Wow! Apple Buys 50 Business Class Seats PER DAY Between San Francisco and Shanghai, China

There’s a couple of pictures that have been floating around the internet for the past few days that make a data geek and airplane nerd like myself very interested.  Airlines and hotel chains aren’t in the habit of broadcasting who their largest customers are.  Some of the data is out there, and there are logical conclusions that can be drawn based on geography.  But, the list floating around shows plenty of detail about United Airlines and how they’re performing with their top accounts:


Apple spends $35 million per year just on flights between San Francisco and Shanghai.  Wow!  Apple sold about 220 million iPhones in 2017.  That works out to about 16 cents per iPhone just to fly to and from China (though Apple does manufacture other products in China).

I understand most of the routes on Apple’s top 10, but there were a couple of observations I had.  Munich (MUC) pops up on the list but not Frankfurt (FRA).  Frankfurt is a bigger hub to connect throughout Europe than Munich.  And, at least for the moment, Lufthansa operates the SFO-MUC route while United operates SFO-FRA. The two airlines codeshare on both routes and operate a joint venture.  I was also a bit surprised to see Tel Aviv (TLV) pop up on the top 10.  It would surprise me if Apple has manufacturing there, though plenty of highly skilled engineers and researchers come from the region.

I was a little surprised to see that Facebook spends over $34 million with United.  Not sure if that means it’s $35 million or $75 million.  Facebook hasn’t been in the manufacturing game, though they could be dipping their toe in that water with some new devices they’ve released recently.

And, Oracle’s spend of between $12 and $17 million is interesting to me.  They’re a big company, but a friend of mine who worked there noted their travel policy is very restrictive all the way up to very high ranks of management, with most of the company traveling in economy class even on overseas flights.  $17 million buys you a lot of real estate in the back of the bus.

The Final Two Pennies

We don’t often get to see data like this.  Other bloggers have noted that someone might be getting in trouble over the release of this data.  Printed signs like this aren’t really very different from a PowerPoint presentation where you allow people to take pictures with smartphones.  Frankly, given how prolific smartphone usage is, I’m surprised we don’t see more of this sort of thing.  I didn’t know that Apple was United’s biggest customer.  It definitely shouldn’t have surprised me, given their presence near SFO and the need to move people back and forth to China.

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