United Is Paying A Guy To Hold Up A Sign At Hubs Thanking Passengers

Back in the fall of 2003 United had a guy named Ted going around Denver picking up lunch tabs for entire restaurants. You see, Ted was their new low cost carrier ‘within the airline’ that United was launching. Ted was your friend. He was fun.

That’s not how Ted turned out, in fact Ted – which shared the last 3 letters of United – was often described as being “the end of United.” And United retired Ted on January 6, 2009.

Around the time that United was paying someone to pick up lunch, US Airways decided it needed to respond and so a guy named “Seth” picked up a few lunch tabs in Crystal City near the carrier’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters. Although by that time US Airways’ low cost carrier within a carrier MetroJet was already long gone, and Seth wasn’t tied in any way to… anything.

Well, United back paying someone to do something unusual – in this case hold up a sign for departing passengers. As Scott Mayerowitz writes at The Points Guy,

A source, who was not authorized to speak with media, told TPG that United kicked off the campaign in July to let customers to know how much it cares and appreciates their business.

Each hub has a flight picked out for the month where ramp agents hold up the signs. In Los Angeles, it was Flight 514 to JFK.

This is a neat gesture. However it’s Scott Kirby’s United so it isn’t offered to all passengers on all flights. Instead only hubs – and only one flight a day at each – receive this thank you treatment. When United invests in thanking customers, it seems they’re careful not to invest too much.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

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  1. Saying thanks is always a nice touch.

    UA has a ways to go towards overcoming service issues, but it seems like they are seriously trying. And I’m surprised given Kirby’s propensity to squeeze every last dime from passengers.

  2. If I were an executive at UA, I’d assign that guy (and others who hold that sign) to do other tasks. The money to pay him, let’s use it to print some “Thank you” cards. On each flight, have the captain, First officer, and flight attendant supersivor sign and deliver the “thank you” card to GS/1K to show appreciation.

    And to show to all, follow Delta to extend elite status for another year. I do not want to upset anyone in the US, but I am based in Asia, and it’s impossible to travel for business and pleasure now as borders in many countries are now closed.

    “Holding the thank you sign” is just PR in a bad, ineffective way.

  3. From the headline, I thought it would be one of those crazy sign-waving guys, standing at street entrance to hub airports, dancing around and flipping his sign every which way. This is nice too, though…

  4. @T – They’re not paying someone to have the role of holding the thank you sign. They’re enlisting the help of existing ramp crew to hold it up.

    It’s a cool way to show some attention to detail. Reminds me of how in Japan ramp crews say farewell flights.

  5. Given how notoriously cheap Kirby is, I’m surprised that he doesn’t do it himself.

  6. So Japan Airlines does this on all of the flights I have been on and the ones I have seen waiting for my flight, while at a Japanese Airport. 3 people from the ramp crew will bow together and wave the aircraft goodbye until the tail passes them. It’s a little gesture, but it sticks in your mind forever and is great brand recognition. There are other reasons why that airline is a great airline, but that little one is always a great talking point..

  7. Sigh, this seems like an idea as lame as TED. Meaningless. But it DID get everyone’s attention for 5 minutes, so I suppose that’s a positive.

  8. How about paying back for cancelled flights during Covid. I hold a voucher that I will not need. I’ll hold a sign if it means I’ll get my back.

  9. How about paying back for cancelled flights during Covid. I hold a voucher that I will not need. I’ll hold a sign if it means I’ll get my back.

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