Apple is by far United’s biggest corporate account. They spend $150 million with the airline. Focusing on California-specific accounts the biggest are Facebook, Roche, and Google which spend ‘over $34 million’ and then Deloitte, McKinsey, PwC, Cisco, Oracle and Applied Materials in the $12 million to $17 million range.
This is all data leaked in the past few days:
Curious who are @United largest global corporate accounts? @Apple is in the top spot and contributes very much to success of SFO international flying especially the Shanghai service #UnitedAirlines #United #Apple #SFO #PVG #Shanghai #China pic.twitter.com/HNvIrz8wDg
— LAflyer (@LAflyr) January 11, 2019
Enlarging the graphic shows that it reads “This is confidential information. Please don’t share outside of United” at the very bottom. So someone printed it out — including with that warning — and put it on a banner. That probably wasn’t smart.
What we learn from this is that if a company is based in – or has a huge presence in – Silicon Valley, or California more generally, and operates globally then they’re going to do a lot of business with United. United has hubs at LAX and San Francisco, and significant international operations at both.
Of course just because a company is a big United customer doesn’t mean they’re only a big United customer. Facebook is one of United’s top corporate buyers, but they’re one of American’s top buyers as well.
If you’re flying out of San Francisco though you’re going to want to wave hello to Apple employees flying to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, London and Seoul. They’re also populating Singapore, Munich, Tokyo Haneda, Beijing and Tel Aviv flights.
I don’t blame them for favoring Haneda over Narita given the ease of getting into the city. It’s nice to know someone is buying United’s Singapore non-stops though Apple is doing their employees a real disservice by putting them on United instead of Singapore Airlines for the route, especially since United operates their longest haul flights with their old business class product — the same old seats running San Franciso – Newark fly San Francisco – Singapore.
Apple’s spending on San Francisco – Shanghai though is shocking, even accounting for all of the manufacturing done in China — one quarter of total company spend, 50 business class seats a day. That’s presumably 25 business seats in each direction.
I do think it’s a mistake to take $35 million a year and divide it out by 50 seats a day to figure out what Apple is spending. We should take these figures seriously but not literally. Still since United is running 84 business class seats a day in each direction between San Francisco and Shanghai that’s an impressive contribution from Apple. Now you know how two daily flights makes sense for United when American was losing tens of millions on their sole Chicago – Shanghai frequency.
Air China flies LAX – Shenzhen non-stop two days a week. I’m surprised that’s all, and that United doesn’t try the route though it’s just 24 miles from Hong Kong.
Regardless Apple isn’t going to be happy to see this data on their travel program released, or to see United using their brand on these banners. That and you’d think Apple would be embarrassed that Facetime isn’t good enough to avoid some of these trips.