There’s no better way to spend a day at the airport then being part of United Airlines’ Fantasy Flight to the “North Pole”. For more than three decades, United Airlines has been bringing holiday cheer to children in need from around the world by taking them on a special trip to the North Pole. United conducts Fantasy Flights in several cities and it is a popular event for their employees. The airline has so many volunteers they have to turn some away.
This past Wednesday I visited Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) where more than 45 children and families from Beth Israel Hospital, University Medical Center and Trinitas Hospital gathered for their eagerly anticipated voyage. The enthusiastic passengers were greeted gate-side at Terminal C by enthusiastic United employees singing Christmas carols. They were also joined by Mrs. Claus as they waited to board our special flight to the North Pole. Many of these families are battling serious illnesses such as cancer or experiencing extreme poverty, so it’s incredibly meaningful to take them for a holiday getaway full of extra cheer and holiday magic.
Once aboard the aircraft things really get going as Christmas music is played over the PA setting the mood for the voyage to the North Pole. Some of the Fantasy Flights don’t actually fly; they just taxi around the airport and pull into another gate. I was surprised as our 757 pushed back from the gate and began getting de-iced followed by taxiing to the runway for takeoff. Some of the kids on the flight had never been on a plane before, so lifting off and taking to the air was a thrilling experience for them. Once we were up in the air there was more singing and dancing. The pilots read Twas the night before Christmas over the PA adding to the festive mood.
Due to weather and air traffic conditions our flight was shortened. As we began our decent into the “North Pole” one of the FAs explained that the trip was so fast because our plane was equipped with rocket engines and had entered through a time portal speeding up our flight time. Everyone was instructed to close the window shades and no peeking was allowed. We touched down and pulled up to the gate and upon deplaning it was like walking into every kid’s dream. Not only was Santa there to greet every child but characters from Disney and Marvel were there too along with more United volunteers.
It’s incredibly rewarding seeing the joy that the Fantasy Flight brings to the families who come to this very special event. United really capitalizes on the opportunity to make a difference in these children’s lives, putting so much heart into making every moment special from check-in to landing at the North Pole to receiving gifts from Santa. It’s amazing to see every employee go above and beyond to make this experience happen. The entire event is very heartwarming and these families will never forget the experience.
This year, United is flying children from all around the world at 16 locations: Honolulu, Frankfurt, Cleveland, Denver, Washington Dulles, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando, Chicago O’Hare, Guam, New York/New Jersey, Tokyo-Narita, Phoenix, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio.
(Images courtesy of the author)