The battle between infrastructure companies and service providers continues to rage. Well aware of what is at stake after witnessing how phone carriers have been financing the 4G infrastructure to the benefits of social media and GIG companies, United Airlines was determined not to let go the biggest chunk of the value to tech and service competitors.

They are no longer content with being a transportation company; they are now directly monetizing the time their passengers spend on board and creating new business models going way beyond selling seats.

It all started when United gave away free business class tickets to TikTok influencers who would extensively share about their experience trading their service for marketing effort. Then the SFO-JFK connection set a new stage when United offered a free trip to 50 passengers per flight in exchange for being exposed to targeted advertisements onboard and giving away some of their personal data for commercial usage, as the expression goes: if your not paying for the product, you are the product!

And this year alone, United has signed up 50,000 new clients to their business-as-a-service subscription plan, including unlimited travel to 20 major business hubs around the world, access to office and meeting spaces onboard and in airport lounges, exclusive networking and business development scouting, all the way to a concierge service lending you the perfect outfit at your destination.

The goal of United Airlines CEO is pretty clear: “We’re not competing against American Airlines or Southwest anymore, we are on the verge of creating a whole new service and product category, something that no airline has ever done before. Our aim is to provide an all-encompassing, seamless experience for our passengers, where travel is just one part of the equation. We want to be the only touchpoint for our clients, catering to all their needs and preferences, both in the air and on the ground.

Thank you for joining us on this journey to explore potential futures that could shape your industry! While the future is unpredictable, with the right tools and knowledge, we can uncover hidden opportunities and create a future that aligns with our aspirations. If you’re ready to take the next step and unlock the possibilities that await, reach out to us today!


This blog post is an extract from the type of work we do in our Design Fiction/Future Proofing collaboration with partners. The scenarios presented are thought-provoking and based on the present with analogous situations and technologies that are already available. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any individuals or organizations mentioned herein.

Design Fiction Scenario