United's Secret Flier's Club Comes With Crazy Perks

But no one's sure how to join

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 23, 2013 3:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – How would you like to be greeted at the airport by people who know your name, whisk you past security lines, and will even press your suit for you? Those luxuries are just the tip of the iceberg for members of United Airlines' secretive Global Services club. United doesn't advertise the club, and no one knows what you have to do to score an invite (though it involves flying hundreds of thousands of miles per year). But the airline showed the Wall Street Journal what life is like for these pampered fliers. Some highlights:

  • Drivers greet fliers on the tarmac to whisk them to connecting flights in a Mercedes Benz.
  • In one case, an elite flier stained his shirt, so a United employee sent her husband to the mall to buy him a new one.
  • When members aren't flying, United takes them out to fancy restaurants and sporting events.
  • Members who tend to run late will be greeted by agents with a boarding pass in hand.
  • Agents automatically rebook members' flights when they're delayed or canceled.
  • A team of 400 staff members is devoted to the program. Some spend their days in a small room just tracking their few, elite customers.
United is hoping other passengers will see this special treatment and be drawn to the mystique. "We're creating the question: 'What is that? And how do I get it?'" the program's senior manager says. But even members don't know the answer to that, and many frequent fliers who miss out—or get dropped—are not happy. "It's like taking away their firstborn child," the manager says.

This Oct. 28, 2011, photo shows the new first class interior section of a United Airlines 747 plane at San Francisco International Airport.
This Oct. 28, 2011, photo shows the new first class interior section of a United Airlines 747 plane at San Francisco International Airport.   (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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