- Business Insider/Getty/Getty
- Apple buys 50 business-class seats every day from San Francisco to Shanghai, spending over $150 million a year on United Airlines.
- That’s according to a photo of a “confidential” United sign posted to Twitter.
- Apple needs to fly its employees to Asia to keep an eye on its electronics supply chain.
Some frequent-flyer miles are stacking up in Cupertino, California.
Apple spends $150 million on a single airline each year, according to a photo of a United promotional sign posted to Twitter by LAflyer.
Curious who are @United largest global corporate accounts? @Apple is in the top spot and contributes very much to success of SFO international flying especially the Shanghai service #UnitedAirlines #United #Apple #SFO #PVG #Shanghai #China pic.twitter.com/HNvIrz8wDg
— LAflyer (@LAflyr) January 11, 2019
A United representative confirmed the sign’s authenticity in a statement to Business Insider.
“This information was provided to United employees as part of a limited pilot project focused on San Francisco to highlight the importance of our corporate relationships and was not intended to be shared publicly. The project has since been discontinued,” United said in a statement.
“A small group of customers were mentioned by name on this material and each has been contacted directly and we are working to address their concerns. The material has been taken down, and moving forward we will review and further restrict sharing of internal customer information to a strictly need-to-know audience.”
50 business-class seats daily
Apple buys 50 business-class seats daily from San Francisco to Shanghai, according to the sign. Most of Apple’s products are manufactured in China.
Shanghai is a logical connection to Zhengzhou and Shenzhen, which have been called “iPhone cities” for the amount of electronics hardware manufacturing that takes place there.
Apple also flies a lot of people to Hong Kong and to Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport, presumably to stay close to its supply chain. Former Apple engineers have said that frequent travel to China is one of the defining features of some hardware roles at Apple.
The top nonmanufacturing destination for Apple is London.
The sign also revealed other top United clients, though they didn’t spend as much as Apple. Facebook, Roche, and Google were listed as spending over $34 million on United flights annually.
One Apple employee who is not flying United is CEO Tim Cook, who flies private at the request of Apple’s board. Cook spent $294,082 on private air travel in 2018, according to a recent SEC filing.
United’s response shouldn’t be surprising given the sensitivity of this information. At the bottom of the poster, small text says it is “confidential information” and shouldn’t be shared outside United.