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United Airlines, Inc. (commonly referred to as United) is a major American airline headquartered at Willis Tower in Chicago, Illinois. United operates a large domestic and international route network spanning cities large and small across the United States and all six continents. Measured by fleet size and number of routes, it is the third largest airline in the world. It is a founding member of the Star Alliance, the world's largest airline alliance with a total of 28 member airlines. 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.

United has eight hubs, with Chicago–O'Hare being its largest in terms of passengers carried and the number of departures.


As part of its hub-and-spoke business model, United currently operates eight hubs within the United States and its territories.

  • Chicago–O'Hare – 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. United's corporate headquarters are also in Chicago.
  • Denver – United's fourth largest hub and its hub for the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. In 2017, United flew approximately 25.9 million passengers through DIA or about 71,000 people per day. As of December 2017, United has about 42% of the market share at DIA making it the airport's largest airline.
  • Guam - Inherited through the merger with Continental, Guam serves as United's hub for flight routes in the Pacific region. United has about 98.8% of the market share at Guam International, making it by far the largest airline at the airport. About 313,000 passengers flew through Guam between June 2018 and May 2019 on United, which is about 858 people per day.
  • Houston–Intercontinental – Inherited through the merger with Continental, Houston-Intercontinental serves as United's second largest hub and its hub for the Southern United States. It is the primary gateway to Latin America. About 33.5 million passengers fly through Houston on United every year, or about 91,000 people per day. United currently has about 78% of the seat share at Bush, making it the airport's largest tenant.
  • Los Angeles – United's secondary hub for the West Coast and gateway to Asia and Australia. About 10 million passengers fly through LAX on United every year, or about 28,000 people per day. United has 15% of the market share at LAX, making it the third-biggest carrier at the airport.
  • Newark – Inherited through the merger with Continental, Newark is United's third largest hub and its primary hub for the New York City market and the Eastern Coast of the United States. It is United's primary gateway to Europe, while including other select flights to Latin America and Asia. 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. United controls all of Terminal C and also uses part of Terminal A for United Express.
  • San Francisco – United's fifth largest hub and its primary hub for the West Coast and gateway to Asia and Australia. About 22 million passengers pass through SFO every year on United, which is about 60,000 people per day. United has about 46% of the market share at San Francisco International, making it the biggest airline at the airport.
  • Washington–Dulles – United's secondary hub for the East Coast and gateway to Europe. United has about 65% of the market share at Washington Dulles, making it the largest airline at the airport. About 14 million passengers fly through Dulles every year on United, which is about 38,465 people per day.

United Polaris Business[]

On June 2, 2016, United introduced its new, redesigned international business class seat that will replace current business class seats. 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.[94]

These seats can be found on select Boeing 787 aircraft, Boeing 767 aircraft, and Boeing 777 aircraft.

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.[95] 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.[96][97]

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.

Concerns and conflicts[]

Animal transport[]

In 2013, after pressure from PETA, United Airlines announced that it would no longer transport monkeys to laboratories. United was the last North American passenger airline to transport these animals to laboratories.[117][118] 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.[119]

Effective March 20, 2018, the PetSafe program was suspended with no new reservations for cargo transport of pets accepted.[120] This came after United announced plans to mark pet carriers in the passenger cabin with bright tags[121] and legislation was introduced in the United States House of Representatives[122] and United States Senate banning the placement of pets in overhead compartments.[123] 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.[124]

Cyber security issues[]

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 cyber security firms.[125][126]

Privacy concerns[]

In February 2019, privacy concerns arose after it emerged that United had installed cameras in some seat backs. United said that the cameras were "not activated", but journalists reported that malicious hackers could still potentially enable the cameras to spy on passengers