The world's second-largest carrier is running ads in Chicago starting next week that target American Airlines' decision to add more first-class seats to its planes, reducing leg room elsewhere. The ads carry such tag lines as ''Fly American and you could kick yourself. Literally,'' and ''The Straight Story on our Legroom vs. American.''
As part of the unusually aggressive campaign, UAL Corp.'s United began talking up the print ads Thursday via interviews, a press release and even a message to employees by CEO Glenn Tilton, who joked: ''It's time for leg-to-leg combat.''
The ads, designed by Fallon/Minneapolis, are part of a larger national print, television and radio campaign touting United's Economy Plus section. Economy Plus features a 34- to 36-inch seat pitch _ three to five inches more than the industry standard _ although the seats are made available to the airline's elite frequent flyers and full-fare passengers before other passengers get a chance at them.
AMR Corp.'s American is based in Fort Worth, Texas, but has a large operation in Chicago, the last U.S. hub with two major carriers, according to United.
The biggest U.S. airline fired back with its own pointed remarks.
''We are puzzled why United Airlines reportedly is spending an estimated $15 to $20 million to advertise a product that nearly three out of four customers cannot fit in,'' said American spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan, referring to the comparatively limited availability of United's Economy Plus.
She said American has completed about two-thirds of the work converting the MD-80 aircraft it flies out of Chicago, increasing the number of first-class seats from 14 to 16.