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Business

United Airlines thinks you're a fool if you fly Southwest

Is this the best way to attract business travelers? Or anyone, in fact?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
United Airlines plane in the sky

Funny? Or Not so much?

United Airlines

Southwest Airlines. Such a terrible company.

Honestly, do these people even know what they're doing?

All those smiling flight attendants cover up a chasm of failure. Are they even aware of what's really going on? Southwest's passengers are suffering so much that perhaps they just don't have the energy to express how unhappy they are.

What? You thought this was all my opinion? How could you? 

No, these seem to be the feelings of the suddenly descending-into-humor cohorts at United Airlines.

Or should that be condescending into humor?

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I only ask because the airline has just launched a website, heralding a new service, revealing United's opinion that Southwest's customers are pitiable dolts.

The site is called NotGroupC. And oh, what fun it is.

It begins with the tale of a Southwest flyer who forgot to check in 24 hours before their flight and ended up in the dreaded Group C -- especially dreaded right now because planes are so full.

You might end up having to resort to the very worst seats on the plane.

Now, in an act of haughty generosity, United is offering to give these Southwest customers what it dubs a "Courte-C Call" to remind them of their potential doom.

Now why would United want to do this, other than the happy hope of sucking up a little customer data? Oh, becuase it claims to be "the airline that lets you choose your seat in advance."

"What a fine jape!" I hear you enthuse. "United has come a long way from being the airline that everyone hated, because it got the heavies in to rough up passengers who didn't like to be bumped from their seats."

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But in this case, United takes its joshing to far-off destinations. This website reminds Southwest customers United has "no change fees. And lie-flat seats. And… airport lounges anyone?"

Because I really need a lie-flat seats and an airport lounge when I'm flying from San Francisco to LA.

Please correct me if I'm being excessively tolerant, but I've never minded checking in 24 hours before a flight. It rather heightens the anticipation.

Clearly, though, United believes this is heinous imposition, akin to exfoliating your own armpits.

Is your average business traveler going to be amused by all this? Is anyone? Perhaps. Many are moved by express cruelty these days.

You know, the sort of cruelty that makes you fly Basic Economy and gives you -- look it up -- no choice of seats. Unless you, pay more, that is. Gosh, isn't that what United does? Why, it is. And it's far more draconian in its Basic Economy offering than, say, Delta or American. How did that happen?

Here, though, is the (only) part that truly entertains me. The Points Guy muses that the campaign is running in three markets -- Denver, Houston and Chicago.

In each of those cities' airports where United and Southwest compete, United has the greater share of traffic.

So why would United want to toss spittle Southwest's way -- especially over something so relatively trivial and dubious?

When you're the market leader, you don't carp at those below you. It's not as if Apple does too many ads mocking Microsoft these days, is it?

Yet here is a market leader mocking a smaller player. What might have brought that on?

It couldn't be fear, could it?

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