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From airmail to biofuel – United Airlines builds on 90 years of aviation firsts

Apr 06, 2016

CHICAGO, IL – When a Swallow aircraft took off from Pasco, Washington, on an airmail route bound for Boise, Idaho, on April 6, 1926, it marked the beginning of 90 years of aviation firsts for United Airlines. Since then, United has connected more than 4 billion people to important business meetings, family events, new experiences and cultures, and, most importantly, each other.

“On our 90th birthday, I couldn’t be more proud of our rich heritage and the exciting future ahead of United. I want to thank our customers for your loyalty over the years, and we look forward to serving you for many more as we continue to elevate our customer experience today and into the future,” said Oscar Munoz, president and CEO of United Airlines. “I also want to express my deep gratitude to United’s more than 84,000 aviation professionals for your unsurpassed teamwork, passion and dedication. You’ve helped make the world a smaller place by safely and comfortably uniting billions of people around the globe.”

United and the family of airlines that it represents has been at the forefront of innovation in the airline industry for the last 90 years. Some of these innovative firsts include:

• Creating commercial aviation’s first flight kitchen in 1936. The first meal served was a choice of fried chicken or scrambled eggs. Today, United serves more than 50 million meals per year.

• Instituting the industry’s first progressive maintenance program that dramatically improved efficiency. Today, United has 12,500 technical operations employees located at more than 60 stations around the world.

• Introducing live television to the airline industry in the 1960s. In the Boeing 707’s inflight lounge, passengers could sit together and briefly watch live TV while flying over major metropolitan areas. Now, United has 216 aircraft with live television, offers the largest selection of free streaming content among U.S. carriers and operates nearly 700 aircraft with satellite Wi-Fi, making it the world’s largest satellite Wi-Fi fleet.

• The first U.S. airline to order jetliners, introduced the Boeing 777, and was the North American launch customer for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

• The first airline to fly to all 50 U.S. states, launched first-ever nonstop service between the United States and Chengdu, China, and was the first U.S. airline to serve Israel from the West Coast with service between San Francisco and Tel Aviv.

• United recently made history by becoming the first U.S. airline to begin use of commercial-scale volumes of sustainable aviation biofuel for regularly scheduled flights.

Varney Air Lines operated its first flight exactly 90 years ago. Varney Air Lines, founded by Walter T. Varney, would become one of the founding carriers of United Airlines. In 1934, Varney also founded Varney Speed Lines, which would eventually become Continental Airlines.

From airmail to biofuel – United Airlines builds on 90 years of aviation firsts
Varney Air Lines J5 Swallow mail plane

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