United Making Inflight Credit Card Sales Pitches Mandatory For Flight Attendants

Filed Under: United

If you fly American Airlines with any frequency, you’ve probably heard their inflight credit card sales pitches for their co-branded Barclays products. You know, they have limited time special offers available only for passengers on a particular flight. 😉

As annoying as this is for frequent flyers who hear the sales pitch on every flight, it’s a surprisingly effective marketing tool for the airlines, and it’s one of their best sources of acquisitions.

While United has been promoting their co-branded credit cards in many ways, flight attendant announcements about the product haven’t been consistent. That will be changing soon.

Skift reports that as of September 1, 2018, United will require their flight attendants to pitch their credit card on every domestic and international flight. As part of this, the airline will be rolling out new training so that the crews can better be educated on the product.

In order to give flight attendants an incentive to sell the card as well as possible, they’ll also be getting a doubled payout on the card, as they’ll receive $100 for every approved application, rather than the current $50 bonus.

United’s SVP of Inflight Services said the following about this in an internal memo:

“Some of our biggest competitors, including American, actively promote their cards through the Inflight division and have a sizable lead on the number of new customers their flight attendants generate by marketing the card on board. We need to answer this challenge just as we would any other competitive threat.”

Meanwhile a United spokesperson said the following about this initiative:

“We are introducing a new training program for our co-branded credit card that is especially designed for flight attendants, as this work group has the most engagement with our customers. Our Inflight crew are effective ambassadors, who can best communicate to our customers in the moment the benefits of the United Explorer card.”

Much like with American, I think it goes without saying that this will be annoying for frequent flyers. Even Bose headphones can’t fully drown out the noise of an announcement. I do hope that as part of the training they at least instruct the crews to make these announcements at the very beginning or end of the flight, so that the disruption is minimized.

However, this is also quite effective for the airlines, so I can’t really blame them for using this as a marketing technique. Furthermore, flight attendants generally aren’t very well paid, so this can be a great way for them to supplement their income. I know a flight attendant at another airline who makes more from his inflight credit card pitches then he otherwise gets paid by the airline. That’s certainly the exception rather than the norm, but this could easily make a significant difference in their income.

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. I never minded these announcements. I mean, if you can’t take financial advice from a complete stranger who hates their job, then who CAN you trust?

    I also love how they will get special training for this. But no new training for being polite, organizing the boarding process, etc. Oh, United, you never let me down by not letting me down.

  2. The pay rate for blog conversions has to be more than $100, so I sense an arbitrage opportunity for, say, an unscrupulous blogger known to abuse United in flight forms.

  3. This isn’t new. They’ve been doing this on my flights all year. Especially bad on the SFO-HNL routes. Long announcement and teams of FA’s marching up and down the aisles with the applications held high.

  4. Wow. At first reading the headling, I felt really sorry for them. Then, I discovered there will be incentives for the employees to make extra money. This is good for them for sure. Learn your craft and don’t be annoying.

  5. The 6 hour long BLAH Airlines film so wonderfully skewered the in-flight credit card hawking I’m amazed they still bother.

  6. Last week when I flew American I was seated in the back and the person next to me wanted one of those forms. The flight attendant told him that they were apparently out of forms because of how many people wanted one. I never heard that before.

  7. Another incentive for passengers to not use the in flight entertainment. Use noise cancelling, hooked to my laptop to drown it out.

  8. It has been mandatory for the flight attendants to make a credit card announcement on all domestic United and United Express flights over 500 miles at least for about an year. I am a mystery shopper for a company whose clients include United. I have mystery shopped domestic United flights over 500 miles to check if the flight attendants make the announcement word for word and pass out applications to passenger. They’re audited/mystery shopped on a monthly basis.

  9. @lucky

    So the entire crew splits $100 per sign up? How can they possibly know which FA handed out which app? 10 person intl FA crew? $10 bucks maybe? Seems like a horrible incentive.

  10. @ Surfer — I don’t know how it works at United, though I know at a certain other airline the crews have the option of whether they want to make the announcements, and it’s the flight attendant who makes the announcement who enters their code and gets the entire commission.

  11. @ Scooter +1

    Years ago, when they were more central to our lives, the UK Post Office developed a well-deserved reputation for dreadful queues. Their solution? Install TVs playing adverts on a loop to distract the waiting customers.

    All they did was piss people off even more – and emphasise how the demographic was skewed to old people (lots of adverts for chair-lifts and rubbish financial retirement products).

    United thinks that selling credit cards is a competitive challenge? This is a company that has lost its way, that’s living off the monopoly rents from the vast network it has inherited, and that should be encouraged to die so better airlines can take over. Though from the company that brought us Dr Dao I don’t expect anything else.

  12. The average flyer who isn’t much into miles and points but has a Mileage Plus account is the obvious target of this pitch, not us. And those people really should consider the card; the enrollment bonus is very good and the perks will be useful to many. So it’s a nuisance to us, but an opportunity to others. If not for 5/24 I’d happily sign up on my next flight.

  13. The only time the cabin crew genuinely attempts to engage with passengers in economy on an AA flight is during the pre-landing credit card commercial. I hate these things with every fiber of my being.

  14. Maybe AA could get their FAs to do PDBs if they gave them a dollar for every drink they served…

  15. Yeah, an ex’s best friend is an AA FA, and we randomly flew on a flight she was working once. We hung out in the galley with her, and she told me that while she hates the credit card pitches personally, she knows quite a few FAs that make more from credit card bonuses than they do from their salary. Pretty crazy.

  16. one concern is will the FAs accurately advertise the benefits of the card. i think for anyone reading this blog, you know the benefits of the card like the back of your hand. but for infrequent fliers, are they going to get hooked on by talks of “lounge, upgrades, free this and that” when these aren’t necessary as simple as they appear.

  17. I always enjoy responding to the FA that as soon as AA consistently makes Saver Level premium cabin awards available on its own flights, I will gladly apply for the card.

  18. @John is spot on. If the first and only time an economy flight crew tries to connect with passengers is during the credit card pitch at the end of a flight, it feels lousy. Worse than just maintaining a polite but consistently aloof approach from takeoff to landing.

  19. Mega-cap Corporate America step #1: Prioritize customer acquisition over customer retention
    Mega-cap Corporate America step #2: Use consolidation, subsidiaries and draconian cost cutting to obfuscate poor performance from the financial statements
    Mega-cap Corporate America step #3: Declare bankruptcy and repeat

  20. When the Credit Card pitch starts on my American flights, the volume on my headsets gets turned up. So sick of these “Special Offers”.

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