Water bottles increase sales at United?

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Tue, 28 Apr 1998 01:57:54 -0700

I still owe FoRK some thoughts on the flurry of domestic air alliances
announced or attempted last week. At first sight, though, domestic
code-sharing is like co-selling Fords and Chevys: both are basic
transportation and have complementarities, but you are fiddling with
what little product differentiation is left. However, I can see the
resignation that this is the last option left to squeeze out more
profits: it worked for the regionals (which are now all sub-brands of
the majors), so why not nationwide?

The notice below is amusing, in that context: the lengths to which
product differnetiation will go. We got some of these water bottles on
our flight to Sydney, and they are hilarious. There's a United logo on
them, but the main brand is "PURE AMERICAN" spring water: a claim which
is simultaneously offensively jingoistic and valueless (what is
"american" water, anyway?).

The main psychic lesson is the feeling of control: with a sport bottle,
passengers are back in control of their water supply, not at the mercy
of open glasses which must be consumed or lost (who can leave the tray
table down in coach? who will risk turbulence?). Very subtle, and very

Nice meme.



Test Proves More Food Means More Passengers

In what United Airlines [UAL] calls a "landmark" test, the
industry for the first time ever has been able to quantify the results
in passenger satisfaction of adding more food onto flights. In short,
more food means that more passengers are likely to re-book with the
The $1 Million Challenge, a test sponsored by LSG/Sky Chefs and
conducted by United, ran from April through December 1997. United
released details of its findings at the annual International In-flight
Food Service Association (IFSA) conference in Los Angeles this week.
With the $1 million grant, United substantially increased food
quantity in all classes on four trans-continental routes.
"Economy [class] got the most attention in this project," said
Larry DeShon, United's director of onboard service in North America.
In addition to regular meals, United Economy passengers had a broad
choice items from a cart prior to arrival, including candy bars,
carrot sticks and dip, potato chips and sandwiches. They also received
an 8-ounce bottle of water, larger muffins and enhanced salads and
Surprisingly, said DeShon, by far the most popular item was the
individual bottle of water that every passenger received. As a result,
the carrier is now providing individual bottled water to all first and
business class passengers in North America. United is also "trying to
find ways to get it into economy without increasing costs," said
"We are hoping the airline industry will look at this [test] and
consider food service as a product differentiator," said Marty Heires,
LSG/Sky Chefs spokesman.
But DeShon said that each airline must take a hard look at its
priorities before flooding flights with food. United, for example, is
"investing a lot of money in seats, new entertainment systems and on-
time reliability." <<Larry DeShon, 847/700-2278; Marty Heires,

Food for Thought

In the four markets that United added more food, officials found:
* Meal ratings increased by 25% in first and business classes and
15% in economy.
* The number of customers who claimed they would definitely
purchase their next ticket on United rose by nearly 9% in first class
and more than 10% in economy - double United's 1998 system-wide goal
of 5%.
* There was an approximate 2% increase in traffic, which would
equate to $2.4 million in revenue during one full year.