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The Possible Dream

Amy Kolesar’s drive at work leads to a dream-worthy drive on the road

Author A. Averyl Re


Amy Kolesar didn’t have a dream, but one of her co-workers did.

What Kolesar, the Chicago Customer Contact Center facility coordinator, had was her entire United Airlines career’s worth of perfect attendance. And now she has a brand-new Ford Explorer to show for it. She chose the SUV from four vehicle models after winning United Airlines’ perfect-attendance drawing last year.

Kolesar started work at United 17 years ago, after earning an associate’s degree in applied sciences at the College of DuPage, where she majored in travel and tourism.

“I wanted to work in a travel agency,” she recalls. “But the instructor for one of my classes worked at United in reservations. She took us on a tour, and I became interested in working here.”

She started off in reservations, and three years ago she became facility coordinator at the Customer Contact Center, where nearly 700 people work around the clock in reservations, customer care and refunds.
“I enjoy what I do,” she says. “It’s always something different every day. I have a lot of different jobs—as the point of contact for our vendors, dealing with equipment issues and coordinating projects such as landscaping, snow clearing or painting. I also order supplies, process invoices and make sure we stay on budget.”

In particular, the work she does benefits the reservation agents.

“I try to make sure the agents’ work environment is optimal so that their time on the phone with their customers is positive,” she says. “I make sure they can focus on taking care of our customers without being stressed out about things at work.”

Enjoying her work helps her maintain her perfect-attendance record, but she says she also has a strong work ethic, one that means she doesn’t mind making sacrifices for the good of the company. “It’s not like I’ve never been sick. I get four weeks of vacation, so I use that time when I’m sick or my son, Nicholas, is home from school.”

The dedication Kolesar demonstrates may be what led to a dream one of her co-workers had. “She never dreams, but about a year before the drawing took place, she came into work and said, ‘Amy, I had a dream, and you won that car.’ I said, ‘OK, I hope your dream comes true.’ When it really happened, I was like, ‘I can’t believe this. This is crazy.’ Jeff Smisek called me and congratulated me, and I started crying. I don’t even know what he said. I think I managed to say ‘thank you.’”

While winning the car was literally a dream come true, Kolesar maintained her real-world practicality. “My husband pushed me, ‘get the Mustang, get the Mustang.’ I would have loved it, but trying to drive that in the snow in Chicago is just not realistic. And it’s not practical for the family. Nicholas plays sports, so I chose an Explorer because I needed the space for sports equipment.”

“All of Amy’s co-workers were behind her winning this vehicle,” says her manager, Carole Arndt. “She’s one of those employees who shows what this airline is all about—very conscientious in her work and wonderful to work with.”

Thanks in part to Kolesar’s conscientiousness, The Customer Contact Center recently earned Silver Safety Status, the first tier in the airline’s comprehensive Safety Excellence Program, which is designed to reduce on-the-job injury and aircraft damage. To earn the distinction, the center had to maintain its safety goals for one year. Kolesar served on the team that structured the center’s safety program.

“I make sure our vendors comply with our safety goals and that things in the facility are up to the standards that United sets,” she says. That’s a constant challenge in a 24/7 facility.

The center has been recommended for the final two tiers, Gold and Platinum. Once it receives the Platinum certification, it will apply for certification as an OSHA Voluntary Protection Program workplace. As of November, that status had only been achieved by 2,335 worksites nationwide. But with team members like Kolesar, success is a certainty. She doesn’t know any other way to work.

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