Apple is in early discussions with United Airlines about helping upgrade the company’s San Francisco International Airport terminal, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The reason: Apple pays United about $150 million a year for corporate travel, making it the airline’s top enterprise customer, and United’s terminal is apparently in need of some sprucing up if it’s to remain Apple’s official corporate airline. Among Apple’s highest expenditures as part of its United contract include 50 business class seats from San Francisco to Shanghai daily, a figure United printed on a sign and mistakenly placed in public viewing at SFO early this year.
Those seats are necessary due to the sheer volume of Apple employees that travel daily between the US and China. Apple also sends employees to numerous other countries where it has supply chain infrastructure, business partners, and other logistics operations.
While the Shanghai flights cost Apple around $35 million a year, it spends an additional $115 million or so on flights to top destinations like Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Singapore. All of this data, listed as confidential on United’s banner, became public information back in January, although United quickly took the sign down and pledged to “review and further restrict sharing of internal customer information to a strictly need-to-know audience.”
As of right now, the SFO deal is far from concrete — we don’t know if Apple may just kick in some money or if it might actually have a hand in any of the design. But members of Apple have visited United’s SFO terminal, Bloomberg reports. “The Apple team in San Francisco has been in our baggage hold areas, customer service and the lobbies,” Linda Jojo, an executive vice president at United’s holding company, told members of the media at a press event in Chicago today. “I’m being deliberately vague,” she added, perhaps to avoid directly insinuating prematurely that Apple has agreed to any such deal.