United Airlines just made its own Christmas movie. We had to review. – The Washington Post

Warning: This story contains spoilers.

It’s a tale as old as time: Two attractive strangers cross paths in a busy airport, a bunch of airline employees turn out to be elves working to get them together.

In a break from the standard in-flight security demo video, United Airlines has released a mini rom-com with all the trimmings of a Hallmark Christmas movie. And like a Hallmark Christmas movie, the 5-minute and 45-second short “Love in Plane Sight” will either warm the cockles of your heart or make you reach for the airsick bag.

Hallmark Christmas movies are like Mad Libs, so we made one for you

As soon as we learned about the film, our Hallmark-loving-slash-loathing team had to stop what we were doing and watch all 345 seconds immediately. The group chat (all right, it’s Slack) lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Let’s just say we had thoughts.

A scientist should know better than to check a bag

“Love in Plane Sight” opens with a monologue from a woman anxious about traveling home to see her family, sans romantic partner. “I can’t wait for my parents to ask me why I’m still single,” laments our fair heroine to a check-in agent with secret magical elf ears she doesn’t seem to notice. “I don’t know, maybe because I’m an astronomer? … Maybe I just need to say, ‘Mom, Dad, my life partner is the sky!’”

“It’s a classic rom-com setup: big-city astronomer heads to the airport not exactly looking for love,” our deputy editor Gabe Hiatt said. This is the exact kind of cheesiness we expect from such a movie, and as hard as it is to stomach, we are here for it.

We are not here for the fact that she’s checking a bag during the holiday rush. This is a big red flag for our editor Amanda Finnegan: “Do you not remember the Great Meltdown of Christmas 2022?”

Does United really make logo latte art?

Our lead proceeds to have a friction-free travel day with plenty of time to grab a gingerbread latte at a United lounge, complete with immaculate latte art of the airline’s logo (because this movie is, of course, an ad for the airline).

Our airport coffee experience is usually more of a mad dash for Dunkin’ or waiting in the epic line at Starbucks. “I want to know if the United lounges really have gingerbread lattes with their logos,” Finnegan said.

It turns out, the gingerbread latte with logo art is available for real! “The scene was filmed at our grab-and-go United Club — Denver United Club Fly — which opened last year and offers latte art, among other things,” United spokesperson Madeline Martin said in an email. “The gingerbread latte is a seasonal offering.”

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Winking in 2023: Creepy or cute?

Latte in hand, the astronomer gets a push notification on her phone that her flight is boarding (our hats off to her for downloading her airline’s app, a clutch move for managing holiday travel headaches). En route to her gate, she pauses to appreciate a group of concourse carolers, and a white-bearded man (okay, it’s SANTA) whooshes by with a wink.

At this celeb sighting, Hiatt questioned “is a wink charming or icky in 2023?” We’re giving this movie wink a pass because it came with a jingle bell sound effect. Above board.

A white sweater at the airport is not the move

Friction enters the chat when BAM — a very tall traveler pummels into the astronomer like a defensive end. The gingerbread latte creates a manhole-sized stain on her white knit sweater. It’s a very relatable moment, as these days, everyone in crowded airports seems to be staring at their phones instead of looking where they’re going. However, white sweater? On a plane? Begging for disaster.

“You have to plan your airport outfit carefully,” Finnegan added. “Black is always the move; hides spills and keeps you looking fresh, even if it’s just yoga pants.”

Mr. Chaos (not his real name, just wait) trips over a bumbling apology and hands her a napkin before running off with a “My flight’s about to board.” Accidents happen, but blasé apologies are unforgivable. “Dude, at least offer to pay for dry-cleaning!” Hiatt said.

Astronomers make how much?

At boarding, we learn our heroine’s name is Miss Towe, and that she did not have enough time to run into a Hudson News for a new shirt. Plot twist: The gate agent also has elf ears. And an even bigger plot twist: Towe is flying first class! Astronomy is more lucrative than we thought.

“How much do astronomers make to be able to fly Polaris? Maybe I need a career change,” Finnegan said.

Oh, and Santa’s on her flight. Maybe the reindeer are only a Christmas Eve thing.

Why you need a travel uniform

Caught gingerbread-handed!

Mr. Chaos turns out to be her seatmate — and a first-class jerk, apparently. After claiming to be in such a rush to catch his flight he couldn’t offer Towe more help, he boards with gingerbread latte of his own. “Yours looked good,” he confesses.

“If he had time to get a gingerbread latte, he had time to offer a real apology for spilling HOT coffee all over a person,” our photo editor Lauren Bulbin said.

These two are as weird as the rest of us

As the pair enjoy the spoils of business class, Mr. Chaos runs the gamut of bizarro in-flight behavior. He swirls wine around his glass so aggressively it splashes on Towe’s totaled sweater. He does a bunch of crunches from his lie-flat seat because “exercise is really good for jet lag” (okay, we can actually get behind that one). He watches her movie over her shoulder (also relatable). Her odd retaliation: Towe eats his in-flight meal.

The silver lining to a crying baby

After a tumultuous unknown number of hours on board, a baby starts crying as the seat mates read their tablets. Instead of yelling at the infant or demanding new seats, the travelers launch into Operation Happy Baby, making faces and waving. The shred of human decency endears Towe to her kooky companion, and over United’s signature sundaes, sparks start to fly.

They decide to make things official and exchange names. He’s Sam K. Young, “but my friends call me by my initials,” he adds. “S.K.Y.” Groan. He redeems himself with his job working on United’s sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) program.

“Okay, a guy trying to make sustainable aviation fuel? Dream man in 2023,” our copy editor Jamie Zega said.

The ultimate move: An airport ride

By the end of the flight, the sky-loving travelers have fallen for each other, so much so that he offers to give her a ride from the airport. This is the most loving act someone can do for a friend or family member or romantic partner — but to a total stranger?

“Would you accept a ride from the airport from a complete stranger?” Hiatt said. “This guy could be an axe murderer!”

Who’s a good boy? Hopefully, you and your dog at the airport.

From hot coffee spill to happily ever after

The movie cuts to one year later, and our couple is reunited in United business class — not as clashing nemeses, but as hand-holding newlyweds. Towe has not learned her lesson and is once again sporting a white sweater around her shoulders.

“Here’s to the love of your life, the sky,” S.K.Y. says, holding up a glass of bubbly served by a flight attendant who does not have secret magical elf ears. “And the close second, me.”

They toast, and an overhead announcement chimes in with a greeting to the love birds: “This is your pilot Pete speaking” (perhaps a nod to the 2020 “Bachelor” Peter Weber?). “We’d like to welcome aboard newlyweds Sam K. Young and famed astronomer Miss Elle Towe.” (Get it???)

As Pete wishes them a pleasant flight to Honolulu, lo and behold, a Hawaiian shirt-wearing Santa turns out to be sitting in a layflat bed behind them. He winks at us for old times’ sake.

To half the staff, the movie was a horror story. “An overly chatty neighbor is a flight nightmare. I don’t know why she didn’t put her divider up right away,” Finnegan said.

Bulbin agreed. “If someone did SIT UPS next to me on a plane and acted obnoxiously, I would not then marry that person. I might ask the flight attendant if another seat was available though.”

I beg to differ. It doesn’t matter how you find your picks-you-up-from-the-airport suitor, you lock that down.

Zega appreciated the rom-com for what it really was: Content.

“As much as I love to mock this kind of stuff, 100 percent decent way to kill time on an airplane; I do not consider this a waste of 6 minutes of my life,” she concluded.

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