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?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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