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:
- Hong Kong/HKG
- 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!