United Teams Up With Chicago Bears to Support Special Olympics

PR Newswire ·  Jun 13 02:00

Players work alongside airline's Special Olympics Service Ambassadors at O'Hare International Airport for the day to help drive awareness of organization's travel needs

Through United's Miles on a Mission platform, loyalty customers are able to donate their unused airline miles to Special Olympics to support athletes

CHICAGO, June 12, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- United teamed up with the Chicago Bears today at O'Hare International Airport to support Special Olympics, Inc. ("Special Olympics"). Chicago Bears Tight End Cole Kmet worked alongside the airline's Special Olympics Service Ambassadors for the day to help drive awareness of the organization's travel needs.

United launched the Special Olympics Service Ambassador (SOSA) Program in 2019, inviting Special Olympics athletes to work in airports as part-time employees. These employees welcome United customers, helping them locate check-in kiosks, showing them where to drop bags and also how to find TSA PreCheck lines. Beyond the lobby, SOSAs also help travelers with wayfinding, gate recovery, and assist with Agent on Demand. To-date, there are currently 18 SOSA workers at United hubs in Chicago, Houston, Denver and Washington, D.C., with further expansions to follow this year in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The airline has also sponsored Special Olympics Plane Pull competitions, supported local volunteer events and on a global level, the Special Olympics World Games.

Last year, 4,000 Special Olympics athletes, coaches, Unified partners, and staff from North America traveled across the country and around the globe for sport and educational development, athletic competitions and leadership events. United supports Special Olympics by providing travel to the organization while encouraging its loyalty program members to donate their unused miles through the airline's industry-leading crowdsourcing program, Miles on a Mission. In addition, United's role as a sponsor of Special Olympics' annual Capitol Hill Day events helped to ensure that 49 Special Olympics Programs from 47 states had the opportunity to participate in more than 300 vital meetings between athletes and lawmakers in Washington, DC. Since 2017, United has contributed more than $8.5 million in travel miles and cash to support Special Olympics athletes.

Today's unification between United and the Bears is just the latest way the organizations have shown their support.

Chicago Bear Tight End Cole Kmet had a hard time keeping up with United SOSA Daniel Smrokowski. "Daniel's energy was tremendous. He was moving around all day, smiling and greeting each passerby that he interacted with. It was hard trying to keep up with him! Daniel is an inspiration, I'm proud and honored to have spent the day with my new friend."

The Chicago Bears remain proud supporters of Special Olympics of Illinois, a connection and bond that dates back decades and carries strong into today.

The Special Olympics Service Ambassadors are gearing up for United's busiest summer season ever, with 5% more customers flying the airline this June, July and August.

"I've been a part of the United Airlines team as a Service Ambassador since the Service Ambassador position was created. I'm excited to not only have support from the Chicago Bears but to also see United expand our Service Ambassador team across hubs," said Smrokowski. "As athletes who are on teams, both ourselves as Special Olympics athletes and the Chicago Bears know the importance of collaboration and communication. We use those skills in the airport to help travelers."

United has been a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion for eight years in a row and has consistently earned a top score on the Disability Equality Index. According to a 2018 report by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, only 19.1% of people with intellectual disabilities were employed in the United States compared to 61.8% for people without a disability

"Employing Special Olympics Service Ambassadors is truly a gift to both our United team and our customers in airports," said Omar Idris, Vice President United Airlines, Chicago O'Hare Hub. "Through the SOSA program and business resource groups like Bridge for people of all abilities, United Airlines strives to create an inclusive and dynamic workplace environment."

Some of the airline's measures to improve accessibility include:

  • Plans to improve the travel experience for customers who use a wheelchair, including a new digital filter on that helps determine which aircraft can accommodate different sized chairs, and refunding the fare difference if a higher-fare flight is needed to accommodate a specific wheelchair size.
  • Last summer, United became the first U.S. airline to add Braille to aircraft interiors, helping millions of travelers with visual disabilities to more easily navigate the cabin independently. United expects to outfit its entire mainline fleet with Braille by the end of 2026.
  • The United mobile app was recently redesigned to make it easier for people with visual disabilities to use. The app offers increased color contrast, more space between graphics and an enhanced display and announcement of information to better integrate with the screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack.
  • United's Inflight Seatback Entertainment screens offer a wide range of accessible features such as closed captioning, text-to-speech controls, magnification, explore-by-touch capabilities, audio-described movies, and adjustable and high-contrast text and color correction. As part of United Next, the airline's historic growth plan, the carrier expects to take delivery of about 700 new narrow and widebody aircraft by the end of 2032, all of which will include the latest in seatback screen entertainment options.

Visit today to learn more about how you can donate miles to Special Olympics and become a MileagePlus Member for free.

About United

At United, Good Leads The Way. With U.S. hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., United operates the most comprehensive global route network among North American carriers and is now the largest airline in the world as measured by available seat miles. For more about how to join the United team, please visit and more information about the company is at . United Airlines Holdings, Inc., the parent company of United Airlines, Inc., is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol "UAL".

About Special Olympics International

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health and leadership. With nearly four million athletes and Unified Sports partners and one million coaches and volunteers in more than 170 countries, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and nearly 50,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: X, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn. Learn more at

SOURCE United Airlines

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