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The sky can be more than a dream

By Ryan Hood

Ask Randall Rochon about his first flight and you'll come away thinking the plane just arrived at its destination.

How old were you?

"Nine."

Where did you go?

"Lafayette, Louisiana to Houston and then to Seattle. My mom and I went to visit my dad, who was looking at potential new homes in Washington.

"We flew on a Continental ATR."

Wait – you even remember the aircraft type?

"Yes – we flew on a Continental ATR to Houston and then an Airbus 300 to Seattle," he explains. "I asked my mom questions the entire time."

How fast was the plane going down the runway? How does it take off? How high does the plane go? How fast are they going when they land? The nine-year-old boy was fascinated by aviation.

That fascination soon became an obsession, and that obsession eventually became a career. Randall Rochon, a Newark-based Boeing 767 and 757 First Officer, has worked at United for six years, achieving a goal that dated back to those very first flights as a nine-year-old: he wanted to work where it all began.

Randall is extremely grateful for his dream having come true, but he's quick to deflect credit in the direction of others who helped him along the way.

"This industry, aviation, you cannot do this alone," Randall says. "I didn't do it alone."

To start, there's Clovis Jones, then-President of OBAP (Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals) who put a high school-aged Randall in touch with Western Michigan University when searching for a scholarship. Then, there's Tony Dennis, who was Western Michigan's Director of Recruitment at the time, who helped Randall and whom he now considers to be a second father. There are Captains Corey Shepard, Leo Sherman, Donald Turner and Assistant Chief Pilot Ray-Sean Silvera who all mentored him at prior steps in his career. There's retired United Captain Roscoe Edwards, who took him under his wing like a little brother once he arrived at United. The list goes on and on.

These are just some of the many influences that got Randall to where he is today and he is eternally grateful for them all. They're also the reasons he is so passionate about helping the next generation of pilots. He is currently the Vice Chair for OBAP, where he's also the director of the collegiate program, helping aspiring aviators achieve their goals.

"The work I do within and outside of OBAP is important to me because many minorities, especially African-American individuals, look to the skies and dream," Randall says. "They dream about being on that plane in the sky. Their minds wonder about what space is like and they think of what it would be like to travel to a different place. This is what drives me to keep doing what I do. Many of these individuals do not know how to find those answers. I want these young minds to know that there is a whole world out there waiting for them."

In addition to his work with OBAP, he has run ACE Camps in Michigan, New York, St. Croix and St. Thomas over the last six years.

ACE Camps are week-long events that connect high school students with the opportunity to explore a wide variety of aviation careers through hands on projects, tours and flight experience.

"Ever since I got that scholarship at Western Michigan, it's been my mission to give back to the community," Randall says. "We need to continue making minorities aware of this opportunity, because if you can help them achieve that dream, then the world is at their fingertips and the sky has no limit.

"I was fortunate. Aviation has been life-changing for me, so I want to change the lives of others as well."

7 tips to stay travel savvy this year

By The Hub team

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to reflect on what's working and not working when it comes to travel habits and your travel routine. Here are seven tips to consider before you travel next.

1. Apply for Global Entry

For those who travel internationally, Global Entry will make your travel experience feel like a breeze. With expedited clearance privileges, you'll be able to skip long customs lines when entering the U.S. from international destinations. To apply, you'll need to complete a background check and an in-person interview. The membership costs $100 for five years. And the bonus: TSA Pre✓ ® is included.

2. Take advantage of loyalty programs

Earn award miles through a great selection of credit card products including the United℠ Explorer Card and the United MileagePlus® Club card. From free checked bags and priority boarding to United Club℠ passes and Premier Access®, you'll find an award program that fits your travel needs.

You don't have to have status to get into one of our United Club℠ locations, either. Purchase a one-day pass for $59 through the United app or at the lounge's front desk. Once inside, you can recharge in comfortable seats, grab a bite to eat, enjoy a complimentary beverage or catch up with work.

3. Utilize airport amenities

From world-class restaurants to relaxing retreats, many airport locations have amenities that are worth a visit. With major upgrades to restaurant and bar offerings, you'll soon forget you're in an airport terminal. Below are a few locations worth checking out:

  • Vino Volo wine bars that offer great wines by the glass or flights, along with bottles (check for locations here)
  • The relaxing yoga room at San Francisco International Airport, located in Terminal 2
  • Olio, an upscale eatery known for paninis and soups that's the brainchild of award-winning Chef Monica Pope, located in Terminal C at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston
  • Melange, a bakery and chocolatier, located in Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport
  • Tortas Frontera by award-winning chef Rick Bayless, located in Terminal 1 at Chicago O'Hare International Airport

4. Download a travel app

There are currently thousands of apps designed to make your travel life easier. By utilizing more travel apps, you can make your trip more seamless, from packing more efficiently to easily finding great restaurants near you. Three apps you may want to consider downloading are:

  • Gate Guru, which gives locations of restaurants and stores at the top airports in the world. There are also user reviews, and sometimes you can even get a discount coupon.
  • Packing Pro, for those who want to be more organized when trying to decide what — and what not — to bring on a trip. There are customizable and sample packing lists that cover every contingency.
  • United, may be thought of as solely a way to book flights and check in, but the app actually has a number of additional features, including a currency converter, airport maps and much more.

5. Pack smarter

Now that you've downloaded an app to help you pack smarter, next up is packing lighter. We've all overpacked at some point in our lives, but the trick that savvy travelers exercise when flying is that they always pack less. Try to maximize your carry-on for shorter trips and repeat outfits when going on longer trips. It may seem counter intuitive, but packing lists can be helpful — especially when planning out a longer trip where you'll be going from city to city lugging around a suitcase. Trust us, your back and travel companion will thank your future self.

6. Organize your travel documents

It goes without saying, but just in case it's not on your list, you should always photograph your travel documents including your ID and passport. You may take every precaution out there, but sometimes the unpredictable happens and your passport goes missing. Instead of scrambling to produce another copy, you'll rest assured with the second copy you made sure to pack away from your passport in case your luggage or personal backpack is stolen.

7. Use your vacation days

This may seem like an obvious tip, however, each year more than 700 million vacation days go unused in the U.S. If you've got the days, you should be using them. A long weekend trip offers you the chance to take a break from work and recharge, while also exploring a new city. Whether you visit a neighboring state or go abroad, you'll be able to get out and experience a new part of the world.

An insider's guide to Savannah

By The Hub team

The past plays an important role in one of America's oldest cities, which can be seen through the antebellum mansions, historic monuments and charming cobblestone streets. Beyond the history, Savannah has grown into a creative and culturally rich destination, while still maintaining its Southern charm.

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The basics

The best time to visit and getting around the city

The best time to visit Savannah is any time between March and July when the temperatures are warmer (with July being the hottest), and there is always an event to attend. like Savannah's St. Patrick's Day celebrations, which is the second largest in the country.

You won't need a car while visiting Savannah, but if you plan on taking a day trip to Tybee Island or Jekyll Island be sure to rent a car for the day. Otherwise the Downtown Historic District is easily walkable and the best way to experience this vibrant city. Bike rentals are another great option to explore the historic quarter and surrounding neighborhoods.

Experiences

Historic sites, museums & more

Savannah offers a wide variety of experiences and activities, all with Southern style. Get a sense of the city's diverse history by going on a historic walking tour or trolley tour through the downtown district. There are plenty of tours to choose from so you'll easily be able to find one that works with your schedule.

Be sure to visit the Wormsloe Historic Site with an Instagram-worthy path lined with live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. From there, stop by Savannah's most famous cemetery — Bonaventure Cemetery — a hauntingly stunning and iconic site.

Once you've had a taste of the history and witnessed the antebellum beauty of the live oak trees and historical squares, explore the vibrant art and design scene that has flourished around the city in recent years. No art gallery can compete with the Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, Museum of Art. The museum is home to thousands of pieces, including works from SCAD alumni and one of the largest collections of African American art in the United States. There's a number of special events to attend, so check out their events calendar to see what's happening while you're there.

Savannah has recently become a great spot for shopping, and with everything from vintage shops to fashion boutiques, you'll easily leave with a heavier suitcase. For leather goods, stop by Satchel, a boutique started by a SCAD graduate. Make your way over to Pickler Joes, Wright Square Vintage and Retro Mall for everything from vintage clothing to retro advertising signs and old records.

Food & drinks

Comfort food, fresh seafood and inventive cocktails

The Hostess City of the South boasts rich history and an evolving art scene, but no trip down south is complete without proper Southern food. Indulge in traditional Southern comfort food and incredibly fresh seafood, but also save room for some classic dishes reimagined by top chefs in the area.

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room is a local institution and a must-visit when in town. Sitting in the Historic District, this Southern boarding house turned restaurant follows traditions dating back to its opening in 1943. The dining room has a simple set up of communal tables where diners sit with around 10 other guests and are served an array of homestyle Southern cooking family style. The Olde Pink house is another popular restaurant in the heart of the historic downtown offering an antebellum feel with an authentic experience.

If you're looking to try something different, be sure to head over to Zunzi's, a tiny hole-in-the-wall takeout spot with a South African influence. Famous for their sandwiches, be sure to order the Conquistador, a juicy chicken sandwich combined with two secret sauces on a crunchy French bread. They're only open during lunch hours, but it's worth stopping by for a quick bite.

For reimagined Southern dishes, book a table at Local 11ten, where you can enjoy a cocktail from their inventive menu while noshing on food that focuses on Southern-influenced cuisine. A.lure is another great option with a contemporary approach to classic Southern and seafood dishes.

Getting there

Fly direct to Savannah, Georgia, from multiple U.S. cities. Flights are two hours from Chicago and two-and-a-half hours from New York City. The airport is just a 25-minute drive from Savannah's historic district. Visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight.

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Discover what makes each of our hub airports unique

By The Hub team

If you fly regularly, one terminal starts to blur into the next. But next time you're flying through one of our hub airports, take a minute to check out some of these unique features.

Sample fresh sushi from Tokyo

You won't need an airplane to be transported around the world — just step into Terminal C's Global Bazaar at Newark's Liberty International Airport (EWR). Tsukiji Fishroom features sushi made on-site with the freshest fish flown direct from Tokyo. Slurp ramen with hand-pulled noodles at Kaedama. Choose from sweet or savory at Creperie Juliet with options like S'mores Chocolate & Marshmallow and Mushroom, Spinach & Cheese. Or get your early morning fix from Poppy's Bagels. You'll find endless options in this food hall designed specifically for the on-the-go guest.

Have an artistic experience

Contemplate life as you enter Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). You'll encounter Gary Brewer's "Across the Universe" in the Terminal 7 ticketing lobby — one of many pieces curated by the LAX Art Program which features local and regional artists and aims to enhance and humanize the travel experience. Brewer's large-scale oil paintings reference abstract images inspired by NASA's efforts to map dark matter, the invisible gravitational entity that orders galaxies into clusters, using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Let out your inner AV geek

Spend a layover discovering the history of commercial aviation. Located before security in San Francisco's International (SFO) Terminal, the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum is part of the SFO Museum in an adaptation of the airport's 1930's passenger lobby. Learn about the innovative clipper ships that took the first flights across the Pacific Ocean with "China Clipper" or see aircraft development over the years through the model aircraft collection, "Aviation Evolution," from the 1903 Wright Flyer to today's airliners.

Check out Sky's the Limit underground

For over 30 years, Michael Hayden's "Sky's the Limit" has been captivating our customers as they traverse the underground walkway from Concourse B to Concourse C in Terminal 1 at Chicago O'Hare's International Airport (ORD). With mirrored ceilings, thousands of feet of undulating rainbow neon lighting synchronized with music, the tunnel invites you in to be part of the experience. Whether as a welcome home to Chicagoans or merely a stop on your journey, it is always a sight to behold.

Skate through the airport

Photo credit: Denver International Airport (DEN)

This holiday season the airport was the destination in Denver. Travelers enjoyed a break from the terminal at Denver International Airport's (DEN) third annual ice rink, that we sponsored. Set up between the terminal and the airport Westin hotel from November to January, you could stretch your legs and skate through your layover with free skating and skate rentals.

Fill up on mouthwatering BBQ

Local barbeque is cooked on-site at Q in Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Dig into traditional Texas barbeque like brisket, ribs and Texas sausage all smoked right in the middle of Terminal E — you can't miss the vast copper tubing that carries the smoke outside. Serving breakfast through dinner, you can get a taste of Texas all day long.

Check out one of these unique Hub airport locations yourself by visiting united.com or use the United app.

A last chance to say goodbye

By Gladys Roman

Customer Kelly Hoover was living her worst nightmare. She was traveling from Las Vegas, Nevada to Cleveland, Ohio to see her dying father on January 28.

"The night before, I was talking on the phone with him for about 15 minutes, and then my mom told me something was wrong with him, that he wasn't responding," remembered Mrs. Hoover. "So I told my mom to call 911, and she got him to the hospital really quick. The next morning I got a call from one of my brothers telling me that my dad had had a heart attack, and doctors were saying he wasn't going to make it."

Mrs. Hoover immediately booked a flight from Las Vegas, connecting in Chicago before arriving in Cleveland, but she was traveling at the same time the polar vortex was impacting the Midwest, disrupting many of our flights, including hers. Her flight was diverted to Indianapolis, and there was a big possibility she wasn't going to make it in time to see her father and say goodbye.

Customer Kelly Hoover and her father

Desperate to get to her destination, Mrs. Hoover shared her story with one of the flight attendants, who in response connected her with Cleveland-based Airport Communications Technician Gregg Wirth, who she knew was traveling with his wife Debbie after visiting their son and grandchildren in Las Vegas. The Wirths were contemplating driving to Cleveland, and once they learned about Mrs. Hoover's situation, they didn't hesitate to offer her a ride and take her straight to the hospital.

"I hadn't slept for 24 hours and was very stressed and in no condition to drive," said Mrs. Hoover. "Gregg and Debbie were like angels that God placed for me, because He knew I needed to get to my dad to get that final closure with him."

For Gregg and Debbie, helping Mrs. Hoover, even though they didn't know her, was simply the right thing to do. "It was just humane," said Gregg. "My wife is a nurse, and she was comforting her the entire way. We took her right up to the hospital where we arrived right after 2 a.m."

"Because of Gregg and Debbie, I was able to spend seven hours with my dad by myself," said Mrs. Hoover. "I was able to hold his hand until my brothers came and we decided to take him off life support after the doctors told us we didn't have a lot of options."

Although, Mrs. Hoover is still grieving her loss, she finds comfort in knowing that she found two great friends during what she will always remember as one of the saddest days of her life.

"I'll always treasure that time that I got with my dad thanks to Gregg and Debbie," Mrs. Hoover added. "Today, I'm happy to call them my friends, and, coincidentally, their son lives a few blocks from my house, which is one of the reasons why I think they're angels God sent me."

Bali: A paradise wedding destination

By The Hub team

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By San Francisco-based Flight Attendant Dianne Escalona

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Is Bali really like the movie "Eat Pray Love?" This is the first question that ran through my head when my fiancé and I decided on Bali as the top destination option for our wedding. At the time, I had never really known anyone who had been to Bali, so all I had to go off of was the 2010 movie based on Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir. When I thought of Bali, I thought of a tropical, exotic, middle-of-nowhere island that mainly consisted of beaches and palm trees. Boy, was I wrong.

When choosing a destination for our wedding, we both had a few conditions — we wanted somewhere exotic, far away from California, tropical with the ocean and palm trees, and an added bonus would be exotic drinks. We did a lot of research – I read blogs online and he researched possible wedding venues – but we still needed to see and experience the island for ourselves. When it came time for our trip to Bali, last September, we were more than prepared and had a tentative itinerary planned. Through our research we agreed that having our own villa would be more private than a hotel and give us a taste of the local culture, especially since the place we had chosen to rent had a main house with a host who had also offered to show us around. Thanks to her recommendation we hired a private driver to pick us up from the airport and take us around the island - a great decision.

We began our journey by flying into Singapore from San Francisco. Once in Singapore we decided to spend a night in the city before flying over to Bali. We stayed at the JW Marriott, a must-stay hotel with an infinity pool on the roof, offering the grandest view of the city! It definitely rivals the view at Marina Bay Sands, and is much more affordable. The next day, we hopped on a quick flight to Bali and upon landing, our private driver was already outside waiting for us. I've always wanted someone holding up a sign with my name and greeting me outside arrivals —maybe this is a flight attendant thing. Our driver's name was Komang, and he was very gracious and provided us with helpful tips on various places to go each day that would coincide with our wedding venue visits.

Our host at our villa, Soviana, was eagerly waiting to greet us both upon our arrival and gave us a tour of her exquisite, Buddhist temple-looking villa. Before heading to dinner, we enjoyed homemade watermelon smoothies on the rooftop with a nice view of the ocean. After a long day of traveling, we headed to bed early to prepare for the next few days of sightseeing and wedding venue visits.

The next few days consisted of hotel appointments and making sure to squeeze in some sightseeing all over the island. Between wedding planning and exploring the island, we never had a dull moment that week. Our favorite activities included the Monkey Forest, water temples and waterfall hunting.

The sacred Ubud Monkey Forest lies within the village of Padangtegal and is home to more than 700 monkeys. This experience was near the top of our bucket list. This monkey forest was built around the 14th century, and while here you can watch the monkeys being fed by the locals. Though it is advised for you to refrain from feeding them, as well as to avoid wearing any jewelry, hats or shiny accessories that may attract their attention. Also, it is recommended to avoid looking them in the eye, which I unfortunately learned the hard way – I looked at a young monkey in the eye and it suddenly jumped on my back, trying to open my backpack. For the most part, they're friendly and won't bother you as long as you follow the advice of the village's residents. After this visit we were ready to cool down from all the walking and see some waterfalls.

Amidst wedding planning, we hiked the Banyumala waterfall with the company of our driver – turned great tour guide. The difficulty of this hike is up to interpretation, as the beginning of the hike was on dry dirt and a steady downhill climb until the dirt turned mushy and the climb became more like a slip and slide with the help of a flimsy rope. It's definitely not a hike you'd want to bring a lot of things on and make sure you wear solid shoes. Although I wasn't prepared for a slippery, downhill, muddy hike, it was worth it. When we finally saw the waterfall, I immediately wanted to jump in. It was the most refreshing water and the most fun we had on the trip. I remember floating on my back and staring at the sun peeking through the clouds and seeing the mist from the falls surround me. It was as if I were in a dream.

I also wanted to experience a local ritual. I got my chance at the Tirta Empul water temple. This temple is a Hindu Balinese water temple where the locals go for ritual purification. You must wear a sarong to enter and it's famous for its holy spring water. Komang told us the story behind the temple and said that it dates back to 960 AD, when the Balinese ruler, Mayadenawa created a poisoned spring that killed the god Indra's troops; Indra, in his anger, threw his staff into the ground, which caused the a holy purifying spring to form. The story goes on to say that the troops were brought back to life from this holy water. The ritual is performed by starting at the first water spout and bowing toward it, then splashing the water onto your face three times. Then you submerge your head and body underneath the spout while praying to the Hindu gods. You then continue to each of the 13 spouts. However, the 11th and 12th spouts are skipped since they are only used for funerals. The holy water is meant to rid you of evil spirits and cleanse your soul. After experiencing just a few of these cultural and unique places Bali has to offer, my fiancé and I had no doubt in our minds that we were going to get married on this island.

I went to Bali not knowing anything about the country except what I saw in a movie and read online. I left learning that, not only are there an abundance of unique and interesting things to see and do, but I also learned how friendly and spiritual the locals are. Our Airbnb host, our private drivers Komang and Arsa, and the locals we met that week taught us the importance of cleansing your mind and spirit, meditation, massage and a healthy diet. I have no doubt that this is where our dream destination wedding is meant to be in 2020.

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New year, new United: Inside our latest enhancements

By The Hub team

It's said that the key to sticking to your New Year's resolutions is making a series of small changes. A couple of months into 2019, we've rolled out several enhancements (some small, some not-so-small) that will add up to make our service more caring, dependable and efficient. It's a new year, and a new United.

United® Premium Plus

Different people have different needs when they travel, so for us, 2019 is all about providing more options and making it a little easier for you to customize your flight experience. Now, for travel starting March 30, you can book a United® Premium Plus seat for trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic flights as well as flights from the U.S. to select destinations in South America.

United® Premium Plus seats are located closer to the front of the aircraft and offer a little more space to stretch your legs and arms, as well as more recline. There's also upgraded dining, free alcoholic beverages, larger entertainment screens, in-seat power and extra amenities to keep you comfortable and refreshed.

Free DIRECTV

We've all been that person trying to schedule a flight around the big game or the season premiere of our favorite TV show. Now, on all aircraft with seatback TVs (a little over 200 of the jets in our fleet), you'll be able to watch live television for free. More than 100 channels will be available to customers through DIRECTV®.

New aircraft

One of the most important aspects of being an airline is simply flying quality aircraft. This year, customers will see new additions to our fleet that are setting an even higher bar for reliability and fuel efficiency, meaning they'll help decrease our carbon emissions. And it's not just about operations — we're also working on ways to make flying more comfortable.

Re-imagined app

We're proud to have the most-downloaded app in the airline industry. And since so many people are looking at it, we decided to spruce it up a bit. If you haven't checked it out since we released the latest version, give the updated design and new content a spin.

More space to lounge

The latest addition to our club and lounge network is the new United Polaris® lounge at Los Angeles (LAX). It offers daybeds with Saks Fifth Avenue amenities, shower suites and even a valet to steam your clothes upon request. Upscale food and beverage selections change seasonally with inspiration from local California cuisine.

On the opposite coast, the United Polaris lounge at New York/Newark (EWR) caught the eye of CNN Travel, which listed it among "super-luxe airport lounges that may make you miss your flight."

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7 facts about the newest Dreamliner: The Boeing 787-10

By The Hub team

The Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, which officially launched at the 2013 Paris Air Show, is a long-range jet that features one of the most comfortable cabins on the market. From mood lighting to a state-of-the-art air filtration system, the new Dreamliner provides an improved experience allowing passengers to arrive at their destination feeling refreshed. As the first U.S.-based carrier to add the 787-10 to its fleet, United is also the first in the world to fly the entire 787 Dreamliner family — including the 787-8 and 787-9. The aircraft officially went into service on January 7, departing from Los Angeles to New York/Newark.

Read on for seven facts about United's newest Dreamliner.

1. Going the distance

18 feet longer than the 787-9, the 787-10 can carry more passengers and more cargo than its predecessors. Flying up to 6,430 nautical miles, the 787-10 uses 20 percent less fuel than older generation airplanes, making it superior when it comes to fuel efficiency.

2. More seating options

Featuring more premium seating options, including 44 United Polaris® business class seats, 21 new United® Premium Plus seats, 54 Economy Plus® seats and 199 United Economy® seats. The 787-10 offers seating options to meet all preferences.

3. Improved cabin air

Thanks to a new air filtration system, the 787-10 boasts better air pressure and humidity, helping passengers fight dryness and fatigue on long flights.

4. Mood lighting

The 787-10's cabin features lighting patterns that mimic sunrise and sunset, designed to help passengers fall asleep and wake up more adjusted after arriving in a new time zone.

5. A better ride

Smoother ride technology on the 787-10 helps to offset turbulence, resulting in less motion sickness and a more comfortable flight.

6. State-of-the-art windows

With 19-inch windows, the 787-10 has the largest of any aircraft in the market. The large windows allow views of the horizon, plus there's no need to shut the window shade as the Dreamliner's windows dim electronically with smart glass.

7. Entertainment at hand

Featuring a new seatback entertainment system with a split-screen function, passengers are now able view the flight map while watching a movie. They can also customize a list of soothing videos and relaxing audio playlists. Also, it makes movie and television recommendations based on your remaining flight time and previously-watched content.

The new system accommodates any level of vision and provides support for customers with hearing and mobility issues.

The 787-10 Dreamliner is now flying from Los Angeles to New York/Newark and it will begin service between San Francisco and New York/Newark this month, with international service starting in March.

Weekend inspiration: West side of Los Angeles

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

If you spend enough time in Los Angeles, you'll hear about the rivalry between East and West L.A. West L.A. residents will claim "west is best" due to the proximity to the beach, hip bars and restaurants. East Side residents claim their neighborhoods have more of a "small town" feel with more reasonable real estate prices and parking. Whether you're an East Side or West Side supporter, it's hard to argue that both sides of L.A. don't have wonderful things to offer. If you find yourself in the city for a weekend, here are our favorite things to do in the West Side of L.A., specifically Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu.

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Friday evening

You won't have trouble finding a hotel on the West Side, but if you're looking for suggestions, our favorites include the funky Hotel Erwin and the contemporary and cute The Kinney in Venice. If you're looking for something a little higher-end we also love the Loews in Santa Monica.

Don't expect to get a table at a hot restaurant in L.A. without a reservation, so be sure to make a few dinner reservations before you get into town. Whether you're staying at Hotel Erwin or not, we recommend heading up to their rooftop before dinner for a couple of cocktails and snacks so you can watch the brilliant Venice Beach sunset your first night in L.A.

Saturday

Wake up early, bring your swimsuit along for the day and hit the road for a fast-casual breakfast at Eggslut in Venice – get a delicious egg sandwich to go. Take the Pacific Coast highway up the coast, stopping along the way to take a dip in the ocean and buy fresh produce from street-side vendors.

Lunch at Paradise Cove Beach Caf\u00e9


When you're ready for lunch, pay the $10 parking fee at The Paradise Cove Beach Café and grab a table. The food is good and the portions are large enough to share, leaving you satisfied and ready to explore their tide pools. Walk up and down the gorgeous, quiet Malibu getaway, taking in the views. When you've had enough walking, grab a beach chair (and a bottle of wine) to catch some southern California sun while taking a moment to relax.

After you've made your way back to your hotel and have freshened up, we recommend heading to Abbot Kinney Blvd for a bit of late afternoon shopping. This commercial street is tucked away in a Venice neighborhood and full of stylish shops, healthy juice bars, vibrant bars and trendy restaurants. While you wander, be sure to pose for a photo with our wing mural on the side of the funky' Principessa boutique. If you've brought your dog, we also created a dog wings mural, ready to transport your pooch to Instagram stardom.

Have a pre-dinner glass of wine at Salt Air and then cross the street for arguably some of the best Italian we've ever had at The Tasting Kitchen. The pasta is hand-made on site, but the portions are small so get a few plates to share.

After dinner head over to The Brig, a bar next door, for a night cap and conversation with some of L.A.'s most beautiful people.

Sunday

For breakfast, check out a local skater and surfer favorite in Santa Monica: Dogtown Café. Grab a stellar coffee and a California breakfast burrito – it's a must.

Sunday mornings are a great time to get up and get some exercise in. Santa Monica Beach has a plethora of options, from surfing lessons (Go Surf LA is a great option) and bike tours (book online at Joy Ride) to simple strolling along the beach. Try your hand at the high bar, the rings or rope climbing at Muscle Beach.

Following your morning workout, if you enjoy street art, check out our brand-new hidden dragon mural (the first of its kind) and our massive wings on Lincoln – both in Venice. If you're interested in a "Kelsey Montague Art" mural marathon during your time in L.A., be sure to check out our map of murals in L.A. and the surrounding areas. Kelsey has over 10 murals hidden around L.A. and its suburbs.

Spend the rest of your afternoon on the Santa Monica Pier. Grab some cotton candy, ride a roller coaster and then watch the sea lions frolic in the waves as trapeze trainees swing through the air.

Walk down the beach for a pre-dinner drink at the lounge bar in the fancy Hotel Casa Del Mar to watch the sunset. If you pay attention to those around you, it's likely you'll see a celebrity or watch as a major movie deal goes down.

Walk up the street to the ocean facing Meat restaurant for dinner, where you'll find tremendous cuts of beef, yeast bread rolls and creamy mashed potatoes. Comfort food at its finest.

As you fall asleep on your last night in California, be prepared to dream of Ferris wheels, palm trees and celebrity sightings during your West Side weekend getaway.

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