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Getting Home for the Holidays

United’s Network Operations Center watches over every flight

Author Jennifer Dohm


More than 180,800. That’s how many flights United and United Express customers will fly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. As flyers crisscross the globe for holiday travel, employees at United’s Network Operations Center (NOC) in Chicago will track, route and support each flight.

“We focus on getting our customers where they need to go safely and on time all year long,” says Jim DeYoung, network operations managing director. “But of course during the holiday season, we understand those travel plans are incredibly important, and with the potential for winter storms the stakes are that much higher.”

DeYoung and his 1,300 colleagues coordinate with air traffic control, customer service, meteorologists, mechanics and others to make sure flights are running safely and on time. The NOC takes up the entire 27th floor of the Willis Tower—more than 52,000 square feet—and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Every United and United Express flight worldwide flows through here. “If United’s name is on the side of the plane, at least one dozen people in this room are watching that flight and making sure everything goes smoothly,” DeYoung says.

And when it doesn’t, the NOC team jumps into action for a quick solution. From snow storms to mechanical issues and everything in between, the NOC has contingency plans and proactive solutions for every situation.

“We all have families and know what it’s like to have things not go according to plan when traveling,” DeYoung says. “We’re there to make sure there’s as little disruption as possible and to get folks with their loved ones for the holidays.”

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