United Airlines is giving free drinks to its best customers - even in coach

Flying United economy? If you're an elite frequent flier, you now receive one free alcoholic drink. Photo: United Airlines. 

Flying United economy? If you're an elite frequent flier, you now receive one free alcoholic drink. Photo: United Airlines. 

Free booze is now available in coach on all United Airlines and United Express domestic flights - but only if you're a special frequent flier. 

United Airlines told employees this week that its Premier 1K and Global Services customers now receive one free drink on all flights. Most booze qualifies, but United says you'll still have to pay for the 375ML "premium" wines.

United says this is part of its program to "surprise and delight" its best customers. Loyal briansumers.com readers know that United recently started a program to offer free upgrades to first class for these same customers.  United says it wants to "recognize and show appreciation for their business." Those customers are worth a fortune to United - much more than the leisure traveler who buys a $200 ticket to Orlando. 

Who are these Premier 1K and Global Services passengers? The Premier 1K program is easy to define. You qualify if you fly at least 100,000 miles per year on United or its partners. Global Services, however, is trickier. It is a secret program that accepts customers who spend a lot of money on United each year. How much? United doesn't say, but I think we can assume it is tens of thousands of dollars per year. 

This free booze program is new to United, but other airlines have a similar system. American Airlines offers its top frequent fliers a free drink as well as a snack. United, however, will not be giving away any snacks. [Not even customers who decline a drink may take a free snack.] Delta also had a similar program for elite fliers, but according to blogger Gary Leff, it ended last year.

United flight attendants now carry iPhone 6 plus phones that give them basic information on passengers, such as names and elite statuses, so these special customers will be easy to spot. 

One of my favorite parts about these United internal announcements are the suggested scripts. Here are two optional lines flight attendants may use:

  • “Good afternoon Mr. Johnson, as a Global Services –or-1K customer, I’d like to offer you a complimentary beverage today."
  •  “Good evening Ms. Smith, as a Global Services –or- 1K customer, we invite you to have your first drink on us.”

What do you think of United's program? Do you think this is a good idea? 


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