CCO Josh Earnest on United Airlines’ Super Bowl strategy

The airline is using a local Super Bowl ad to tell a ‘powerful story’ comparing its record to those of its competitors over the disruption-filled holiday travel season.

(Photo credit: Getty Images).

United Airlines has created a Super Bowl ad drawing a distinction between its performance over the holiday travel season and those of competitors that canceled hundreds or thousands of flights.

The ad, which will only air in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado, states how "United Airlines got more families in and out of Denver this holiday than any other airline."

United Airlines chief communications officer Josh Earnest said on a media call on Tuesday that the airline put the ad together in the past 10 days after witnessing the operational crises of other airlines during the holiday season. 

Southwest Airlines canceled about 16,700 flights from December 21 to the end of the year and reported a $220 million loss in Q4. CFO Tammy Romo said the airline anticipates another net loss in Q1 2023. The carrier has also updated its crisis-management plan and its CEO has apologized several times.

The difference between United’s success getting customers on flights in comparison to rivals made it clear that it has “a powerful story to tell,” said Earnest. He added that United endured “the same weather at the same airport, but very different outcomes.”

Earnest commented on how United's success is rooted in the investments it made in technology, making sure there were spare aircraft on-hand and the airline’s “hiring binge” before the holidays. 

“It’s not just about our biggest competitor here in Denver,” Earnest said. “It’s about a handful of airlines, the so-called low-cost carriers, that have chosen to not make these kinds of investments that do have a disproportionate impact on their operational performance and on the setbacks that their customers have to endure.” 

United reported an $843 million profit in Q4 2022, a 31% increase compared with three years earlier, on revenue of $12.4 billion. 

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