United Airlines has revealed it is in early talks with tech giant Apple to overhaul its domestic terminal at San Francisco airport – a gateway to Silicon Valley where the iPhone maker is based. According to the airline’s chief digital officer, Apple employees have already visited United’s terminal at SFO to scope out a number of areas including the customer service facilities and the airline’s baggage handling services.
United’s Linda Jojo told journalists at a media event in Chicago on Friday that the collaboration “transform the way the airport experience is going to look” in comments reported by CNBC. Could Apple do for the airport what it has achieved with mobile phones and laptop computers?
Earlier this year we learned that Apple was one of United Airlines’ biggest corporate customers, accounting for $150 million of the airline’s annual revenues. Leaked figures from United suggested the Cupertino-based tech company was buying up to 50 business class seats on its San Francisco – Shanghai route. That alone account for $35 million in revenues.
And apparently, the relationship has become symbiotic. Apple has become increasingly reliant on United’s services (especially its unparalleled network to China) and United has become reliant on Apple’s products – including the purchase of around 100,000 iPhones and iPads for frontline staff.
“They fly us a lot. We’re going to deepen that partnership,” said Jojo at Friday’s #UnitedFlightPlan event.
During the media event, United announced a number of other initiatives including a new Star Wars-themed safety video and business class amenity kit, as well as a specially painted Star Wars 737 aircraft. United also explained a number of ways it was looking to use tech to improve the passenger experience, including a product its calling ‘Soft Landing’.
Passengers on disrupted services will be served a list of available hotels direct in the United app, allowing passengers to book accommodation and choose a new flight without having to get in line to wait to speak with a United representative.