2001. In 1995, United became the first airline to introduce the Boeing 777 in commercial service. In 1997, United co-founded the Star Alliance airline partnership. In May 2000, United announced a planned $11.6 billion acquisition of US Airways, but withdrew the offer in July 2001 before the United States Department of Justice barred the merger on antitrust grounds. 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.

During the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, two of the four airplanes hijacked and crashed by al-Qaeda terrorists were United Airlines aircraft. An airline industry downturn resulted, and coupled with economic difficulties, skyrocketing oil prices, and higher labor costs, the company lost $2.14 billion in 2001. 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. After attempts to secure additional capital failed, UAL Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2002 and the ESOP was terminated. United's bankruptcy operations resulted in furloughing thousands of workers, closing all U.S. city ticket offices, cancelling several existing and planned routes, downsizing its Miami operations, closing maintenance bases, and fleet reductions. The carrier also negotiated cost cuts with employees, suppliers, and contractors, and terminated feeder contracts with United Express carriers Atlantic Coast Airlines and Air Wisconsin. The carrier launched a new low-cost carrier named Ted in 2003, and a luxury "p.s." (for "premium service") coast-to-coast service on re-configured 757s in 2004. In 2005, United cancelled its pension plan in the largest such default in U.S. corporate history.

In 2005, United announced it had raised $3 billion in financing to exit bankruptcy and filed its Plan of Reorganization, as announced, on September 7, 2005. In late 2006, Continental Airlines participated in preliminary merger discussions with United. On June 4, 2008, United announced it would close its Ted unit and reconfigure the subsidiary's aircraft for a return to mainline configuration. 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 on May 2, 2010. The combined carrier would retain the United Airlines name, but use Continental's logo and livery, and Continental's CEO Jeff Smisek would head the new company. The merger was contingent upon shareholder and regulatory approval.

The Continental–United merger was approved by the European Union in July 2010. On August 27, 2010, the US Justice Department approved the Continental–United Merger. On September 17, 2010, United shareholders approved the merger deal with Continental Airlines. Both carriers planned to begin merging operations in 2011 to form the world's biggest carrier. On October 1, 2010, UAL Corporation completed its acquisition of Continental Airlines and changed its name to United Continental Holdings, Inc. The airline received a single operating certificate from the FAA on November 30, 2011.

Company Affairs and IdentityEdit


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. Before making its choice, United was considering moving its headquarters to Denver, Colorado, or San Francisco. In the Chicago Loop United had considered 115 South LaSalle Street, 190 South LaSalle, and 200 West Madison Street. 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." 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. 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. The move was begun in October with 280 employees and one thousand are expected by the end of 2010.

Other FacilitiesEdit

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.

Fuel Burn Reduction StrategyEdit

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 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. 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.


Scope ClauseEdit

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.


The post-merger United Airlines logo retains the United name and uses the former Continental Airlines "globe" identity and livery, designed in 1991 by the Lippincott company. The "United" typeface was updated in August 2010, resembling more like the most recent United typeface, rather than the same font that was used to write "Continental Airlines". Currently, over 450 planes have been painted in the "new" livery,[citation needed] which features a white and gray fuselage with a thin gold stripe and blue "globe" tail. United Airlines has promoted its post-merger logo as reflecting its efforts to attract corporate clients and the airline's worldwide network, but many marketing experts and graphic designers have criticized the logo change, stating that the previous "tulip" logo has stronger brand recognition and is a stronger mark than the Continental globe, while faulting CEO Jeff Smisek and former United CEO Glenn Tilton for devising the "new" brand and livery between the two of them with no outside input. After the new United announced its new logo, supporters of the previous United logo started a Facebook group called "Save the United Airlines Tulip" in order to convince the airline to change its logo to the old United logo.

The pre-merger "tulip" logo was developed in 1973 after the airline commissioned designer Saul Bass to develop a new brand image. It replaced the original United red, white and blue shield logo, adopted in 1936. The "tulip" logo of colored stripes representing overlapping letter "U"s remained in use until the Continental merger with only slight modification. The "Rainbow" (or "Saul Bass") livery, which was the first to feature the "tulip", had a primarily white fuselage, & red, orange, and blue stripes along the "cheatline". Other "tulip" liveries included 1993's CKS Group-designed "Battleship" livery, using a grey and dark blue fuselage, with blue stripes on the tail and a smaller "tulip". The 1997 Pentagram-developed "Blue Tulip" or "Rising Blue" featured a white and lighter blue fuselage, along with cropped version of the tulip on the tail. This livery was used until the merger with Continental.

Marketing ThemesEdit

The current slogan and ad campaign since 2004, is "It's time to fly." 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 used until 1996. United's theme song is George Gershwin's 1924 "Rhapsody in Blue", which it licensed from Gershwin's estate for $500,000 in 1976. "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 they will continue to use the theme song, "Rhapsody in Blue" following the merger with Continental.


United is a sponsor of all five of Chicago's major professional sports teams—the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox—as well as the U.S. Olympic Team. 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 aircraft for transport between games, and the White Sox, similarly, use an Airbus A320 as their charter aircraft operating under flight number UAL9904. In addition, the luxury seating area directly behind home plate at the White Sox U.S. Cellular Field are the "United Scout Seats."Through its merger with Continental, United also became the official airline of the New York Giants football team.


United destinations

United Airlines flies to 73 domestic mainline 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 British Airways, Delta Airines, Emirates, Korean Air, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and South African Airways, United Airlines is one of the few airlines that fly to all six inhabited continents.

Route NetworkEdit

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. 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. 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, Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. In September 2007 United was granted a route from San Francisco to Guangzhou. 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.

United began service to Bahrain on April 18, 2010. 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 with nonstop flights began November 16, 2011; making it the carrier's second African destination. Services to Bahrain and Accra are served from the airline's Washington-Dulles hub. Service to Lagos from Washington-Dulles ended December 18, 2011 which was served via Accra and it is now strictly a Dulles-Accra route (vice-versa). The airline will continue to serve Lagos from the airline's biggest hub at Houston. United will also begin service to Doha, Qatar with a stop over in Dubai on May 1, 2012. The route will be served from the Washington-Dulles hub.

Codeshare AgreementsEdit

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 InformationEdit

Current Hubs, Focus Cities and Maintenance BasesEdit

  • O'Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas
  • Denver International Airport, Denver, Colorado
  • Washington Dulles International Airport, Washington, DC
  • San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California
  • Maintenance hub (MRO) San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco
  • Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California
  • Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Japan
  • Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark, New Jersey
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam

Former Hubs, Maintenance bBases, and Focus CitiesEdit

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[52][verification needed]
  • Seattle (Focus city) – some destinations downgauged to United Express, due to consolidation to SFO and LAX[53]
  • Oakland (Maintenance base) – Oakland Maintenance Center (OMC)
  • Indianapolis (Maintenance base) – Indianapolis Maintenance Center (IMC)


Current and RetiredEdit

The first table shows which aircraft United currently is operating. The second table shows the aircraft United retired.

Aircraft In Service Notes
Airbus A319-100 55
Airbus A320-200 97
Airbus A350-900 0 To be delivered between 2016 and 2019
Boeing 737-500 25 Retired in 2009 but returned to service following merger with Continental; all have winglets. Retirement: 14 in 2012
Boeing 737–700 36 Acquired in merger with Continental; orders can be, and are being, converted to other 737 models
Boeing 737–800 8



Acquired in merger with Continental
Boeing 737-900 12 Acquired in merger with Continental
Boeing 737-900ER 34 Acquired in merger with Continental; 19 deliveries expected in 2012
Boeing 747-400 24 To receive wireless streaming video
Boeing 757-200 13



All to receive winglets

41 acquired in merger with Continental

CO frames have been converted to three class interiors 16/45/108

All long haul international aircraft refitted with Economy Plus

Boeing 757-300 21 Largest operator of the Boeing 757-300. Acquired in merger with Continental
Boeing 767-200ER 8 Retired in 2005, but returned to service following merger with Continental. All feature Boeing's signature 777-style interior.
Boeing 767-300ER 21


14 domestic/Hawaii 767s to be retrofitted with lie flat seats

All to receive winglets in early 2012

Exit from service: 2016-2020; to be replaced by Boeing 787-8

Boeing 767-400ER 9



Acquired in merger with Continental

Three aircraft reaffirmed with "Economy Plus" seating

Boeing 777-200 19
Boeing 777-200ER 55 22 acquired in merger with Continental, 2 of the which were leased from ILFC
Boeing 787-8 - Entry into service: 2012-2019

Replacing Boeing 767-200ER and Boeing 767-300ER

Boeing 787-9 - Entry into service: 2013(projected)
Aircraft Year Retired Replacement Notes
Boeing 80A 1934 - Launch customer
Boeing 40A 1937 - Launch customer
Boeing 247 1942 - Launch customer, all 59 of the base model were built for United
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 - -
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