United Airlines Olympics

Freeskier Gus Kenworthy aka “Air Raider” was one of six Olympic athletes who participated in United’s Helping Superheroes Fly campaign and had an action figure modeled after him. Image via Twitter

APEX Insight:  The 2018 Winter Olympics may be happening on the ground in PyeongChang, but as the official carrier of Team USA, United Airlines is bringing the spirit of the Games to those cheering on the competitors back home. Here are three ways the airline is uniting the Olympics and the passenger experience.

Marvel Treatment

Athletes are often seen as heroes but in a campaign launched in January, United took this idea to the next level, transforming six Olympians into literal superheroes by devising alter egos for the champs. In a series of ad spots that coalesced around the tagline ‘Helping Superheroes Fly’ and that are running on TV, online, on board and in airports, we meet snowboarder Jamie Anderson, dubbed Arctic Angel, figure skater Nathan Chen, aka King Quad, and luger Erin Hamlin, none other than The Rocket. We also get acquainted with freeskier Gus Kenworthy or Air Raider, sled hockey player Nikko Landerson (The Fury) and short track speed skater J.R. Celski – Ice Lightning – who also had action figures modeled after them.

The collectables were handed out to passengers on February 9 at seven of United’s hub airports including George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. In a press release, United said it wanted to highlight the 38-year relationship between the airline and the United States Olympic Committee. That’s why accompanying the six athletes in the campaign are six employees who were also given the superhero treatment and their own miniature versions. 

Decked-Out Treats

Competitors departing for South Korea from San Francisco International Airport on February 9 were met with an uplifting send-off. United decorated a gate especially for the athletes, United CEO Oscar Munoz was on hand to wish them well and passengers were able to share encouraging words of support by signing an oversize message board. To continue the celebration through to the end of the games on February 24, the airline has also introduced patriotic menu items in its over 50 United Club locations like a red, white and blue candy bar and cranberry-infused cocktails topped with blueberries and garnished with lifesavers arranged to look like the Olympic rings.

Family Affair

Olympians’ expenses are paid for by their country’s Olympic committees but their families need to find their own way to fund the often-costly trip. Figure skater Bradie Tennell, 20, wasn’t certain to make it to the games in South Korea – she only qualified in January. Her mom, who works two jobs, couldn’t afford to travel to PyeongChang with her two sons to cheer the athlete on. They started a Go Fund Me page but it wasn’t looking like they would meet their goal. A couple of weeks before the start of the Games, United caught wind of the story, went to visit Tennell at the Chicago-area rink where she trains and offered to cover the cost to bring her family to the stands. The move is part of the airline’s mission to be the most caring airline in the sky and the Olympics is just the kind of feel-good event to get that mission started on the right foot.