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United Faces Pilot Criticism Over Wrexham AFC Sponsorship

United Airlines Pilots representatives took to Twitter to take a dig at the airline after months of stagnant negotiations

by Fergus Cole

June 16, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Wrexham AFC

After it was revealed that United Airlines would be the new shirt sponsor for British soccer team Wrexham AFC, the airline’s pilots seemed to take a dig at their employers with a public statement.

The owners of Wrexham AFC—Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny—announced the new sponsorship deal earlier this week in a video posted online. Now with a cult following in the U.S., the soccer team will wear the United Airlines logo on the front of their shirts from next season.

The team will also fly with United for their summer in the United States. At the same time, United’s MileagePlus Exclusives program members will get extra benefits, such as special access to Wrexham’s games both in Wales and the U.S.

Photo: Courtesy of Wrexham AFC

“We seek out sponsors that match the spirit of both Wrexham Association Football Club and the people of Wrexham,” said the actors. “The team, town and fans around the world are united as never before and United Airlines is committed to elevating our story and journey.”

Josh Earnest, chief communications officer at United Airlines, said: “The passion and perseverance of this team on the rise has captured the imagination of the people in the U.S. and around the world. We’re excited to partner with the team and their co-chairmen across social and on their hit TV show as the incredible story of this team and its loyal fans continue to unfold.”

However, United’s pilots were less upbeat about the sponsorship deal, taking to Twitter to complain about the airline.

“You’ve got a Captain,” said United Airlines Pilots on Twitter. “Your club was Promoted. But it’s #UnitedPilots declining Captain Upgrades that are holding @united back from achieving its goals!”

Photo: Courtesy of Blake Guidry / Unsplash

The statement comes amid the backdrop of ongoing negotiations between the union representing the pilots and the airline, with United’s pilots demanding better working conditions, operating schedules, and retirement benefits, among other things.

The carrier’s pilots hit the picket lines in April, with United ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC) chair Captain Garth Thompson saying at the time: “Our contract is so outdated that hundreds of certain positions [which] has always been the envy of the airline industry, are going unfilled because pilots prioritize transparency in schedules and time with their families more than anything else.”

A following statement was made by Thompson in early June, saying that United’s board of executives now has to choose between “disregarding the sacrifices and contributions made by our pilot group, or add[ing] our UPA to the long list of other investments related to ‘United Next’ strategy.”