United just sent a brash email about flying confidently this holiday season

Nov 4, 2021

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With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, holiday travel is commanding headlines nationwide.

That’s especially true in light of the recent airline meltdowns that we’ve seen, which most recently grounded much of American Airlines’ operation.

One carrier which has largely escaped unscathed, so far, is United. Aside from a nationwide meltdown at one of its regional affiliates (Skywest), the Chicago-based carrier hasn’t had a days-long operational disruption like we’ve seen this year with American, Delta, Spirit and Southwest.

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Now, United is trying to use that to its advantage — marketing to its flyers in a recent email that you can “fly with confidence this holiday season,” the subject line reads.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

From the outset, CEO Scott Kirby’s message is clear: United has spent much of the pandemic charting a stable road to recovery, one which should convince travelers to fly it instead of one of its rivals.

The email touches on the unique ways that United is gearing up for holiday travel, starting with schedule stability. Unlike most of its rivals, United has taken a piece-wise approach to rebuilding its network — it hasn’t flooded capacity in any one market to capitalize on “some short-term profits”, the email reads.

Many of the operational meltdowns this year have resulted from an adverse weather event causing a domino effect across an airline network, due to overscheduled flight frequencies and short staffing.

Kirby’s message continues to address the second point, staffing, by pointing to the fact that the airline reached an agreement with its pilots to keep them employed and ready to fly along the road to recovery.

Interestingly, the CEO writes about how United has had fewer inflight disturbances — a nationwide issue in recent months — than its competitors. This is something that the airline has been saying for a few weeks, including most recently as part of its decision to restore liquor sales in the coach cabin.

The message ends with a discussion of United’s vaccine mandate, which went into effect on Sept. 27 and has seen over 99% of United’s workforce receive the vaccine, excluding those with documented exceptions who are now on leave from the company.

(Photo courtesy of United)

Other airlines will be working to implement the Biden vaccine mandate in the coming weeks, which could further impact staffing during the peak holiday period. For United, that journey is already complete, which, according to Kirby, “allows us to focus on taking care of our customers.”

All told, sending this email to its customers is a bold move on United’s part. As they say, “don’t kick someone when they are down.” While United may not have had a major operational meltdown during the pandemic, the airline is seemingly tempting fate.

“Yes, you can book with confidence on United,” according to Kirby. But what happens if there’s a major blizzard this holiday season in Chicago, Newark or Denver — three of United’s largest hubs?

Only time will tell how the airline fares, but for now, United is using the recent industry meltdowns as a selling point for choosing it over its rivals this holiday season.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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