United Throws Shade At Southwest, Fails

United Throws Shade At Southwest, Fails

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United Airlines is targeting Southwest Airlines with its newest ad campaign, though this whole concept just comes across as desperate, if you ask me. And before anyone accuses me of being biased, I’d like to point out that I called United’s last ad campaign targeting Southwest brilliant. 😉

United attacks Southwest’s boarding process

Southwest is known for doing things a bit differently than other US airlines, and that includes the carrier’s boarding process. Southwest has open seating, and passengers can board based on the order in which they checked in. Southwest’s boarding groups include A, B, and C, so if you want to be sure you can get an aisle or window seat, ideally you won’t be in that last group.

United Airlines has launched an ad campaign dedicated to making fun of Southwest’s boarding process. This will be heavily promoted in markets where Southwest is competing with United, especially with Southwest having returned to both Chicago O’Hare and Houston Intercontinental.

United has set up a website with the URL notgroupc.com, and United is offering to give “Southwest Courte-C Calls” to those booked on Southwest. The idea is that United will call you 24 hours before your Southwest flight, to remind you to check-in so you can get a decent boarding priority. Here’s what the automated voice will say for that call:

“Hello, United Airlines here, reminding you to check in for your Southwest flight, so you don’t end up in boarding group C. For your next flight, think about giving United a fly. We let you choose your seat in advance.”

Below is the content of United’s notgroupc.com website.

United’s webpage attacking Southwest
United’s webpage attacking Southwest
United’s webpage attacking Southwest
United’s webpage attacking Southwest
United’s webpage attacking Southwest

Why United is way off with its ad campaign

Look, I love some good shade in the airline industry. I mean, even though I’ve never flown with Ryanair, I love the company’s Twitter, purely for the amount of sass.

But my gosh, United is so far off with this campaign, it’s not even funny. Where do we even begin?

  • United claims it also has no change fees… right, unless you’re in basic economy, and never mind that United’s vouchers expire (unlike Southwest’s) even if you have a ticket with no change fees
  • United lets you “choose your seat in advance,” unless you’re in basic economy, and then on top of that the airline also charges extra to assign many non-extra legroom economy seats; just last week I paid $18 extra to assign a standard window seat on a ticket I booked for someone
  • I love how United advertises in this context how it has lie-flat seats, and then the small print says “lie-flat seats only available on select long-haul flights;” c’mon United, are you trying to poach Southwest passengers traveling to Des Moines or Delhi?
  • Southwest offers two free checked bags to all passengers, while United doesn’t offer any on most domestic routes, and basic economy passengers don’t even get a full size carry-on included with their ticket

I’m all for airlines marketing their competitive advantages, and even being a bit shady about it. How about United marketing how it has power ports on some planes, or personal TVs on some planes, or an impressive global route network? But suggesting that the average domestic traveler is better off with United than Southwest because of Southwest’s boarding process is absurd.

Speaking of boarding processes, am I the only one who feels like I’m in group C when I’m flying United first class as a non-Premier 1K or Global Services member? Per United’s published boarding process, the airline calls six sets of passengers to board before first class. Never mind how it feels to board as an economy passenger on United.

If you ask me, executives at Southwest should be pretty flattered by this ad…

Bottom line

United Airlines is criticizing Southwest Airlines’ boarding process in its latest ad campaign, and is even offering to call Southwest passengers to remind them to check-in 24 hours out, suggesting they book United next time.

Maybe others will feel differently, but this ad falls really flat, if you ask me. Promoting how you have lie flat seats on long haul flights (where Southwest doesn’t compete), or how you also don’t have change fees (with a lot more restrictions), or how you let customers pick their seats in advance (on select fares, and even then you sometimes have to pay extra for standard seats) really misses the mark.

What do you make of United’s ad campaign against Southwest?

Conversations (46)
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  1. Liz Guest

    Literally the Southwest boarding process is, to me, the easiest and most straightforward of any airline I’ve ever been on for an economy flight. I do family boarding with my toddler usually, but I get a handy reminder from the Southwest app to check in 24 hours before my flight, and I’m usually somewhere in the B group without having to pay for early bird. The last time I flew Southwest (by myself) I was...

    Literally the Southwest boarding process is, to me, the easiest and most straightforward of any airline I’ve ever been on for an economy flight. I do family boarding with my toddler usually, but I get a handy reminder from the Southwest app to check in 24 hours before my flight, and I’m usually somewhere in the B group without having to pay for early bird. The last time I flew Southwest (by myself) I was able to get exit row both flights without paying ANYTHING extra. Every time I fly economy on any other airline, everyone is swarming the jetway and there’s no discernible line, and it’s miserable. I would fly Southwest absolutely everywhere if I could.

  2. C M Guest

    I purchased the cheapest type of airfare (Wanna Get Away) with SWA to fly on Nov 9 and return Nov 16. The I found out somebody is retiring and the retirement lunch is Nov 16. I was able to change my return from Nov 16 to Nov 15 and did not have to pay a change fee. (Remember: I purchased the lowest type of SWA airfare.) And... the fares were still the same so I didn't have to pay extra.

  3. Karla Guest

    I just flew United to Europe and paid $116 for extra legroom one way. Boarding was a disaster; one “gentleman “ pushed past me, almost knocking me over to board in front of me! His wife was dying of embarrassment. With assigned seats, what’s the frantic hurry? I prefer the polite lining up of SW, asking the person in front for their number and boarding. Though I don’t love setting an alarm 24 hours in...

    I just flew United to Europe and paid $116 for extra legroom one way. Boarding was a disaster; one “gentleman “ pushed past me, almost knocking me over to board in front of me! His wife was dying of embarrassment. With assigned seats, what’s the frantic hurry? I prefer the polite lining up of SW, asking the person in front for their number and boarding. Though I don’t love setting an alarm 24 hours in advance to check in (to a seat with adequate legroom), I also don’t like paying $116 for a little extra legroom.

  4. Mitchell Che Guest

    Love flying Southwest with no baggage fees, no change fees, and no expiration of canceled flight credits. My schedule varies a lot so Southwest is my go-to choice for domestic travel.

  5. Elle Guest

    United Airlines sucks... full stop. That is all.

  6. Henry Guest

    Southwest should respond with a marketing campaign called: "Do you like your flight to be on time at least once in while? If so, give any airline that's not United a try!"

    United honestly needs to stop worrying about sassy marketing and maybe start worrying about not being delayed every single time.

    1. Jim Guest

      United's on-time performance (Delta's, and American's too, for that matter) is significantly and consistently better than Southwest's. Same for how often they cancel. That's been the case, consistently for several years. Southwest is regularly at or near the bottom of the major carriers in number of canceled and delayed flights. The link below is just one month of one year, but you can check the stats and find the same year after year.
      https://www.businesstravelnews.com/Transportation/Air/September-Airline-On-Time-Performance-Again-Improves#:~:text=Average%20North%20American%20airline%20on,according%20to%20Cirium%27s%20monthly%20report.

      United's on-time performance (Delta's, and American's too, for that matter) is significantly and consistently better than Southwest's. Same for how often they cancel. That's been the case, consistently for several years. Southwest is regularly at or near the bottom of the major carriers in number of canceled and delayed flights. The link below is just one month of one year, but you can check the stats and find the same year after year.
      https://www.businesstravelnews.com/Transportation/Air/September-Airline-On-Time-Performance-Again-Improves#:~:text=Average%20North%20American%20airline%20on,according%20to%20Cirium%27s%20monthly%20report.

  7. Peking Duck Guest

    Ben throws shade at United throwing shade at Southwest, Fails.

  8. Mike Guest

    Ben you take stuff way to literally. Relax.

  9. Kieran Guest

    I certainly don’t view this as a fail. I thought it was funny and ingenious. And the campaign got lots of publicity!

  10. Rv Guest

    Listen, I have United Premier status and Southwest A list. These are the two carriers I fly the most. I've always said I would fly SW more if they offered first class but since they don't I use them for my short range flights and UA for my transcons and other long haul needs. While I dislike the SW boarding, UA is no better and I think they should refocus their energy on updating and...

    Listen, I have United Premier status and Southwest A list. These are the two carriers I fly the most. I've always said I would fly SW more if they offered first class but since they don't I use them for my short range flights and UA for my transcons and other long haul needs. While I dislike the SW boarding, UA is no better and I think they should refocus their energy on updating and upgrading their product. The last few UA planes I've been on have been in ill repair. Their first class service needs updating and their 737 cabins need a major overhaul. SW serves a purpose and they are pretty good at what they do. Meanwhile, UA seems to be falling apart and desperate.

    1. Debra Guest

      There you go. Make it work for you!!

  11. GBOAC Diamond

    Frequent UA and WN flyers can and will disagree about assigned seating and lack thereof. But those who still refer to the WN boarding process as a cattle call don't understand the significant advantage of the WN boarding process -- you really don't have to line up -- since passengers about to board are serialized you need only get in line when the person with the next lower number is about to board. Contrast that...

    Frequent UA and WN flyers can and will disagree about assigned seating and lack thereof. But those who still refer to the WN boarding process as a cattle call don't understand the significant advantage of the WN boarding process -- you really don't have to line up -- since passengers about to board are serialized you need only get in line when the person with the next lower number is about to board. Contrast that to the long A and B conga lines that form 30 minutes at United gates in advance of when boarding actually starts.
    If you buy a WN ticket early enough with Early Bird boarding you likely board early enough to have you choice of any seat in the back half of the plane.
    But if you buy a last minute ticket on either UA or WN, you will likely be screwed with regard to getting a desirable seat. Neither system works for you then.

  12. Al Guest

    United's poke at Southwest is total valid. I am in agreement with those who find SW's boarding procedure ridiculous. To check in 24hr prior to the flight and stopping everything you do and then find out that you're in B or C is just absurd. This is one reason why I don't fly SW anymore. Back in the 90's when I flew SW a lot, it was simple, get to the airport early, get the...

    United's poke at Southwest is total valid. I am in agreement with those who find SW's boarding procedure ridiculous. To check in 24hr prior to the flight and stopping everything you do and then find out that you're in B or C is just absurd. This is one reason why I don't fly SW anymore. Back in the 90's when I flew SW a lot, it was simple, get to the airport early, get the plastic boarding card and that's it. The whole 24 hour thing just adds an extra layer of anxiety that you don't need. I've said bye to SW a long time ago due to this terrible boarding process.

  13. MM Guest

    Have to say it is a brilliant tongue in cheek shot at Southwest. Because come on it’s 2022, give travelers a break and assign seats! After all what is the difference between Greyhound and Southwest, buses can’t fly

    1. Debra Guest

      A great deal of difference!

  14. Jim Guest

    The ad campaign is absolutely spot-on. The claim that they're off base with the ad because of comparisons with other aspects of each airline's service makes no sense at all. Saying United does this or doesn't do that has nothing to do with taking aim at Southwest's "last chopper out of Viet Nam" boarding process. The fact that Southwest customers already set their alarms themselves (regardless of United's offer) 24 hours in advance of their...

    The ad campaign is absolutely spot-on. The claim that they're off base with the ad because of comparisons with other aspects of each airline's service makes no sense at all. Saying United does this or doesn't do that has nothing to do with taking aim at Southwest's "last chopper out of Viet Nam" boarding process. The fact that Southwest customers already set their alarms themselves (regardless of United's offer) 24 hours in advance of their flight is a glaring spotlight on what's an industry worst, At least Spirit lets you buy a seat assignment to avoid the hassle. Still horrible, but an option. Southwest is just fine, but when I fly them, I dread the boarding process; regardless of which group the seat gods bestowed upon me.

  15. greg99 Gold

    I think this is both funny and spot on. I try to avoid flying SW whenever I can b/c I despise their boarding process, but multiple times when I've been forced to fly SW, I've forgotten to check-in 24 hours ahead (because as a 1.6MM 1K, it's never an issue for me). I'd totally use the reminder.

  16. Dr K Guest

    I remember the days in 1985/86 at Lovefield When Southwest had plastic boarding cards and made the famous “cattle call”, for boarding. And the everyone ran to grab a brown bag-the snack service for the fight-and board. It was, at times a stampede.

  17. Bruce Guest

    With Southwest at least I have no fear of being dragged off the plane due to overbooking and being Asian.

    1. Tara Guest

      That incident happened nearly 6 years ago. Come up with something original, Bruce!

  18. Ricport Guest

    This sounds like drivel straight from the WN PR department. First off, no matter what fare you pay on WN, you are not guaranteed any specific seat because of the free-for-all boarding. At least on UA and everyone else, you have a choice. Next, just by the nature of trying to herd a bunch of people through one door, no airline has a pleasant boarding experience. But, I'll take Group 1/A over the WN bothersome...

    This sounds like drivel straight from the WN PR department. First off, no matter what fare you pay on WN, you are not guaranteed any specific seat because of the free-for-all boarding. At least on UA and everyone else, you have a choice. Next, just by the nature of trying to herd a bunch of people through one door, no airline has a pleasant boarding experience. But, I'll take Group 1/A over the WN bothersome boarding bingo, where you have to go up to complete strangers and ask, "Are you A8? I'm A7!" and then wedge yourself in the cattle line.

    Every time I the Metrobus with wings known as WN, I lose my will to live.

  19. John Guest

    I personally hate Southwest's cattle herding approach with a passion and will not fly them on that alone ( and yes I have flown them before and vowed never again ). Not to mention the free for all once you are on the plane. It reminds me of when they open the doors to a store on black Friday . I actually think UA trolling them on this point is funny

  20. XPL Diamond

    I'm yet another person for whom Southwest's boarding policy takes it off the table for me. I don't doubt that they do other things well, but if I wanted a school bus boarding experience I'd take a school bus. Sass away, United.

  21. AlanD Guest

    I actually like the campaign! While all the things you say about UA are fair, if you select a seat in advance you can be sure it will be yours bar some IRROPs or safety factor! On WN you get no guarantees, even with an A boarding pass. I once got on a flight with A17 as my number, only to discover it was already 60% full from a continuing/stopping flight. That was annoying as...

    I actually like the campaign! While all the things you say about UA are fair, if you select a seat in advance you can be sure it will be yours bar some IRROPs or safety factor! On WN you get no guarantees, even with an A boarding pass. I once got on a flight with A17 as my number, only to discover it was already 60% full from a continuing/stopping flight. That was annoying as heck, and is not uncommon with WN focus cities.
    Ryanair used to have open seating but got rid of it due to customer complaints and seeing the opportunity for additional revenue. WN should join them in the 21st century!

  22. John Guest

    I have flown SWA since 1986, but until they change the way out of date boarding failure they now have, fighting to call in exactly 24 hrs before, to not end up fighting over a high c number seat, which will be a middle seat, and traveling with several people, you can end up all over the plane, along with your luggage, just for being minutes past the 24 hour check-in. This is such a...

    I have flown SWA since 1986, but until they change the way out of date boarding failure they now have, fighting to call in exactly 24 hrs before, to not end up fighting over a high c number seat, which will be a middle seat, and traveling with several people, you can end up all over the plane, along with your luggage, just for being minutes past the 24 hour check-in. This is such a crazy policy in this day and time.. SWA just needs to assign seats , like 90% of all other airlines, and put the Customer's who are picking them over all the other airlines needs 1st, and get rid of a policy , few , if any agree with..I'ts a shame , because other than the seating problem, We really like Southwest.. If your fed up with this seating policy, reach out to SWA or it will never change!!

  23. Tim Dunn Diamond

    I can’t wait to see Southwest’s response. I am certain theirs will be far more creative, accurate, and funny.

  24. David Guest

    To be cynical, if enough Southwest passengers use this and everyone is trying to check in to a Southwest flight at the same time, it potentially causes a problem for Southwest (i.e. being 15 minutes late puts a passenger in group C) and then causes problems for Southwest in general with a potential final solution that they have to implement a system similar to United, American, and Delta to get away from the difficulty.... Pretty subversive and petty in many ways.

    1. Neal Guest

      Southwest is already at the point where 15 mins late gets you a C number. They will eventually have to change their process as the value of having status will degrade as more people get it and demand higher boarding positions.

  25. Lee Reeder Guest

    I can't see the downside. Only Houston, Denver and Chicago will see the ads on their computer screens and smartphones. Anxiety levels and boarding sanity are big differentials. Troll away, UA!

  26. ktc Guest

    UA is not alone, this kind of rhetoric is prevalent in every aspect of our culture...go ahead & put words out for publicity, dont worry about the correctness at all, or try to "fix" it later. in a culture where there's little judgement & condemnation for the wrong it works well

  27. Ben Guest

    I don’t know if United’s too far off about this issue. I just paid $40 for WN earlybird check-in and I am a B 30 and I think that’s a bunch of BS.

  28. Mantis Guest

    SWA boarding system is a non starter for me. Humans find uncertainty stressful. It's a simple fact. Not knowing where I will be sitting, and worrying about jostling for position adds stress to the travel experience. I want to know where I'm sitting before I board, no matter when I board.

    I'd like to see an airline introduce a more innovative and efficient boarding process, such as window seats board first, then middle, then aisle.

  29. Brandon Biden Guest

    Its not funny by any stretch, almost feel badly for the Gen X or Z who thinks it is.

    Comedy died due to PC and Wokeness, can only make fun of yourself anymore, I miss Mel Brooks

    1. BradStPete Member

      Gosh do you think you could possibly make a comment on the subject at hand ? Your dislike of democracy has been duly noted. Jeez !

  30. john Guest

    At least the America West mosh pit ad was funny.

  31. David S Guest

    This is a brilliant marketing campaign for those who actually use the call system, United harvests the cell phone number of Southwest fliers. In order to receive the call you agree to be marketed to by UA. United makes fun of Southwest, gets some free publicity like your blog post and harvests Southwest customer cell phone numbers to aid in poaching those customers.

  32. Morgan Diamond

    Speaking of Ryanair, Ben surely it is time you review a flight, obviously they are a major airline and review would be very useful

  33. Alan Guest

    I think it's funny. Just because WN does some things better than UA from the customer's perspective doesn't mean UA can't have a joke or two at WN's expense. I don't understand why this is so upsetting to you; marketing doesn't mean making an honest pro/cons list of you versus a competitor.

    1. Steve Diamond

      Agreed this is hilarious, and i hate the 24hour check in game you are forced to play with SW.

    2. Zach B Guest

      As much as I hate that, at least SW includes bags in the price, fairly relaxed flight change policy, easy to understand and use flight credit system, and generally friendly customer service. My one complaint is their boarding process but I really only dislike it at certain airports like LAS.

  34. Super Gold

    Had to fly LAX-DEN on United with no status. RT ticket was ~$240. Every seat that wasn't a middle or back of the plane was AT LEAST $50 extra. Extra legroom was $79-100!!! Keep in mind this was one way, so it would have been an extra ~$200 just to get extra legroom both ways (which I need).

    This ad reads like it was written by the Gen Z marketing interns. Cringy, ignorant, and facile. Dun dun dunnn :emoji:

  35. Pete Diamond

    Just some harmless ribbing at the three US/SW hubs.
    I think we all know what UA’s shortcomings are…but this is a bit of an overly triggered response, even by you, no?

  36. Sarah Guest

    Yeah but United kills puppies. Tough call.

    1. greg99 Gold

      So does SW...

      https://news.yahoo.com/woman-says-her-dog-died-195246004.html

      It happens on all airlines.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Alan Guest

I think it's funny. Just because WN does some things better than UA from the customer's perspective doesn't mean UA can't have a joke or two at WN's expense. I don't understand why this is so upsetting to you; marketing doesn't mean making an honest pro/cons list of you versus a competitor.

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Ben Guest

I don’t know if United’s too far off about this issue. I just paid $40 for WN earlybird check-in and I am a B 30 and I think that’s a bunch of BS.

3
Steve Diamond

Agreed this is hilarious, and i hate the 24hour check in game you are forced to play with SW.

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