Yesterday was a special day for the unsuspecting passengers of UA1981, a midday flight from Houston to Chicago. Turns out they had boarded a flight 40 years in the making.
UA1981, A Special Flight To Commemorate 40 Years Of MileagePlus
UA1981 left Houston (IAH) shortly after noon on Thursday, bound for Chicago (ORD). The flight number was unique to the day, tracing back 40 years to 1981, the year that MileagePlus was founded, United’s loyalty program.
Present onboard the fight were a team of hand-chosen flight attendants, all of them who were also celebrating 40 years with United Airlines this year.
At the gate prior to boarding, Luc Bondar and Mike Hanna showed up and began making remarks. Bondar is United’s Vice President of marketing & Loyalty and President of MileagePlus while Hanna is United’s Senior Vice President of Airport Operations. The men talked about the history of MileagePlus and promised the future was bright.
The celebration continued onboard. Each passengers onboard received a MileagPlus gift bag with items including a deck of cards made just for the occasion and portable charger.
During the flight, Bondar hosted a MileagePlus trivia game for customers onboard and upon descent, he revealed that everyone onboard would receive a complimentary one-year subscription to CLEAR, a generous walk-away gift.
This is a nice story not only for what occurred at the gate and onboard, but because we have reached a point in our fight against the pandemic that we feel safe doing such activities. Think back to even earlier this year – such frivolity would have sparked outrage. But we’re making progress, approaching a new normal, and more than the flight itself, I was simply happy to see a special event on airplane.
Later today, I’ll take a more critical look at the current state of MileagePlus and how United Airlines should look ahead to the next 40 years.
images: United Airlines
I was very young in 1981. I saw a newspaper ad for TWA and American and signed up. My AAdvantage number is low but not the lowest. I thought I’d never fly enough to get an award. I didn’t sign up for United. I then flew a United flight and didn’t get credit for it. That was the last time it happened. From then on, I signed up for all airlines that I flew aboard. Oodles and oodles of awards, many of them domestic economy class because that’s the best value for miles spent per mile of the award trip (but first class is the best value for cost of the ticket per mile spent from your account).
Had I signed up for United before that first flight, I would have flown United despite an inconvenient schedule. For the routes I was taking, Eastern had a far better schedule.
I was a UA flight attendant for 35 years with UAL. We (the flight attendants, on our own) would make up and play games with the passengers. They (mostly all – always a grump or two) always had a good time and everyone was all smiles when we landed. The flight attendants had fun as well as the passengers. Nice to see someone doing this again. One time we landed in Chicago at about 1830. Luckily it was a DC 10 with a TV. It was bitter bitter cold outside, so the ramp people could only be out for a short time, then they’d have to go in to get warm. We watched the 1830 news, then the regular programming began at 1900. Then we watched the 10 pm news. Yes, we were STILL waiting for a gate. Then we watched the Late Show. (I don’t remember who the host was then.) I think it was 2300 before we got a gate. Well, besides TV, we played games. We gave away wine and liquor. I then remember going to do the liquor report with my friend, and we were apalled. There wasn’t a bottle of ANYTHING left on the entire airplane. oops. We knew we were going to lose our beloved jobs. After the last passenger deplaned, about 4 flight attendant supervisors boarded. My friend and I were close to tears, and thought, oh no. Here it comes. They’ll fire us right on the spot. They were shaking their heads in disbelief, and asked what we had done. It seems they were coming to meet the plane expecting to see nearly 300 really angry people. They asked what we had done, because everyone was happy and smiling and laughing when they deplaned. We told them before they got too excited about all these happy people, they should know there wasn’t an ounce of liquor on the airplane. They didn’t bat an eye. They thanked us for keeping the people happy and said we did whatever it took and it was well worth the good will to have happy customers.
Hi Cheryl, that is a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing with us!
Spot the maskless passenger and sleeping passenger in the last picture.
The maskless dude is a tool.