This Was United’s Theme – Before Rhapsody In Blue

The United Airlines is fundamentally intertwined with George Gershwin’s 1924 Rhapsody in Blue. It’s hard to imagine that when Continental Airlines management took over they considered dropping the song which the airline has used since the 1980s. United was the first commercial brand ever to license it, for an annual fee of $300,000 at the time.

The Gershwin piece wasn’t just used on board and in commercials but also a version was recorded for the ‘trippy tunnel’ connecting United concourses at Chicago O’Hare.

But United didn’t always use this song. Just before United adopted Rhapsody, Brian Eno created ‘Music for Airports’ offering his take on the environmental sound of muzak. And that’s just the sound that United used to use as well.

Here’s a 47 minute mix of what United reportedly used as background music in the 1960s from Friendly Skies and Flight Of The Phoenix to Halfway to Paradise (the game United played until 2015 on Hawaii flights was Halfway to Hawaii).

(HT: Paul H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I detest Rhapsody In Blue, having been consigned to it when reservations assistance is needed because of the online limitations and failures of United’s (Continental’s) IT. Silence on hold would be preferable to hearing Rhapsody In Blue drone on and on……

  2. I actually quite like Rhapsody in Blue. No other airline has a music piece that identifies itself as much as United and Rhapsody in Blue. When this particular Gershwin’s piece is played immediately the thought of United is conjured up. UA made a wise choice to use this piece.

  3. United still has the commercial exclusive to using Rhapsody in Blue. I always thought it should not have been licensed to just United, as Rhapsody in Blue can be considered America’s only piece of classical music. But I am surprised that UA does not use it more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *