Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to top



The Friendly Skies … Where, When, Who, How Much?

The Friendly Skies … Where, When, Who, How Much?

In this era of invasive security, long lines, bare-bones service, niggling fees, and chock-full flights, can any airline credibly associate itself with “friendly skies”?

I’d argue that the skies are anything but friendly, and any suggestion to the contrary is bound to engender skepticism and scorn. Airlines routinely score near the bottom in consumer-satisfaction studies, alongside such other perennial laggards as cellphone services and cable TV providers. “Friendly skies” is practically an oxymoron in the minds of most consumers.

United apparently begs to differ. The airline is resurrecting the “friendly skies” tagline in a new ad campaign that will cost $30 million in the fourth quarter of this year, with equivalent spending levels planned throughout next year.

The tagline has a long history, serving as the backbone of United’s advertising from 1965 until 1996, when United changed ad agencies.

And that history no doubt initially will give the ads some emotional resonance, especially when they’re backed by the always-stirring “Rhapsody in Blue” soundtrack.

But after the first flood of sentimental remembrance recedes, what we’re left with is today’s United, flying in today’s skies.

“The friendly skies.” It’s lipstick on a pig, and an old pig at that.

Reader Reality Check

What’s your take on United’s ad recycling effort?

Stay in Touch

For more news like this, sign up to receive our free weekly newsletter. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Related posts:

  • garydpdx

    That $30 Million would be better spent on staff and operations.

  • Dick Jordan

    I’ll be flying on United twice in the next two weeks, giving me a chance to experience first-hand whether the travel experience proves as “friendly” as the ad campaign touts it to be.

  • Dunn John

    Once had millions of miles on the “old” U/A back when it was a real airline. Then they went the way of all U.S. carriers and forgot the customer. I now live in Asia and commute globally. All on foreign carriers. Asian carriers who still value the customer. No more U.S. carriers for me.

  • Edgar Numrich

    The “Friendly Skies” ads were offensive in 1965 and went from there . . .

  • kenneth robinson

    I just passed 2 million miles with United, thats over 100,000 per year since late in the 90’s. I speak with some experience – instead of ‘friendly skies’ it should be ‘CREEPING CRUD’ because I have witnessed it first hand go from an airline that was ‘proud with good cause’ to what it is today, CRUD. Most of it seems to have occured since ‘Smiley Jeff ‘ became CEO. I have had so many benefits yanked out from under my feet since he took over.

    I also am looking for an Asian Carrier to switch to………..

  • kenneth robinson

    Could you steer me to a good Asian frequent flyer plan??? and mention Asian ff plan in the subject line. Thanks….. KEN

  • Dunn John

    Ken: I find the Asiana Program to be everything it is cracked up to be. When in the U.S. and forced to use domestic airlines, I choose ones with code sharing with Asiana ( U/A, USAIR )and enter my Asiana FF number. Hope you like it..

  • kenneth robinson

    Thanks, can you earn double miles with Asiana as with UA once you earn gold status?

  • Dunn John

    Not sure. You can check Asiana out at and follow the prompts

  • anna

    i beg to differ… it was subsidiary-United who ruined the always wonderful CONTINENTAL! Awards year after year after year… then came the greedy big-dogs who thought a merger would do us all well… it didn’t. Continental was the best airline around, and even though the name doesn’t exist anymore, it always will be the best. So please do not muddy the waters by saying that somehow United got worse because of Continental… it was quite the opposite.

  • netopiax

    I flew both airlines before the merger and I can say with some certainty that both got worse after the merger in terms of customer service and reliability. Things have turned around a bit this year but they now have so many elites in the system that nobody is special anymore.