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TPG honors essential workers and the travel brands that helped them this year — plus a donation to worthy causes

Nov. 19, 2021
7 min read
Cristi Hunkler, a retired school teacher receives the
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Editor's Note

Submissions have been lightly edited for clarity.

As we wrap up the 2021 TPG Awards, there's a lot to celebrate. Much of the travel industry is inching closer to normal, and it's looking like there are bright skies ahead for 2022.

However, it wouldn't have been possible to get where we are today with the help of some exceptional individuals.

I'm talking about essential workers — those individuals who put themselves in harm's way to keep our hospitals, schools, fire departments and law enforcement agencies operating.

And today, we're highlighting the stories of three TPG readers who enjoyed memorable travel experiences this past year — made possible by certain travel brands — and making charitable donations in each of their names.

Adoption made easier for healthcare worker

Of course, essential workers weren't just there for the rest of us during the pandemic. They also experienced their own major life events — which is where we meet the subject of our first story. Jennifer Flynn wrote to TPG to tell us the story of her daughter, a single mom working in healthcare who's based in Colorado Springs. Her daughter adopted a baby from the Columbus, Ohio area in May 2020 — and with Jennifer based on Chicago, the logistics of it all were daunting.

Fortunately, Jennifer knew she could count on Marriott and United, her preferred travel companies.

"We needed flights [and] a hotel suite for 14 days" as a requirement for the adoption, Jennifer told us. They all flew United and stayed in a two-bedroom suite at a local Residence Inn — and it all went off without a hitch.

But with the pandemic still raging, Jennifer's daughter was back at work shortly after returning with her new baby girl, so Jennifer flew to the Colorado Springs/Denver area every month to help out.

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"I always felt safe with United," she said, adding that her only credit card is a United one.

And once 2021 arrived (and vaccines became widely available), Jennifer got back on the road.

"I just returned from a week on the east coast, introducing him to great aunts, cousins and his great-grandmother. He saw the ocean, chased sea gulls and ate fish for the first time. Our memories of that trip and all of the adventures will never be forgotten! We are planning his next adventure to the west coast in Dec 2021 and can’t wait."

In the meantime, she's banking her United miles — "I haven't cashed in any miles this past year, as United has had great sale prices" — and looking forward to even more memories to make in the future.

The sun sets over the Pacific Ocean, as seen from the Mission Pacific Hotel in Oceanside, California. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Rak)

Nurse practitioner gets a special upgrade

Our second story comes from Kevin Rak, whose partner (Erika) is an advanced nurse practitioner. The last 18 months were (naturally) draining for those in the healthcare industry, as they dealt with multiple waves of COVID-19 and tried their best to not bring the disease home and infect their loved ones.

Fortunately, Kevin and Erika were in for a treat on a getaway to utilize their newly acquired Hyatt Globalist status.

According to Kevin:

"[Hyatt's reduced requirements] really paid off in August when we stayed at the newly opened Mission Pacific Hotel in Oceanside, California. After one night in a regular room, we talked to the front desk to see if they had any suite upgrades. A few hours later, we entered our gorgeous Dreamscape Suite on the same level as the pool. The absolute highlight was watching the sun set over the Pacific from our balcony."

He also highlighted the complimentary breakfast for Globalists — "avocado toast for the win!" — which was available either at Mission Pacific or the property's sister hotel, the Seabird, which was next door.

"After such a difficult year, especially for my partner, this was such a treat," Kevin told us. "Thanks to TPG for making us aware of the benefits, and the staff at the Mission Pacific and the Seabird for an amazing stay."

Qatar Airways helped one TPG reader get to Cairo in style. (Photo courtesy of Susan Tyrrell)

Educator flies like a 'queen'

Teachers and other school workers faced numerous challenges over the last 18 months — from virtual schooling to quarantines to ever-changing mask requirements. And Susan Tyrell, a TPG reader and educator from Texas, was thrilled for a luxurious break from it all.

She found a great flight deal on Qatar Airways from the U.S. to Cairo via Doha (DOH), and she got to enjoy the airline's renowned Qsuite business class.

Needless to say, she was impressed.

"Transiting through Doha to Cairo, I felt like a rich queen ... during a pandemic, no less. I about fell over when my personal flight attendant handed me pajamas and asked me if I wanted him to "make up my mattress." The on-demand, à la carte menu, the service, the utter kindness — all of it was overwhelming, especially in the midst of a season of isolation."

The flight even helped push her to Platinum Pro status in the American AAdvantage program, and the trip gave her some magical time in Cairo — including a trip to the pyramids, a camel ride, a walk along the Nile River and a visit to the Khan el-Khalili bazaar.

Donation to charity

Here at TPG, we're so grateful to frontline workers like those profiled above, and we wanted to do something to recognize them. And as we approach the holidays (and Giving Tuesday), it only felt right to make a donation on behalf of each individual to a charity of their choice.

As a result, each of the following will get a $500 donation:

  • Brave Space Alliance, a Chicago-based organization that is the first Black-led, trans-led, LGBTQ+ center located on the South Side of Chicago, dedicated to providing resources, programming and services for LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Comfort Cases, an organization that advocates for foster children across the U.S. by inspiring communities to support their needs.
  • One For One Chicago supports young adults living in neighborhoods with high rates of violent crime and joblessness, teaching them love, leadership and skills that will give them what they need to be successful adults.

Bottom line

The last 18 months have presented immense challenges for virtually everyone, but our essential workers deserve special recognition — as do the travel brands that have given them a welcome respite from the realities of the pandemic.

We're honored to make these donations in the names of these readers, and we join with our entire audience in looking forward to brighter skies in the months to come.

Featured image by SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.