United Reverts to Old Slogan as It Looks to Elevate Customer Experience


It’s been 17 years since United Airlines urged prospective passengers to “Fly the Friendly Skies.” But the airliner is bringing back the tagline in a new campaign that is also one of its largest. 

It isn’t just the skies that are friendly in the new United ads, either. The airline touts itself as “legroom friendly,” “online friendly,” “shut-eye friendly,” and even “EWR friendly,” in reference to the call letters for Newark Liberty International Airport, the hub of Continental Airlines, which United merged with back in 2010.

The new campaign will kick off this wekeend during NFL games, the PGA Tour championship, Sunday’s Emmy Awards telecast and the season premiere of 60 Minutes on CBS, according to the New York Times. The ads also feature the iconic George Gershwin tune, “Rhapsody in Blue,” part of the brand’s campaigns since 1987.[more]

All this talk of friendliness, though, needs to be backed up with something tangible. “If passengers don’t see United fulfilling its promise of being a ‘user-friendly’ airline, the advertising will be seen as hollow and will backfire,” warned Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Hudson Crossing, according to the Times.

The merger of Continental and United made the airline the world’s largest in terms of passenger traffic. Since then, the airline has invested in the “installation of premium-cabin flatbed seats on select international flights, expanded its economy-plus seating, improved its on-time performance and invested in new customer service training programs for all customer-contact employees,” the Times notes.

 “The real aim” of the new campaign, according to Tom O’Toole, United’s senior vice president for marketing and loyalty, is to “say to customers, co-workers and competitors that United is back in the game in a big way.”

United may be back in the game, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make a mistake here and there. Last week, the airline mistakenly offered some fares for as low as $5 and $10, with some even registering as free. A few lucky customers snapped up a bunch of the low-cost tickets in the small window of time that the glitch occurred, and the airline has since announced that it will honor the fares. That’s one way to boost customer loyalty.