United Airlines will be running a special Super Bowl ad this year in two Colorado markets, seeking to (not so) subtly draw a distinction between its operations and those of its competitors at Denver International Airport, especially Southwest Airlines.
United Airlines 2023 Super Bowl Ad
When bad weather struck at Denver the week before Christmas, Southwest Airlines imploded and United Airlines did not, even though United arguably had a far more fragile operation (with regional jets and a vast network of flights to other weather-prone parts of the country).
It later emerged that Southwest’s outmoded crew scheduling software was the main cause (even if weather was the catalyst), which United internally sees as validation for the millions of dollars it has spent in updating its technology in the preceding years. But it was more than that. As United has rebounded from the pandemic, its operations have been more nimble, with extra aircraft and crews ready to step up when the weather or other forces of nature do not cooperate. No one can reasonably accuse United of stretching its operations too thin.
Josh Earnest, United’s Chief Communications Officer, put it this way:
“Same weather. Same airport. But a very different outcome for customers flying on United.”
Beyond the headline-grabbing meltdown of its primary competitor at Denver, United has managed to post better numbers than its peers including Southwest. Fewer cancellations. Fewer delays.
To remind customers of this fact, United will run a 30-second Super Bowl ad in the Denver and Colorado Springs markets that tells us a simple story: United got you home for the holidays.
Live And Let’s Fly previewed the Super Bowl ad, which you can watch below:
I love this ad. I believe the message will resonate with many travelers, especially Southwest travelers who may have spent Christmas unwillingly separated from their families. It is so simple, yet so profoundly asserts that United can be trusted. And all things considered over the last few years, United can be trusted when it comes to operations.
But a nice ad is not the end of the story.
While United can stake its high position now, it must carefully guard it. After all, if something as minuscule as the handling of David Dao on a regional flight could bring the airline down, United–despite its impressive technological investment–is not immune to problems of its own (indeed, I encountered some last week on a beautiful, clear day).
I think it’s appropriate to stop and recognize all the work that has been done, applauding United’s human and capital expenditures that have led it to a stronger position than many of its peers. But all airlines are fragile and this glorious victory lap can quickly turn into a walk of shame. At the same time, I don’t want to overanalyze this very poignant 30-second ad. It makes a powerful point and no one can take that away from United. Overall, I love it.
What do you think of United’s 2023 Super Bowl ad for the Denver area?
Simple rule of business…..When your competitor is drowning, shove a hose down his throat.
I love what United is doing here, they made their point without acknowledging a lessor company like SW. Yet most know exactly what the point of the ad is.
United has been quietly (and sometimes openly and cheesily) roasting Southwest at DIA for years. Southwest was a basic go-to for local business travelers with their flexibility and pricing, but United has massively eaten into this. With their regional network, pricing tiers, sophisticated app, IROP’s support (including advanced passenger routing software at hubs), etc., United has really made huge inroads. It’s impressive (even though they have crap food).
Southwest didn’t even exist as a denver base a few short years ago. Now it is their largest base, and united has been freaking out every since. Jumping on a competitor while they’re down is plucking some low hanging fruit. But the flying public has a short memory and sw will fix their problems and come back stronger. Nothing to see here.
Great commercial, and exactly my experience. I was flying DC to Houston a few days before Christmas. I made it on UA, even though they had to rebook me from a cancelled direct flight to a connection, and I arrived only 2 hours later than I would have. Admittedly, I got downgraded and one bag went missing for a few days, but if I had had tickets on Southwest, I would not have had Christmas with my family.
Good commercial, but this will become mute when United has a future pr disaster.
United loves to tip-toe around having the worst basic econ restrictions, bag fees, spotty wifi, crj-200’s, and 30′ pitch.
United is offloading many CRJ200s to AA, their legroom is better than AA’s due to how their seats are designed, and other airlines, especially their direct rivals, have bag fees too.
If I remember correctly, UA was in deep, deep s**t just a few years ago. Their screw up caused a fundamental change in the practice of bumping customers in the US.
If SW is to prosper, it needs to learn from its shortfalls. The old days of growth on the cheap are over and needs to mature somewhat. Also, SW is the 4th largest in the US and overlaps at all the major hubs. If in doubt, look at the swarm of SW PAX making a connection at ALT….and yet it claims to be a direct flight airline…not!! Software can provide the greatest leverage for an airline and most businesses. IF SW is to prosper, it needs to stop obsessing over dividends and stock buybacks, and “PAY THE TWO DOLLARS” and write new code.
All airlines are fragile—this is key to remember—especially in winter and summer thunderstorms.
You know what would have been more awesome? If their tag is their CEO on camera saying “We are the best airline this side of the asteroid belt.”
So much more impactful than petty WN putdowns.
When they introduced NEXT in 2021, they also had a chance to call out AA
In this economy why would you fly united or the other greedy airlines they might get you there but at what cost baggage fees and make you pay for a seat
Southwest also charges you for bags. They just hide it inside the ticket price. On the infrequent occasions I have had to modify a reservation, United has either not charged a fee or has waived it. I avoid CattleCar Air (Southwest) if at all possible.