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Close Connection? United Expands Its Mercedes-Benz Transfer Service

May 16, 2014 at 9:35 AM | by | ()

Last summer, United launched a partnership with Mercedes-Benz at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and began picking up its elite flyers planeside and driving them to their connecting flights. It was not an industry first, but it was far from industry standard here in the States. Now, just a year later, United has expanded this service to its hubs in Chicago, Newark, San Francisco, and, most recently, Los Angeles, with no signs of stopping.

If you're not familiar with the service, what United and other airlines have now started doing is meeting its most favored flyers on the tarmac when they land and escorting them to their connecting flight. In United's case at LAX, it picks up its Global Services members and United Global First customers in a Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC SUV.

This is obviously a pretty awesome perk for the small number that qualify, but more importantly, it shows clearly that airlines still live and die by the business of a certain few. Airlines have attempted to appease economy passengers with certain illusions of comfort - such as the ability to pay to upgrade to Economy Comfort - but make no mistake about it. It's still all about the elite flyers at the end of the day.

For the record, we're not banging on United's decision nor on the flyers who take advantage of the service. They've certainly earned it, after all. But, when a company is willing to offer a chauffeur service to one group of customers and are barely willing to offer a free soda to another, it really hits home about how important the top-tier flyers are to airlines.

On a humorous note, we'd also like to point out the irony in that while airlines are able to organize the most complex tasks of luxury, they are still unable to figure out a simple boarding procedure. Go figure.

[Photo: LA Times]

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