Consumers have become accustom to the horrors of air travel. Just this year, Delta suffered a computer outage that canceled over 300 flights, United forcibly removed a passenger from an aircraft, and a literal brawl broke out over the cancellation of Spirit flights in Florida. The airline industry is filled with competitor options, seat options, baggage options, payment options, and loyalty program options. It's become incredibly difficult to capture and maintain consumer's allegiance because, with just one screw up like a unexpected thunderstorm or a ground delay, there are dozens of other airlines ready to take their business.
The airline industry is currently leading the experience economy. Travel reward programs are getting so competitive, that the offers and perks are better for the consumer. From double miles on credit card purchases that go toward free flights, to unexpected first class upgrades and gate lounges filled with free food and free wifi, more airlines are putting the customer experience at the forefront of their marketing initiatives.
Airlines know that people may not like them, but they need them — and the smart ones are responding with experiential marketing activations designed to create a little more happiness in the travel experience. With the amount of passengers flying, airline brands need to ensure that the public knows who they are. In a market where most consumers hear the same thing from every airline – extra legroom, friendly service, comfortable flights, in-flight advertisements – airlines need to bring in a positive experience instead of just telling consumers that they’re the best.
Experiential activations help airlines connect with consumers on a personal level, instead of treating them as nothing more than a seat number and a boarding group. When a consumer has a positive experience with an airline on the ground, it makes them associate those emotions with the experience they could have in the air, too.
However, some airlines restrict their experiential activations to flyers who have already booked flights with them. Instead of throwing themselves out into real life, they have opted to include in-flight experience building campaigns. One airline company surprised its passengers with a themed flight that added a fun in-flight experience. Other airline companies have brought in magicians, fashion shows, and concert series to the in-flight experience. Check out three ways the airline industry is leading the experience economy:
1. By providing entertainment: Icelandair
Photo courtesy: Icelandair
Icelandair will put on a three-act play on a flight from London to New York via Iceland later this year, as part of an attempt to encourage even more transatlantic passengers to its airline. As apart of its Stopover Pass program and starring Icelandair staff and crew, and telling the story of the airline since 1937, it will see passengers experience Act 1 on the London to Iceland leg of the flight, Act 2 in the departure lounge in Iceland, and Act 3 on the New York leg. Icelandair partnered with an immersive theater group on the project.
Other events on the Stopover Pass program will include free gig tickets, trips to Icelandic football matches, backstage passes to a music festival and more, all if you lay over in Iceland before March 2018. According to the agency behind this activation, it was launched in response to research that revealed flyers are seeking both better customer service and more unique in-flight entertainment. A study showed a third of passengers would be more likely to choose an airline which offered free live entertainment as part of their in-flight program. An interesting study that shows how much consumers seek connection in a world in which we're increasingly isolated - especially by technology.
This is a fun and unique way to drum up business and will attract a very specific type of traveler, especially families with children who are young enough to get bored and frustrated on long flights, yet old enough to have a dance performance hold their attention. By spreading out acts over three separate legs of the trip, passengers remain engaged, have a commonality to discuss among each other, and something to look forward to.
2. By partnering with popular festivals and influencers: Delta
Photo courtesy: ABIMAGES
For the third year in a row, Delta’s festival shuttle flew nearly 200 SXSW attendees from LAX to Austin as apart of their strategy to attract new flyers from diverse, high-profile industries. With the understanding that everyone will need to fly from LA to Austin, Delta set out to turn the flight into a networking event where attendees could discuss their industries, technology, and entertainment.
James Franco and Seth Rogen were among the passengers on this year's flight, and though some of the actors on board were sitting up in first class, the entire plane was treated with amenities like priority check-in, a pre-flight brunch at Lemonade in Delta’s terminal and flowing tequila. Rogen, who flew with his king charles cavalier, Zelda, was in good spirits along with the rest of the high-energy passengers who treated the flight as a two-plus-hour networking event. Other notable passengers were actor Michael Vartan, comedian Brett Gelman who flew with his producing partner and wife, Janicza Bravo, plus execs from Snapchat, Hulu, Verizon’s Go90 and UTA.
SXSW, which specializes in tech, music, film and TV, is one of four events included in Delta’s fest shuttle. The flight also heads to the Telluride Film Festival, Summit at Sea, and Sundance, which was the first fest involved in the #DeltaFestivalShuttle.
3. By surprising unsuspecting consumers: Air France
Photo courtesy: Good Sense & Co.
Airline food is infamously horrible. Showing that they're in on the joke, and working to better their own offerings, Air France jumped on the food truck trend, touring a Gourmet Food Truck through NYC. Chefs from airline caterer Flying Food Servair handed out free food samples based on the recipes of Air France’s Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon.
Items on the menu were straight from the airline's new and improved in-flight offerings, including pain au chocolat for breakfast, cucumber and smoked salmon brochette for lunch, French shepherd’s pie with duck confit for dinner, and assorted French macaroons and petits fours as a dessert. Parked in one location per day, the Air France food truck hit Manhattan hot spots Rockefeller Center, Union Square, SoHo/Broadway and Wall Street. The exact location could be followed via Air France USA’s Twitter stream and Facebook page.
An estimated 600 samples of breakfasts, lunches and dinners were served each day during the promotion. There was also a sweepstakes for two Air France tickets to Paris, and those who received a free meal were encouraged to make a donation to City Harvest, a rescue organization dedicated to feeding New York’s less fortunate citizens.
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