Operating an airline during the winter can at times be a challenging task. With hubs located in cities like Newark, Denver, and Chicago, winter isn’t always kind to us here at United. However, we have the best employees in the business, who work year-round to make sure our operation is ready for whatever comes our way.
Last year, Denver broke a 103-year-old record for snow in February, and cities in the northeast were hit with record snowfall. Chicago had the coldest February since 1875, and New York had the third-coldest February since 1869. Despite the tough winter, United canceled 17,000 fewer flights in January and February compared to the prior year, inconveniencing 1.3 million fewer passengers.
Our goal is to get you to the places you want to go safely and reliably, but when our operation is impacted by weather or other events outside our control, we are committed to working as a team to consistently communicate with you, while ensuring our employees are empowered to help you and have the tools they need to do so.
We can’t control the weather, but we can influence the outcome. More proactive approaches to challenging weather events, combined with our investment in improved tools and our excellent team of professionals, are helping to make your travel experience smoother during winter weather events.
I’ve asked Denver Airport Operations Supervisor Brad Brown to share some of his knowledge on handling winter operations. With nearly 30 years of experience at United, there’s no better person to shed some light on this topic.
On behalf of all of us at United, thank you for your business, and we wish you safe travels and a Happy New Year.
Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, United Airlines
Teamwork Is Key to Winter Operations
It was a boyhood dream of mine to work for an airline, and I’m proud to have been with United for close to 30 years—the majority of them in Denver. As part of the airport operations team, my day starts before sunrise and includes tasks like staff planning, coordinating the towing of aircraft, and supervising the auxiliary power unit team to maximize fuel conservation. My team and I are also responsible for deicing all United and United Express aircraft in Denver, and planning for winter is a year-round process.
For any expected weather event, we begin our planning at least 48 hours ahead of time. In addition to our daily inspection of overnight aircraft for frost or ice, we also conduct twice-daily weather calls with our meteorologist and airport leadership. We work together to create an action plan that makes the best use of all resources, including staffing and equipment, carefully considering the type of event and its potential to impact the operation and our passengers.
No matter how effectively we plan, Mother Nature will always throw us something extra. Being part of a cohesive team that keeps things going even in difficult circumstances is my favorite part about working during these types of events. Working in the background to provide support to the operation and doing everything we can to get our impacted customers where they want to go is a great feeling.
This is where the value of teamwork really comes into play—when we rise to meet the challenge. Working with this great team and depending on one another to deliver on our promise is truly a highlight of what I do. We learn about things we can do better each year, and I’m looking forward to further improving the experience for our customers
Airport Operations Supervisor, Denver