Apple Spends $150m A Year On United Airlines Business Seats

United Airlines is displaying some very interesting promotional banners at its terminal at San Francisco International. LAFlyer shared a photo of the banners on Twitter a couple of days ago.

According to one of the banners, Apple is the airlines’ largest global account and contributes $150 million to United’s annual revenue.

Yes, $150 million annually.

San Francisco to Shanghai

The number one route for Apple is San Francisco (SFO) to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG). As a matter of fact, Apple spends $35 million a year just on this route. This is roughly 25% of its annual spending with United. Amazingly, Apple purchases 50 business class seats for this route every day. It is not quite clear, however, if the tech giant buys 50 seats in total for both directions or 50 seats in each direction. Nevertheless, it is an astounding number.

Apple Spends $150m A Year On United Airlines Business Seats
Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

Let’s take a closer look at these numbers. When we divide $35 million by 365 by 50, we get a cost of roughly $1,900 per ticket. This price seems very low at first. Nonetheless, a quick search on United’s website reveals that round-trip business class tickets from SFO to PVG are available for as little as $2,700. Is Apple getting a good deal, or is the company paying more for its seats? I would assume that the tech giant gets preferred pricing and pays $1,900 a round-trip ticket. However, there is no way for us to tell with the information provided.

It would also be interesting to know how many of the seats Apple is actually using. Is it really using all of the seats on a daily basis, or is it paying for them no matter if they are occupied or not?

United offers two daily flights between San Francisco and Shanghai. The flights are operated on a Boeing 787-8 and a Boeing 787-9. According to United’s seat maps, there are 36 business class seats on a 787-8 and 48 business class seats on a 787-9. Based on this information, we are looking at a total of 84 business class seats offered in each direction each day.

Even if we assume that Apple’s 50 seats a day are the total for both directions, this means that Apple occupies almost one-third of United’s business class seats between San Francisco and Shanghai. This is definitely quite a bit.

Apple’s Primary Destinations

Apple’s headquarters are located about 30 miles from SFO, so it makes perfect sense that the tech giant uses this airport for most of its flights.

Anyway, here is the list of Apple’s primary destinations:

  • PVG – Shanghai
  • HKG – Hong Kong
  • TPE – Taipei
  • LHR – London
  • ICN – Seoul
  • SIN – Singapore
  • MUC – Munich
  • HND – Tokyo
  • PEK – Beijing
  • TLV – Tel Aviv

Other Large Accounts

Corporate accounts are very important for the airlines, and, apparently, United has other large accounts in the Bay Area as well. Even though they contribute less to United’s annual revenue combined than Apple does by itself, Facebook, Roche, and Google spend over $34 million each a year making them number 2. Deloitte, McKinsey & Company, Cisco, Applied Materials, PwC, and Oracle come in behind them with $12 million to $17 million a year followed by Intel, Visa, and Chevron with over $10 million a year. Still not too shabby.

Although the banners were made to promote United Airlines and convince people to “fly California’s global airline,” they provide interesting information about the amount of money large corporations spend on air travel every year.

Did you expect these companies to spend this much on air travel?