For years, Delta has partnered with Porsche to provide tarmac transfers at hubs, mostly to its top Delta 360 elites on tight connections. Since 2013 United has worked with Mercedes on a similar offering, and also promoted Mercedes offers to MileagePlus members.
Now United has changed providers and marketing partners, from Mercedes to Jaguar, with the transition happening starting in the coming days. And since you always want to create your own category to be first or best in, they’re promoting this as the first all-electric, gate-to-gate transfer service. Some outlets will no doubt mistakenly report United as the first to offer tarmac transfers.
Starting this month at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, select MileagePlus Premier members can enjoy chauffeured rides between their connecting aircraft in the 2023 Jaguar I-PACE HSE, the first all-electric performance SUV from Jaguar. The vehicles will go into service at United hubs in Denver, Houston, Newark/New York, Washington D.C, San Francisco and Los Angeles by the end of the year. These SUVs are expected to make an estimated 60 trips per day and transfer more than 1,000 United customers daily.
While United promotes this as being “for select Premier MileagePlus members with tight connections” I wouldn’t ever expect to see this as a Premier Silver, Gold or Platinum member unless being asked to join a higher-tier customer traveling from the same inbound aircraft to the same connection. This will undoubtedly be reserved for ensuring Global Services members (sometimes) do not misconnect. It’s a surprise and delight, not something they commit to offering, and utilized when there’s greatest risk of service failure with their most important customers.
In general there’s a branded marketing tie-in to these tarmac transfer deals, best thought of as a merchant-funded offer conceptually similar to statement credits and elite status provided through credit card issuers. Here Jaguar’s electric I-PACE is what’s being promoted, showcased for the very customers that United values most. There’s even a 50,000 mile offer for buying one:
The 2023 Jaguar I-PACE is on sale now in the U.S., priced from $71,3005. Through December 31, 2022, United MileagePlus members can earn 50,000 miles through the purchase or lease a new Jaguar vehicle.
Changing marketing partnerships isn’t unusual. After seven years American’s Cadillac partnership ended and they partnered with Avis for SUVs to do tarmac transfers. Citibank’s survey of new benefits for their premium AAdvantage co-brand suggests the American-Avis partnership may be expanding to include status benefits.
Even Lufthansa has changed up its partnerships, dropping Porsche and mostly offering Volkswagen vans from the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt to planes (though I understand there are still Mercedes vans as well).