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19 Reasons Not To Hate United Airline’s Cringey Holiday Rom-Com

  • Airlines
  • 4 min read

United Airlines tried something innovative for the holidays by releasing a Hallmark-style rom-com movie ‘Love In Plane Sight’ as its holiday video. Some of the reviews are…whoosh… Well, let’s say not in keeping with the holiday spirit of goodwill to all. But there’s plenty to love about the short film. (From an airline marketing perspective.) Not least, the effort United put into it.

United Airlines holiday rom-com

First, let’s get all the cringe out of the way and watch the thing!

Now, let’s cover the bad…

Yes, the plot is very weak, and the meet-cute is a bit bonkers. If someone spilled hot coffee all over someone’s front at the airport terminal, they might be more likely to feel lifelong enmity than have the event turn to love. Besides, the heroine might have suffered a burn injury, even wearing a sweater.

The story is unlikely, and the ‘film’ won’t win an Oscar, but this also applies to other rom-coms that deliver cheesy plots, smiles, and warm feelings for the holidays. This is a 5’45” commercial, so… You get it.

So, What’s To Love About United’s Christmas Special ‘Love in Plane Sight’?

The product and service placement is subtly and neatly woven into the ‘rom-com’ story beats. And the beats follow a rom-com story structure.

  1. It starts early at 23″ Bag Drop Short-cut features a friendly, helpful agent (who is secretly an elf).
  2. Love the coffee! 49″, we see the heroine’s coffee froth imprinted with the United logo, served by the barista at the lounge.
  3. 57″ in, we see United’s app featured with a boarding alert for a flight to somewhere called “Polarisonia”
  4. Diving right into the Christmas spirit. “Tis the season to be jolly!” sung by carollers in the terminal next to a tree.
  5. From a storytelling angle, there’s nice foreshadowing in the carollers singing “Don we now our gay apparel” when our heroine’s apparel is about to be ruined. The “fa-la-la, la-la-la” serving as the “bleep” over “What the f…” after she gets washed in coffee adds a bit of humor.
  6. Friendly boarding agent (and also an elf) using a handheld digital device to check in passengers.
  7. United’s Polaris business class suite is the real star of the show here.
  8. Nice travel advice: “exercise is good for jet lag.” Although, it’s cringe for the hero to do sit-ups in his seat. Many might lift their privacy barrier and never let it drop again, but let’s suspend disbelief for the sake of romance.
  9. Polaris Pajamas are featured. “Are you going to keep them?” the hero asks. Obviously, yes.
  10. 2’49” IFE, noise-canceling headphones, and some strong side-eye from the heroine. It fits the “this is never going to work” romance beat.
  11. Wi-fi access is implied as the hero and heroine focus intently on their tablets. Also, she gets a text later in the flight.
  12. Secret baby trope! Okay, this is a stretch. The baby, who had been quiet for most of the flight, suddenly turned into what brought them together, which was sweet.
  13. Sweet as the United Airlines sundae cart that shows up when they get the baby smiling.
  14. I don’t want to spoil the surprise reveal that ultimately turns this once-doomed romance around, but the in-flight magazine features. Nice touch.
  15. Reference to Sustainable Aviation Fuel! Extra points!
  16. No spoilers, but… There is a reference to United’s Hawaii flights.
  17. Friendly flight attendant elf.
  18. OMGSH, the hero and heroine’s names strained to fit the story, but kudos to whoever came up with Miss Elle Towe. Yes, it’s a bit eye-rolling. But, hey, it’s the holidays.
  19. Three great Santa cameos for the win! Gotta love Santa.

Well done, United! You saved the cat and hit all the rom-com beats in under six minutes while clearly conveying your brand story. We’ll be watching to see how many other airline holiday videos hit these or similar beats.

What do you think of United’s cringe holiday rom-com (ad)? Share your comments!

2 thoughts on “19 Reasons Not To Hate United Airline’s Cringey Holiday Rom-Com”

  1. If United wanted us to think of this as a film rather than just a long ad, they should have included credits at the end for the cast and crew.

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