United Leaks Interesting Data On Their Largest West Coast Corporate Accounts

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Most companies are ultra-secretive when it comes to prized internal metrics and customer data. That’s for good reason, why would you want to tip off a competitor about the deals you’re giving to your best clients. And why would you want to risk upsetting your best clients by leaking potentially secretive data.

My favorite sessions from the United DO that I attended in 2012 were the ones where we got to dive into some of United’s metrics and case studies of which routes to fly. However they made it very clear where we were not allowed to take pictures and what data could not be shared.

That’s why I was surprised to see a picture uploaded by @LAflyr to Twitter  with all kinds of interesting tidbits about United’s CA based corporate clients:


Apparently United printed up this intel and put it in a United staff-only flight operations area in the San Francisco airport. Ostensibly it was printed up so that United staff would know to treat these corporate travelers well, though you’d think that might be better communicated in a memo that wasn’t as susceptible to leak as giant social media friendly billboards.

In the itsy-bitsy fine print on the bottom it says “This is confidential information. Please do not share outside of United.”


The sign says how Apple spends $150MM/year on United flights. Perhaps that explains why iPhones cost so much 😉

The most popular route for Apple employees is San Francisco-Shanghai, where they take up a whopping 50 business class seats per day!

United flies a daily 787-8 and a daily 787-9 on that route, those planes have 36 and 48 business class seats respectively for a total of 84 available business class seats on the route in each direction.

It’s unclear if Apple’s 50 daily business class seats refers specifically to traffic in each direction or the total going round-trip on that route per day, but either way, that means a big chunk of business class passengers on that route work for Apple.

United writes that it makes $35MM in revenue from Apple on that route, which breaks down to $96,000 in daily revenue. That would break down to either $1,920 per round-trip business class ticket if the figure is based on 50 business class seats daily in each direction or $3,840 per round-trip business class ticket if the figure is based on 50 business class seats daily round-trip.

An ex-Apple employee shares that when he worked at Apple the travel department strongly pushed employees to fly United. He was told that Apple pays about $2,000 per round-trip business class ticket with their corporate discount. He also shares that many Apple employees will be celebrating if United loses their death grip on Apple’s travel budget.

Those data sets seem to imply that Apple does indeed buy up 50 of the 84 seats in each direction and United is leaking that Apple pays $1,920 per round-trip.

A typical United business class fare between San Francisco and Shanghai ranges from $3,000-$4,500, so that’s a pretty sweet corporate discount, but would make sense given Apple’s massive annual spending with United.

United also leaked the top 10 airport that Apple employees fly to:

  1. Shanghai/PVG
  2. Hong Kong/HKG
  3. Taipei/TPE
  4. London/LHR
  5. Seoul/ICN
  6. Singapore/SIN
  7. Munich/MUC
  8. Tokyo/HND
  9. Beijing/PEK
  10. Tel Aviv/TLV

That would certainly help explain how the Tel Aviv route has flourished out of San Francisco, jumping from 3 weekly flights to daily flights and being upgauged from a 787-8 to a 777-300 in peak season.

United also leaked other big spending companies, including Facebook and Google, though without much granular data on them. Those companies don’t typically steer employees to fly United like Apple does.

While Steve Jobs would likely be fuming at this data leak and demanding changes, it remains to be seen if Tim Cook and Apple will respond to this leak during a sensitive time for the company amid plummeting iPhone sales. They’re certainly not amused, but United doesn’t face any serious competition in the San Francisco market the way that they do in other hub markets like Chicago, Los Angeles, and NYC. There aren’t many alternate options for Apple short of chartering their own flights, which would be significantly more logistically complicated and expensive than just ignoring the leak or warning United not to let it happen again.

At the end of the day though, United has some $40 Billion in annual revenue and even losing Apple’s $150MM in annual business due to a blunder like this is less than half a percent of annual revenue. United will survive either way, though some fringe routes might not.

Find anything interesting in this data leak? Hit the comments!

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29 Comments On "United Leaks Interesting Data On Their Largest West Coast Corporate Accounts"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.


Don’t dismiss Intel.
I have a friend who lives in Israel and works for Intel, and would generally fly UA connecting via EWR. Haven’t spoken to him in a while, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Intel is responsible for a significant chunk of TLV-SFO as well.


@dan, I want to book a united ticket with mileage-plus points for next week. Besides for the usual $5 tax fee, i also have a $75 fee for booking less than a week close to the flight, do you know how to get rid of it?


United Club card waives the fee.


Also waives the fuel charge

Brandon Cook

Try Google, I just waived the close in booking fee by booking the same flight 3-weeks out then calling within 24-hours to have it swapped.


Does this still work?


Definitely doesn’t online. Via phone might be YMMV but the phone rep I had said their side of the system also imposed the fee automatically.


I’ve done that in the past and it works.


How recently?


A few months ago. Need to wait for ticket to confirm before calling to change.


Can we get the Apple corporate code number to use when we fly LOL


@barry : Stole my thunder …..


are united coach flights international best credited to United mileage or if you would book a paid airfare international coach united you would credit it to a different star alliance? thanks


If I’m not wrong – A half a percent as small as it sounds but it is actually huge numbers and deep cuts for their profits for them since it’s paid business class flights… I’m sure united does not want to lose them


Finally something on topic


Dan, Can i use my amex platinum perks eve if i don’t buy the tickets with my amex card?


that list is going to be shaken up either way, with Apple shifting production to India…..


“At the end of the day though, United has some $40 Billion in annual revenue and even losing Apple’s $150MM in annual business due to a blunder like this is less than half a percent of annual revenue”

They’re not going to lose the Apple business, but if they theoretically did, it would be catastrophic for United’s share price.


do corporate fares still get mileage and elite statues for flights? and so what if people know what apple pays united every year why is that such a big leak?


Only $12M to $17M annually from PWC? That seems so little that it seems like PWC tries to book away from United as much as possible.


Not really surprising. Unlike Apple, PWC is not headquartered in a United hub city (its headquarters are in London) and is a far more spread out firm in terms of office locations. I would imagine PWC spends more on travel than Apple given its size and nature of its consulting business, but not necessarily on United.


PWC has a lot of employees assigned to offices that use EWR, ORD, SFO, IAH, IAD, LHR, CDG, and so on from where UA has services to three or more cities. I wouldn’t be surprised if PWC gives more business to DL than to UA.


Is cargo included in these Apple numbers? I know that United moves alot of cargo for Apple.

Facebook doesn’t have anything material to ship.