United is really paying a guy to hold up a ‘thank you’ sign

Jul 28, 2021

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I fly a lot. Not as much as some on our team at TPG but I’m an “above average” traveler with lots of domestic “butt in seat” miles.

Yet, as I settled into my seat Wednesday morning for my transcontinental flight home, I saw something very unique and very strange.

One of the United Airlines ramp agents was pacing back and forth outside, from the front to the back of the plane, holding a giant sign saying: “THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING UNITED.”

Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy

I’d already had two cups of coffee but couldn’t believe my eyes. Was this a high school pep rally?  Maybe somebody at United knew that I have elite status on American and Delta and wanted to woo me away? Again, was I dreaming?

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Then the purser got on the public address system and told those passengers in the window seats to look outside, that United had a special message for them. Ok, this was a thing.

On Tuesday, Delta announced that it was extending elite status for another year. On Wednesday, United gave me a guy with a sign.

Apparently this is a new campaign this month by the airline to thank customers. A bit of surprise and delight.

A source, who was not authorized to speak with media, told TPG that United kicked off the campaign in July to let customers to know how much it cares and appreciates their business.

Related: What it’s like flying United’s newest flagship transcon routes from New York-JFK

Each hub has a flight picked out for the month where ramp agents hold up the signs. In Los Angeles, it was Flight 514 to JFK.

That makes sense since United has made a splashy return to JFK and it is one of the most-profitable routes in the country. My plane was the popular “high-J” 767-300 — a TPG favorite for its ample number of Polaris seats.

Plus, we now had a sign! It was almost like how airline employees in Japan give a modest bow to departing aircraft — almost.

I would have been upset if the flight was late, but we pushed back five minutes ahead of schedule. So no complaints there.

Moments earlier, as I was looking out the window at the sign, I started to wonder if Rhapsody in Blue would play. And like somebody was reading my mind, the safety video kicked off with that Gershwin classic.

Featured photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy

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