History of United Airlines

  • In early April, 1926, Walter T. Varney launched contract air mail service between Pasco, Wash. and Elko, Nev. via Boise, Idaho, marking the birth of United Airlines.
  • In 1926 and 1927, three companies are born – National Air Transport (NAT), Pacific Air Transport (PAT) and Boeing Air Transport (BAT).
  • In late October, 1928, Boeing Airplane – Transport Corp. (BATC) was incorporated in Delaware, acquiring BAT, PAT and the Boeing Airplane Co. as subsidiaries.
  • In February, 1929, BATC changed its name to United Aircraft and Transport Corp.(UATC), acquiring a few new subsidiaries, including Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Hamilton Standard Propeller Co. and Chance Vought Corp.
  • In mid-May, 1930, world’s first stewardess service was introduced by BAT.
  • One year later, United Air Lines, Inc. (UAL) was incorporated as a management corporation, with the goal to coordinate operations of UATCs airline subsidiaries.
  • On the 1st of May, 1934, United Air Lines, Inc. (UAL) became an operating company.
  • In December, 1936, United opened the first flight kitchen in the industry, at Oakland.
  • During World War II, United transported more than 156,000 military personnel, 8,600 tons of freight and 9,200 tons of mail to help the war effort, while its base in Cheyenne served as a modification center for B-17 bombers under a contract with the U.S. War Department.
  • After the war, in late 1947, the Douglas DC-6 was introduced, reducing coast-to-coast travel time to 10 hours.
  • By 1957, new aircraft join the fleet, including the DC-7 and the Convair 370.
  • In late October, 1955, United becomes the first domestic airline in the US to order the DC-8 jet.
  • In Mid-September, 1959, DC-8s are introduced on the New York – San Francisco route, followed by the Boeing 720, less than one year later.
  • On the 1st of June, 1961, United merged with Capital Airlines, becoming world’s largest commercial airline.
  • By 1969, Boeing 727s and 737s are added to the fleet, and during the same year, New York (longest domestic air route, almost 5,000 miles) and Chicago (first nonstop service, using Douglas DC-8-62s) are connected to Honolulu.
  • In March, 1971, United introduced “Apollo,” its new-technology reservations system.
  • A decade later, the Mileage Plus frequent flier program was inaugurated.
  • On the 1st of April, 1983, United’s first transpacific route, Seattle – Tokyo, joined the network.
  • In 1990, United started its first scheduled transatlantic service, connecting Chicago and Washington to Frankfurt, and announced the largest aircraft order in airline history, worth $22 billion.
  • In 1992, the first services to Latin America are introduced and, one year later, the first Airbus A320 joins the fleet.
  • In mid-1995, the first Boeing 777 service in the industry was launched by United, connecting Washington to London.
  • In 1996, United’s seasonal Chicago-Hong Kong nonstop service becomes the longest commercial route in its history.
  • In mid-May, 1997, United partners with Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS and Thai Airways to create “Star Alliance: the airline network for Earth.”
  • In early Mach, 1999, United was the first U.S. airline to offer to customers in first class a seat that converts to a bed, the United First Suites.
  • Despite its continued expansion and steady profits recorded in the last decade, United ends 2001 with a record loss of $2.1 billion.
  • In December, 2002, United files for Chapter 11 reorganization.
  • On the 1st of February, 2006, United exits bankruptcy, returning to normal operations.
  • In late July, 2006, United was the world’s third largest airline by revenue-passenger-miles, third-largest by total operating revenues, and fourth-largest by total passengers transported.
  • As of late December, 2009, United has about 47,000 employees, providing services to 1,071 destinations in 171 countries worldwide.
  • In 2010, United joined with Continental, together creating the world’s most comprehensive global route network, including world-class international gateways to Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East with non-stop or one-stop service from virtually anywhere in the United States.
  • In 2010 and 2011, the two carriers went through a rigorous 18-month process of aligning operating policies and procedures to obtain a single operating certificate from the FAA.
  • In 2011, United Continental Holdings announced that it received FAA approval for a single operating certificate (SOC), marking another significant achievement in the integration process. This means that the unified airline will operate with a single carrier code, under the name United.
  • In march 2012, another necessary and important step was made in the merging of United and Continental, the transition from two separate websites that use different reservation systems to one website with a single reservation system.
  • In 2012, with an average of 5,446 flights a day to more than 370 airports across six continents, United and United Express operated nearly two million flights carrying 140 million customers. This means more passenger traffic than any other airline in the world.
  • In 2013, United converted its existing order for 25 Airbus A350 900 aircraft into 35 A350 1000 aircraft. However, the order was converted and increased again, in September 2017, to 45 Airbus A350 900 aircraft to replace the majority of the Boeing 777-200ER fleet from late 2022 through 2027.
  • In June 2014, United was the first airline to fly to the new Terminal 2 at London Heathrow. United’s move to “The Queen’s Terminal” brought together all its operations at London Heathrow, previously split between Terminals 1 and 4.
  • In 2015, United Airlines pulled out of New York JFK International Airport, moving all its flights to its Newark hub. Also, United introduced a new, custom-designed leather First Class seat for its domestic aircraft.
  • In 2016, United introduced United Polaris business class service, a reinvention of its international premium cabin travel experience that replaced United BusinessFirst and United Global First service. The Polaris product features the new United Polaris business class seats that recline flat, new food and beverage experience, new custom bedding, new amenity kit, and access to the new United Polaris lounges.
  • In 2017, United retired its last Boeing B747 aircraft. United was one of the first airlines to fly Jumbo Jet which was replaced by Boeing B777 aircraft. United also put into service 14 Boeing B777 300ER aircraft, the first to feature the all-new United Polaris business class seats.
  • In 2018, United added two new types of aircraft to its fleet, 10 Boeing B737 MAX 9 and 3 Boeing B7878 10 to enter service in January 2019. United became the first North American airline to take delivery of the Boeing B7878 10, and the first airline in the world to have the entire family of 787 Dreamliners in its fleet.
  • In March 2019, United started operating its newest Boeing B787 10 Dreamliner on six transatlantic routes from its New York/Newark hub to Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, Dublin, Barcelona, and Tel Aviv.
  • During its long history, United was the victim of the first air sabotage act in mid-October, 1933, when a Boeing 247 was blown in mid-air and all 7 people on board perished. In September, 2001, United’s Flight 175 was flown into into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, causing 65 fatalities on board and over 600 in the South Tower, while Flight 93 was also hijacked during the September, 11 attacks, crashed in a field in Stonycreek Township, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers assaulted the terrorists who hijacked the plane (all 44 people on board were killed in the crash).