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Lithys 2018: United Airlines - Surprise and Delight

Lithys 2018: United Airlines - Surprise and Delight

Company: United Airlines

Company background: United Airlines and United Express operate approximately 4,600 flights a day to 357 airports across five continents. In 2017, United and United Express operated more than 1.6 million flights carrying more than 148 million customers. United is proud to have the world's most comprehensive route network, including U.S. mainland hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark/New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. United operates 757 mainline aircraft and the airline's United Express carriers operate 551 regional aircraft. The airline is a founding member of Star Alliance, which provides service to 193 countries via 28 member airlines. For more information, visit, follow @United on Twitter or connect on Facebook. The common stock of United's parent, United Continental Holdings, Inc., is traded on the NYSE under the symbol "UAL".

Contact: Molly Hennessy

Title: Senior Manager Customer Recovery and Social Media Technology

Related URLs:

Lithy category: Surprise and Delight

1. Tell us about a social promotion or digital/brand campaign that ‘surprised & delighted’ your customers.
Every day at United is an opportunity to Surprise and Delight our customers

2. Share the goal, strategy and tactics. What makes your approach to customer satisfaction a gold standard in the industry?
We go out of our way to show customers how much we care

3. What were the results? (e.g. customer response, brand impact, sentiment change)
Incredible customer results and positive sentiment


Each day, more than 400,000 customers choose United to connect them to the people, places and moments that matter most to them, and the airline’s social media team never misses a chance to brighten a few of those passengers’ journeys with some well-timed and well-executed surprises.

The beautiful thing about the airline industry is that it inspires intense loyalty, and United has its share of fans who closely follow the company’s every move on social media. From time to time, it’s nice to reward that kind of devotion, like when United gave “Captain Alex” the treat of a lifetime in honor of his first flight.

Alex Mann (@Captain_AAlex), a teenager with autism and a passionate aviation enthusiast, had followed @united on Twitter for years before he ever stepped foot on one of its aircraft, regularly interacting with the airline. So when Alex booked a ticket on United last March for his birthday trip, it called for something special.

He arrived at the airport to find that the social media team had arranged for him to board his plane early for a meet-and-greet with the pilots and flight attendants, who also made an in-flight announcement wishing him a happy birthday once they were in the air. And to top it all off, just before landing, a flight attendant delivered a personalized birthday card to Alex.

“@Captain_AAlex We want to wish a very happy birthday to our new favorite passenger and friend, Alex. We’re so glad to have you flying with us!” United tweeted from its official account.

Mr. Mann was floored by the gestures, and took to Twitter to express his gratitude. “Thank you, @united for making my birthday a dream come true,” he tweeted after his flight.

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Likewise, in June, United’s social outreach employees caught wind of the fact that the Cremeens family was flying back to the U.S. from Ireland after a trip to celebrate their son, Ryan, being cancer free for one year. Seeing as the Cremeens had a lengthy layover in Newark on their way home, the social media team made sure there were a few surprises waiting for them.

First, a United customer service representative met the family upon their arrival in Newark and presented them with meal vouchers to use in the airport food court and passes to the United Club. They were also given the use of a private electric cart to transport them through the terminal, and Ryan and his brother received goodie bags full of United swag.

“Arrived in Newark after a one-week trip to Ireland and @united greets my family at the gate, gives us the red-carpet treatment to help make Ryan’s dream trip as special as possible,” Eric Cremeens, Ryan’s father, tweeted. “We have never been made to feel more loved than what @united in Newark did to make our son’s dream trip to Ireland a memory of a lifetime for everyone.”





At the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about – giving customers an experience they’ll never forget? Every airline promises to get you to your destination safely and on time; the true differentiator is in how they make customers feel while doing that. United is embracing every opportunity it can to form deeper, more meaningful connections with passengers, from recognizing special occasions and milestone flights to simply saying hello and wishing customers well. Social media provides a valuable means to winning the hearts and minds campaign, which will ultimately help United set itself apart in a fiercely competitive industry for the years to come.

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