Fly the Branded Skies

Jingle: United “Trails” (1972)

Your Land is Our Land. United Air Lines

Listen: United Air Lines: “Trails”

This jingle, cute but unremembered, is a testament to a maturing industry.

It is a symbol, in fact, of a whole genre of airline advertising that barely exists anymore. This genre didn’t say much about fares, or onboard service, or frequent flier programs. Instead, it sold the joy of travel to a public that wasn’t yet used to travelling.

Today, most Americans have flown. Most have flown several times. In 1972, however, only about half of all Americans had flown. There was still something to be gained just from getting people to get on a plane and go somewhere. This jingle isn’t just trying to get people to fly United for their ski vacations — it’s trying to get people to take a ski vacation in the first place.

Apart from the breadth of destinations available (the song mentions 18!), there’s really nothing in this song that distinguishes United from any other carrier. Now airlines fight over their share of a mature market, but in 1972, it was still possible to grow the total size of that market.

I find this jingle charming. The lyrics are the most fun of any jingle I’ve written about so far. The tune, based on the Old Chisholm Trail, is  part of an early 1970s trend toward folk music in United’s advertising, culminating in 1974 with “Mother Country,” to my mind one of the best airline jingles ever composed. The whole 1972 campaign was built around Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” which is referenced throughout this jingle, too.

The jazzy finish to “Trails” wasn’t included in any advertising; it was apparently a joke the anonymous arranger played on the producer from Leo Burnett. I guess you had to be there.

Updated, 29 January 2016: Someone has posted the original television spot on YouTube:

Airline: United Air Lines
Title: “Trails”
Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago
Written By: Arranger unknown (based on the American folk song “The Old Chisholm Trail”)
Sung by: Jamie Carr
Year: 1972

I’m going to glide down
the Breckenridge trails.
Fly with the wind
to Aspen and Vail.
Gonna hit Park City
and the big Snowbird
and I’m going on United Air Lines.
(This land was made for you and me.)


Winter Park
and Crested Butte,
Heavenly Valley,
Squaw Valley too. 
Pushing the powder down
old Snowmass
to Sun Valley, Brighton and Alta.

Steamboat Springs,
Taos, Keystone, and 
Jackson Hole.
I went in the West,
and I’m sliding down
the steep side of my land.

This land was made for you and me!