United launched a new series of terrific ads this weekend, bringing back the old theme of “Fly the Friendly Skies.”
On the one hand, I welcome the return to the familiar “Rhapsody in Blue” because it is a moving equity marker for the airline’s brand. On the other hand, the promise seems disingenuous at best for any passenger who flies more than a couple of times a year.
To be fair, I am Global Services customer with United and I am afforded a higher degree of customer service than most. During a recent flight from New Mexico, I was met on the jet bridge in Washington DC by a United representative who personally informed me that my next flight was going to be late and that I was welcome to use the their club at my leisure.
Though I have a club membership, it was a nice sentiment all the same. Is United friendly for me? Absolutely, but I also fly a couple hundred thousand miles a year. My status makes them friendly.
As a counter point, a colleague of mine was traveling with me on the same flight. His status is 1K, which is a step below Global Services. A representative did not meet him. In fact, I was the only person on the entire 200+ person airplane that was met by a representative. Perhaps friendly is only delivered to .5% of those who fly with United.
United is better than most and worse than a few. I fly them because I am trapped in my loyalty program. My status forces it be friendlier to me. But to the common traveler who has little to no status with United, the features and benefits United touts will not be felt by them. Rather, they will be stuck in economy and see no difference in “friendliness” than they would if they were on Delta, American or anyone else.
I want United to be the friendly skies. I want to close my eyes on a flight to Chicago and hear Gershwin in my head. But that is not reality – for them or any other carrier. Even Global Services flying is not all that friendly – it must be downright nasty for someone who hardly ever flies.