Jameson Año has spent more than 25 years working in the airline industryfirst for Northwest and almost 20 years for Chicago-based United Airlines.
"I've always had a fascination with airplanes," said Año, who lives in Lake View. "When other kids played tree house, I played airplane and had my brother pretend to be a passenger."
He started his career at both Northwest and United as a flight attendant. "It's probably the best job I've had and enjoyed; I got paid for doing something I loved and had an opportunity to see the world doing it," Año said. "Like they say, it's always sunny at 30,000 feet; it doesn't get better than that."
Añowho was born in the Philippines, grew up in Memphis and moved to Chicago in 2001started his flying career in 1995, based in New York. "Getting used to living in New York City and being a reserve was definitely an adventure in itself," he said. "I remember getting lost in the subway and taking the bus the wrong direction many times, but I eventually got the hang of it. I was fortunate, as a reserve, I got to fly the premium transcontinental flights. We served champagne and caviar, carved roasts in first-class and then got nice long layovers in San Francisco or Los Angeles."
Año is now the senior manager United Express performance. He celebrates his 20th year at United in October and has been in his current role for four years.
One of Año's favorite flying stories was when he was flying out of Asia for a few years, and on one flight there were a bunch of older Filipinos travelling to visit family in the United States. "It was cool to be able to speak to them in Tagalog and make them feel comfortable during their travel and make sure they got to the right place," he said.
Some of Año's flights over the years have been star-studded. He's flown with several celebrities from multiples walks of life.
"I loved flying to London; the customers were great and you had great flying partners to work. And the approach into Heathrow [Airport] following the Thames was spectacular. I loved it so much I eventually moved there for a few years," he said.
For his 40th birthday, Año and a group of friends spent a week in Mykonos and Santorini. "Friends, birthday cake and watching the sunset was an amazing way to spend a milestone birthday," he said.
"United has been a great company to work for and [it has] offered me lots of opportunity through the years. I've had the opportunity to live all over the U.S., as well as Hong Kong, Tokyo and London. I've also been able to move through the company into several management positions and led enterprise-wide projects. I recently had the opportunity to lead the project to bring a new regional jet into the fleet, the Embraer E175. It was amazing to spend time in Brazil, seeing the aircraft literally go from parts on the assembly line into an amazing aircraft taking flight.
"When I started as a flight attendant 20 years ago, I never imagined I'd have an opportunity to lead such a game-changing project on behalf of the Express Division."
Earlier this year, Año was honored by United, named to the United 100, which recognizes 100 employees nominated and selected by their co-workers for exemplary performance or achievements that support the cornerstones of the company's business plan. Being honored as a United 100 recipient is the company's highest honor for employee recognition.
All of United's near-85,000 employees are eligible for the award, and more than 5,500 are annually nominated.
"It was both an honor and humbling to get this award and be recognized from among thousands of my peers who do great things every day," Año said. "I was nominated for leading the induction of the new E175 into the fleet. It's an amazing aircraft produced by Embraer; fuel efficient, customers love it and a real game changer for the regional aircraft fleet."
He attended the United 100 ceremony, held in Chicago, with a former United flight attendant, named Maggie.
"She's always been the wind beneath my wings and had faith I could achieve great things at United. In many ways receiving this award was as much hers as mine, so I was glad I could share it with her," Año said.