I recently joined United on a whimsical journey from Newark to “The North Pole”, a destination that every child fantasizes about during the holidays.
On this special flight, over forty children and families from nearby Beth Israel Hospital, University Medical Center, and Trinitas Hospital were invited to Newark Liberty International Airport to board a holiday-themed “North Pole-bound” plane headed to Santa.
For decades, Fantasy Flights in several United hub cities and smaller markets have become an annual holiday tradition, where United employees dedicate their time to create special memories for children afflicted by illness, poverty and special needs.
Check in at EWR began at 8:30am, and I headed to get C120 for the pre-departure festivities before we boarded the United Boeing 757-200 headed to “NTP”.
Before boarding, the festive flight crew made a grand entrance as we were all singing Christmas carols at the gate.
Children were given a “Ben Flyin'” United plush bear and a passport-themed flight log as they boarded. United Business-First amenity kits were distributed to adults.
On board, the aircraft was beautiful decorated and the festive North Pole theme was taken very seriously – all the way from the safety demonstration to every single inflight announcement. I must give credit to the creative minds behind all of this excitement!
Once we reached cruising altitude, children were invited to sing songs, with the promise that they’d arrive at the North Pole faster with the more songs they sang. Because the holiday spirit was so high, it only took us 45-minutes to reach the North Pole ;).
As we descended, the captain instructed us to close all of the window shades in order to “keep the Christmas magic alive” as we prepared to arrive at Santa’s workshop at the North Pole.
When we landed back in Newark, we arrived at a hidden gate (C90), that was magically transformed into the North Pole. Children enjoyed festivities that inlcuded live entertainment, games, treats, and special surprises and visits from popular characters.
This year, there were a total of 13 United Fantasy flights in the following cities: Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Honolulu, Guam, Denver, Washington DC, Cleveland, London, and Newark.
I think this is a marvelous and cheerful initiate that gives children a once-in-a-lifetime experience, while simultaneously allowing a chance for United employees to volunteer and impact the lives of of children and families who may be experiencing difficult circumstances this holiday season.
Many of the children who joined on one of United’s Fantasy Flights this year have been very sick, battling diseases, and have endured many painful needles and treatments. As a mom of two young children who are the same ages as the children on board, participating in this special flight particularly touched my heart.
I’m a strong believer that physical healing is influenced by the emotional and spiritual state, so giving these children a dose of “magic” truly is chicken soup for the soul.
I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday season!