United is going on the offensive against rival Southwest in another spat with competitors

·3 min read
United Airlines Boeing 737
Southwest Airlines and United Airlines aircraft. Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Getty and Carlos Yudica/Shutterstock.com
  • United Airlines is targeting Southwest Airlines with new advertisements aimed at Denver fliers.

  • In the ads, it criticizes Southwest for its open seating policy, routes, and on-time performance.

  • The campaign is scheduled to appear on trains, television networks, social media, and even Spotify.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A new United Airlines advertising campaign is directly targeting Southwest Airlines as the two compete for travelers in Denver.

The "Mile High Standards" campaign critiques Southwest for its on-time performance and open seating policy while boasting about United's offerings, such as nonstop flights to Hawaii, as well as the airline's longtime presence in Colorado's capital city.

United is billing the strategy as "bold" and "unlike any you've ever seen" from it before, with its low-cost rival solely in the crosshairs. One example criticizes Southwest's lack of direct flights to Hawaii and Cozumel, Mexico, from Denver.

United Airlines Denver Ad Campaign
United Airlines' Denver advertising campaign. United Airlines

Not all of United's advertisements are directed toward Southwest, with some aimed at highlighting the key role that Denver plays for the airline.

In 2018, United opened a flight-training center in Denver that houses more than 30 flight simulators and trains around 10,000 pilots each year. United is also the only US airline offering intercontinental flights from Denver to cities such as London, Tokyo, and Frankfurt, Germany, in normal times.

Rocky Mountain Rivalry

Denver has proved to be an important base for both Southwest and United during the pandemic. Travelers have flocked to the Mountain West thanks to pandemic-friendly activities such as camping, hiking, and skiing.

United has invested additional resources to accommodate, including a luxury bus service from the airport to Breckenridge, Colorado, which passengers can book just as they would a regular United flight. Operated by Landline, the bus departs from a terminal gate, and checked bags are transported directly from fliers' incoming flights.

Southwest also added flights from Denver to Colorado cities such as Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, and Montrose, in direct competition with United. Some of the routes have done so well that daily service is now offered between Denver and both Steamboat Springs and Montrose.

"We're grateful that Coloradans continue to respond to our all-in value and a flexibility we offer every customer on every flight," a Southwest spokesperson told Insider in response to United's new campaign. "Our people and policies demonstrate a Mile High Heart that we feel should be a standard for all."

United's latest spat with competitors

This isn't United's first time directly going after competitors where they live. In February, United announced a brand-new route between Boston and London, scheduled to start sometime in 2021, in direct competition with JetBlue Airways' impending Boston-London flights.

The announcement was peculiar because no exact timing was given for the once daily flight and international travel between the UK and the US is limited. United also seldom launches transatlantic routes that don't pass through one of its hubs.

United is also back at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport with two relaunched routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its ultra-premium Boeing 767-300ER aircraft are meant to draw top fliers away from the likes of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, which partly dominate the route with premium offerings.

The airline's next target remains to be seen, but United is positioning itself for a strong recovery, and clearly isn't afraid to publicly challenge competitors to do so.

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