CHICAGO, Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- For the twentieth year, United Airlines employees are making the holidays a little brighter by hosting Fantasy Flights to the "North Pole" for children facing illness or living in underserved communities. During these events – which kicked off at many airports this past weekend – children and their families board United flights to the North Pole for a special holiday experience. Upon arrival, the children enter an airport gate or hangar where United employees have strung lights, set up Christmas trees and festively decorated to create a magical holiday destination. Children meet Santa Claus and local celebrities, receive gifts and play games for a day of fun.
"For many of the children, it's the first time they've been on an airplane. The magic of flight paired with the magic our volunteers create at airports truly makes for memorable experiences for everyone," said Bill Watts, director of operations at Washington-Dulles and Fantasy Flight volunteer. "The holidays are a time for giving back, and I know I speak for my fellow United volunteers around our network when I say we are honored to make the kids' holidays extra special."Fantasy Flights are entirely volunteer-driven. United provides the aircraft and event location, while employees and retirees volunteer their time to raise money for gifts and fuel, bake cookies, prepare food, decorate gates and hangars, and even don holiday costumes. More than 1,500 employees volunteer each year. United will host Fantasy Flights in all of its hub cities – Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, Newark, N.J., San Francisco and Washington, D.C. – as well as Boise, ID., Phoenix, San Antonio, Texas, and Sydney. About United United Airlines and United Express operate an average of more than 5,300 flights a day to more than 360 airports across six continents. In 2012, United and United Express carried more passenger traffic than any other airline in the world and operated nearly two million flights carrying 140 million customers. United is investing in upgrading its onboard products and now offers more flat-bed seats in its premium cabins and more extra-legroom, economy-class seating than any airline in North America. In 2013, United became the first U.S.-based international carrier to offer satellite-based Wi-Fi on long-haul overseas routes. The airline also features DIRECTV® on more than 200 aircraft, offering customers more live television access than any other airline in the world. United operates nearly 700 mainline aircraft and has made large-scale investments in its fleet. In 2013, United continues to modernize its fleet by taking delivery of more than two dozen new Boeing aircraft. The company will have launched 14 new international and 19 new domestic routes, including the addition of seven new cities to its network, by the end of 2013. Business Traveler magazine awarded United Best Airline for North American Travel for 2012, and readers of Global Traveler magazine have voted United's MileagePlus program the best frequent flyer program for nine consecutive years. According to the 4 th annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey published by IdeaWorksCompany in May 2013, United has the most saver-style award-seat availability among the largest U.S. global airlines. Air Transport World named United as the Eco-Aviation Airline of the Year Gold Winner in 2013. United is a founding member of Star Alliance, which provides service to 195 countries via 28 member airlines. More than 85,000 United employees reside in every U.S. state and in countries around the world. For more information, visit united.com or follow United on Twitter and Facebook. The common stock of United's parent, United Continental Holdings, Inc., is traded on the NYSE under the symbol UAL. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130404/MM89155LOGO) SOURCE United Airlines