Onboard credit card sales pitch of a lifetime

Yesterday afternoon I was flying from Seattle to San Francisco with a friend on USAirways United. I realize as of late that United flight attendants are paid a commission for all the Mileage Plus Visa applications they accept, so occasionally I’ve seen them add something about the credit card to the post-takeoff announcement, like “ask a flight attendant if you’d like an application and would like to earn 30,000 bonus miles.”

Yesterday, however, one of the flight attendants took this to an extreme. His first announcement, which came about half way through the flight, was at least two to three minutes:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have great news for you. Your flight has specifically been targeted for this special offer which United is only offering on select flights. If you apply for a Mileage Plus Visa on this flight you’ll earn 30,000 bonus miles, enough for a free roundtrip ticket on United or our partners. We only have a limited number of these applications onboard so I’ll be coming through with them shortly. This is an offer you can’t get elsewhere.” He went on and on.

Then, about five minutes later he gets on the PA again — “ladies and gentlemen, I only have a couple of these applications left, so if you’d like one please ring your call button. The first five people that hand these applications back to me will get a complimentary glass or our house red or white wine. So hurry up and get those applications to me.” Then he made another announcement later saying this was the final opportunity to take advantage of this amazing offer.

I think he collected about 8-10 credit card applications on this flight of 100 people. The other flight attendant told us that this guy makes $400 per trip on credit card applications, which I’m betting is about as much as he makes otherwise. Holy cow!

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. That’s some great marketing! Good for him! But, hopefully he doesn’t come off as being pesky and an annoyance to passengers. He’s just trying to help the economy get back on its feet 😉

  2. Over the top, in my opinion, but he is doing exactly what the credit card company and UA wants him to do.

    Considering the lengths frequent flyers go to get miles and status, what makes this different?

    If he is bumping up his paycheck in a honest way, I say good for him!

  3. I don’t have a problem accepting a glass of free wine and tossing the application (if I’m seated in the back).
    While the pitch may be annoying (credit card and seat) , anything that will help UA generate some $$ is ok by me.

  4. I didn’t pay to hear sales pitches when i fly, I know this guy is just trying to make a living, but I really didn’t really think United had the right announce these offers through the PA in the first place, if the ad is in a magazine, or even on the tv screens we have a choice to turn our attentions else where, but there’s not way around listening to PA ads. And this instance you describe of the repeated announcements and the outright lies is just unacceptable. I’m writing in a complaint letter, and i suggest you do the same, otherwise, we might all have to sit through hours of forced time share presentations next time we fly.

  5. My US Airways flight from JAX to PHL the other day was just as bad. The purser went on for about 15 minutes about the benefits of the card. His pitch was quite impressive, and unless you have an ipod you’re basically captive, perhaps they should start pushing timeshares etc as well.

  6. Wow! All that on the short hop from SEA to SFO? I mean, maybe on SFO-JFK/IAD when there’s some more time, but wow! That WOULD get annoying.

    AA does this as well for the citi AAdvantage cards, but I’ve never had more than 1 announcement per flight.

  7. I also had the sales pitch today on US1509 CLT-PHX. The flight was delayed for almost two hours due to a mechanical issue and about 45 minutes before landing the captain came on to apologize for the inconveniences. Afterwards the Y FA chimed in and offered the credit card as a special way to compensate for the delay. He continued and said he filled in the flight details and his name so that HQ knows which flight it was. When the Y FA came to the front galley I saw him with four (completed?) forms in his back pocket.

  8. I always think twice, and re-read things prior to posting. I never want my words to be misunderstood.
    Sorry, but I’m not pleased with what I read above.

  9. You are displeased with the fact they are, or you dispute it? It’s really not an issue to debate; I was just trying to point out a benefit stemming from it. Cheers.

  10. Reminds me of an Alaska flight I was on where the male flight attendant (AFAIK, straight but that’s normally irrelevant) was almost reading from a telesales script. I had a couple of objections –th emain one was that I already had a Alaska credit card –and he was able to counter each objection.

    He told me to go ahead and apply for a 2nd card and I would get it. He was right!

  11. Yeah, Fargus, that really isn’t nice. What happens when everyone says people with funny-sounding names like Fargus are all purple-colored unisexuals?

    I was on a USAirways flight a few days ago with my Boyfriend (who is busexual, by the way). We had an awful pitch for the US- card. Was really annoying. I pumped up the headphones when the lady kept going on and on. I was in 1A, but I didn’t see many takers!

    Love,
    Katie

  12. I flew UA round-trip this weekend from MCO-MSP, with a connection at ORD – so, four flights total. I don’t remember one flight attendant pushing the credit card once. Not once. So, maybe it is just random – or, maybe they are trying different sales pitches to see what works.

    For all the cuts that the pilots and FAs have taken in salary, if they can make a few extra $$ in credit card commissions, I say….let ’em.

  13. I guess my issue is why would you sign up on an aircraft? I mean, United has like six different cards with different benefits, so is one just so caught up in the moment that any card will do? Does 20k miles sound better than 20k miles plus 5k EQM? Its almost as if people hear “free ticket” and get the card…only months later realize that their 20,800 miles doesn’t get them very far…

    On another rant, why would anyone want a flight attendant, or anyone for that matter, have all their personal information? If\when I sign up for a card I’m fairly certain there isn’t a whole lot of different people looking at my info between my computer and the card company. To hand over all that personal info to a stranger and hope it gets from that flight into the correct hands without anyone copying or doing anything improper with it takes a whole lot of trust……more than I have.

  14. Hmmm, if they keep pressing that over the PA with multiple announcements, that’s really obnoxious. But if they’re offering a drink to those who signup, clearly they have the ability to give me a second complimentary soft drink so I sure will ask for one.

  15. Yawn,

    Why did you capitalize “Boyfriend”, and what is a “busexual” (someone who has intercourse with buses)? If your boyfriend is doing men, that means he’s a gay guy who’s willing to sleep with you too.

    Most male stewardesses are indeed gay these days. There’s nothing wrong with that… most hospitality jobs performed by men are similar in that respect. I wonder, however, why so many of them feel like they need to draw attention to it by being so overtly feminine and dramatic.

  16. This may be the same flight attendant I flew with SEA->IAD a few months ago. I think the CC is a good way for UA to pad revenue and I didn’t find the presentation intrusive, although it does sound like he has developed it a bit more and it might be borderline annoying at this point. Incidentally, at the conclusion of that flight some months ago, I did ask for his name and sent a compliment in to the 1K desk.

  17. Wow. Talk about hijacking a good post…

    The topic was how interesting (or annoying) some of the in-flight sales pitches have become.

    I am not too keen on filling out my personal information on a piece of paper and handing it to a stranger either. The days when I would do that at the drop of a hat just to get a free t-shirt are long gone I’m afraid…

    As far as the subject of the flight attendant’s sexual orientation, it’s not even germane to this conversation. So what if he’s gay, straight, bi or otherwise? Does it make the credit card application any more appealing? Or the sales pitch more annoying?

    I think not so please keep your prejudices to yourselves and just enjoy the friendly skies… Sheeeshhh… Who uses stewardesses anymore anyway??? Hello, 1975 called and they want their bigots back…

  18. Being that I am a flight attendant, reading everyone’s responses are quite fascinating lol. It is not just United, or Alaska, or American etc. It is every airline. My airline included. I can also tell you that yes commission is involved but its not that easy to get, the people have to get approved yada yada. Anyways, what I was going to say is that credit card sales are not an option or random its actually mandatory. The reason you sometimes won’t here an announcement is for one of two reasons. 1. They were not stocked on the aircraft. 2. Some of is flight attendants do not like sales and just won’t do them if all can agree. Some flight attendants are great at sales and do not care what people think about them so they can push like a car salesmen and that’s great of they can because on the contrary of what many may think our pay is not well off. As far as the few of you filing a complaint is honestly pointless because credit card announcement is mandatory so they will not care. That is all and as far as this Gay argument above. Their are equally gay and straight flight attendants. Ironically it won’t matter if they are saving you from a medical emergency or an evacuation because we are all trained the same at the end of the day. Lol toodaloo

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