Come fly the friendly skies. Despite the fact that it is on the verge of bankruptcy at this writing, United (UA) is one of the three largest airlines in the world (the other two are American Airlines and Delta Air Lines). It is headquartered at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, and has hubs at San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, and Washington Dulles. It is also the largest carrier in the Star Alliance.

In the beginning, United was an air transport subsidiary of Boeing: it was spun off from its parent company in 1934 when the nation's air mail network was overhauled. In its early days, United's fleet consisted mostly of Boeing 247's, and was later updated with Sud Caravelles and Boeing 727's.

Until airline deregulation in 1978, United was fairly stagnant in comparison to other U.S. majors, peaking only with its acquisition of Capital Airlines that temporarily made it the largest airline in America. In the 1980's, however, it began its expansion over the Pacific Ocean, and by 1990 was operating an extensive international network to Europe and Latin America, much of which had been purchased from the defunct Pan Am.

Then, in 1993, United experienced its first major financial hiccup, losing a record $957 million. At the end of 1993, United's parent corporation, UAL, reached an agreement with its employees to lower salaries in exchange for stock options in the company, which temporarily stopped United's slide and gave key labor unions seats on the board of directors.

United's current problems are facing a large portion of the industry: the gargantuan airlines that have operated on the same business models for over two decades, relying on corporate expense accounts and ridiculously high ticket prices for last-minute travel. Many hope that the bankruptcies of United, US Airways, and potentially other airlines (AA is rumored to be next) will force the industry to rethink its strategy, and follow the business practices of more profitable carriers like jetBlue and Southwest Airlines.

Their fleet currently consists of:

United's aircraft average 10 years in age, making theirs one of the oldest fleets among the U.S. majors.

Livery: Gray and blue
VIP lounge: Red Carpet Club
Frequent flyer program: Mileage Plus
Slogan: "Rising"