8,000 Southwest Airlines passengers were ready to take a chance

Something doesn't feel quite right about this. And there are so many alternative technological solutions.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Aisle of an airplane
Getty Images

I often wonder about companies and the ideas they have.

Do they always think them through? Do they feel pressured by internal or external forces, of the social or political kind?

Also: ZDNET editors loved these tech products and gadgets in 2022

And how do customers truly react when a company thrusts an idea upon them, especially an idea the company thinks may be controversial or merely funny?

I confess I've seen some companies' deliberations up close and, goodness, you should see the corporate angst.

But one idea that made me wonder long into the dark days of winter was recently foisted upon the world by United Airlines.

Also: Have an iPhone? Flighty is a must-have app for traveling this holiday season 

For reasons of, I'm guessing, haughtiness wrapped in a veneer of competitive spirit, United created a website called NotGroupC.

Here, the airline asked customers to sign up for what it called a Courte-C Call. 

Oh, perhaps I should have mentioned this, but the customers United was addressing were Southwest Airlines customers.

The whole idea was to get them to check in 24 hours before their flight, so that they wouldn't end up in the much-maligned Group C, which might lead to an awful middle seat.

A little like booking United's Basic Economy offering, in fact.

When NotGroupC was launched in November, I assumed it was just a wheeze. A PR-led exercise designed to incite a little, well, PR.

Yet here's United insisting to the Wall Street Journal that 8,000 Southwest customers have signed up.

This leaves me with far too many thoughts coursing through my mind. 

For example, who are these alleged forlorn 8,000?

Do they not have an iPhone or a fine Google Pixel upon which they can set themselves a reminder to check in for their Southwest flight?

Was it really easier to sign up for an alert from a rival airline, which, one imagines, wants to suck in a little of their data in order to remind them of, say, some fine United Airlines offers from the same airport in the future?

Or might these alleged forlorn 8,000 have actually found the United campaign so funny that they immediately booked a Southwest flight in order test out the new Courte-C Call service?

Also: One bad experience is all it takes to lose a customer

Naturally, dark thoughts entered my mind too.

What if these alleged forlorn 8,000 are all, in fact, employees of United, their families and friends? No, that couldn't possibly be the case. No corporation could be as cynical as that.

This leaves me to consider that Southwest -- which describes United's wheeze as "a great courtesy they're extending" -- may have 8,000 customers who need a little more, um, love from the airline.

How about recording them a special song -- perhaps a version of "Love Is All Around" sung by flight attendants -- and texting it to these 8,000 customers 24 hours before their flight?

Surely that would dismiss all thoughts of United from their minds.

Editorial standards