Why Airlines are Struggling

A little while ago the doorbell rang. When I opened the door to see who it was, Mr. Fedex stood there in his neat purplish-blue uniform, smiling his friendly Mr. Fedex smile. Then he handed me a thin blue box addressed to Jeffrey. “Million Miler” was printed on top.

The package was from United Airlines.

Photo of a box for Million Mile Flyers from United AirlinesJeffrey has flown well over a million miles gallivanting around the world on United so every once in a while they mail him a “Thank you loyal customer” letter.

This time they decided to Fedex it.

What could it be? I wondered as I handed Jeffrey the box and joked about all the possibilities. Round-the-world tickets? First-class upgrades? Yeah, right.

Clearly it had to be something of substance though since it was shipped via Fedex 2-Day service (ca-chiiing) instead of 3-Day, Ground, UPS or snail mail.

Photo of a luggage tag for Million Mile Flyers from United AirlinesThis is what United Airlines felt compelled to spend its precious resources Fedexing to Jeffrey: a leather luggage tag with his name printed on the insert. The packaging alone probably cost five bucks, not to mention the shipping. And don’t even get me started on the packaging waste.

Sorry mom, I know you always taught me to be grateful when I received a gift. “It’s the thought that counts,” you’d always say.

Technically this is not my gift though, since Jeffrey is the million-mile flyer and his name is printed on the luggage tag, so I don’t feel bad sharing the absurdity of this with you.

Here’s a crazy idea, United Airlines: perhaps instead of Fedex’ing tchotchkes to your best customers, spend your moolah figuring out innovative ways not to go bankrupt, or spend it on providing more than a bag of pretzels to everyone when they fly all the way across the country. Or spend it on lowering your fares so more people can afford to travel.

Just a thought.

PS: Jeffrey, ever more gracious than me, sends his thanks for the luggage tag. He’s still trying to figure out how his bags managed to make it all the way around the world multiple times without it.

17 thoughts on “Why Airlines are Struggling

  1. How could I miss this post of yours Becky. A really funny and interesting one. Even I will say that, you pass on a really nice & important message to some of the organizations who work the same way as you have mentioned. May be they do not care about anything other than profits. Really Nice post.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I was wondering what my upcoming luggage tags will look like.

    While this luggage tag does not seem much, please realize what comes along with it. He now has lifetime status on United not matter how much he flies from now on. If he hits 2 and 3 million those lifetime perks get even better.

    No one is saying that its a joy to fly all the time in general, but, I really appreciate the United loyalty program. It is not one iota near perfect (especially right now with the merger) but, I get upgraded more than not and that makes a world of difference.

    You might not be seeing the perks of making a million miles in the packaging, but, Jeffrey will be seeing it when he travels.

      • They must have heard you! My tags showed up via snail mail. So did my friends. Looks like they made a change.

  3. Please tell Jeffrey that if he’s really going to thank the good folks at United, to use snail mail.

    But seriously, considering I’m a Six Thousander, who travels to the east coast once a year, I never knew they gave away just valuable tchotchkies. I’ll see if I can pick up the slack.

  4. Remind me that if I ever send anything to you and Jeffrey to go with UPS! I think the guys in the brown shorts will make you feel better about any package! I know my wife likes to see them arrive. (But that could be the shoes for her they always bring.) HF

  5. Hi Becky, If this makes you feel any better United does not pay what you think for Fed Ex shipping. As an employee of United I get incredible discounts on Fed Ex so much so that I generally ship Fed Ex over the USPS. All of the airlines have agreements in place where we get discounts and share certain things. Just as an employee that works for a hotel gets discounts at other hotels around the world.

    • That does make me feel better, but it still cracks me up how the higher-ups choose to allocate marketing moolah, especially when it’s so thin to begin with. I originally had a line in my post about using the luggage tag money to pay flight attendants more. I can only imagine how much hooey you have to put up with on a daily basis from disgruntled travelers. You all deserve saint status. I’m still hoping that some day soon when I’m flying the friendly skies that you’ll be working on my plane. Remember that NYC flight several years ago? That was such a fun surprise!

      • Yes I too think it’s funny what they spend money on. It’s really boggles the mind when you start looking at the figures and actual waste that I’m sure all corporations have. What’s even funnier is who really wants a luggage tag sent to them? If they want their premium flyers to have them they should just have them available in the red carpet clubs or something. I mean really would you really look at someone else’s luggage tag and say to yourself I must fly United so that I too can have a gold plastic luggage tag? Marketing genius!

  6. So true and so very sad! Bottom line is that greed has turned the big corporations into penny-pinching misers who could care less about the little guy. It’s all about the profit. Great post (love your tongue in cheek style!)

    • I had not planned to write this post at all today, but when that little blue box arrived at our door, it set off my “absurd” radar. In the midst of such troubled times for the airlines, you’d think the creative execs would strain their brains to come up with something innovative and less wasteful. The luggage tag seemed the perfect metaphor for what’s wrong with the industry.

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