United Flight Attendant iPhones Now Identify Non-Cardholders

Oct 26, 2018

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It’s not uncommon for large companies to issue smartphones to their employees, and to offer internal apps aimed at boosting efficiency. United Airlines does both.

While various departments issue iPhones, it’s flight attendants you’ll see using them most. They have loads of information at their fingertips — frequent flyer status, which customers ordered special meals, who has a tight connection, and so on. Generally I find that it empowers crew members to deliver better service — like offering free food and drinks to Premier 1K members — this latest addition may end up having the opposite effect, though.

Recently, the airline added a special identifier to the app: “Non-Chase cardholder.” I could see how identifying customers as having one of Chase’s co-branded cards — the United Explorer Card and the United MileagePlus Club Card — could enable flight attendants to provide special recognition onboard. And the app does point them out indirectly, by excluding the credit card badge. But specifically highlighting which customers do not already have a card makes them a target for a personalized pitch.

How so? Well, recently, the airline began pushing crews to sell passengers on the Explorer card — a move that hasn’t been popular with all flight attendants. Flight attendants are encouraged to pitch credit cards onboard, with the airline offering employees $100 for each approved passenger. Apparently one flight attendant has already sold 96 this year alone — at the elevated rate, that’s nearly $10,000 in bonus cash, and an awful lot of in-flight pitches.

Hopefully flight attendants don’t use this new information to target specific passengers, but if someone comes by with a “Mr. Smith, I’d love to tell you about this special offer today…” you’ll have a better idea as to why.

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