29 April 2011 | In recent years, airlines have been experimenting with a wide range of non-traditional distribution channels, a development dubbed ‘Pricing Pandemonium’ by trendwatching.com. Examples include flash sales, happy hours, Facebook and Twitter-only fares, eBay and reverse auctions, as well as vouchers offered for sale in supermarkets and newspaper kiosks.
Airlines are using these new platforms to temporarily offer heavy discounts without disturbing their main distribution channels. However, after initial experiments, some airlines also have made some of these new channels a more mainstream feature. For example, Tnooz reports that Air New Zealand has recently turned its popular reverse auction into an always-on service. ANZ’s ‘GrabASeat’ auction originally launched around three years ago and was only used ad-hoc to shift seats on specific occasions. However, as it did attract a reasonable following, the airline now offers a ticket deal through reverse auction every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.
The latest online phenomenon that has caught the eye of airlines is Groupon, a web site and e-mail service that offers extremely discounted deals only if enough people sign up. Subscribers must first pay for a Groupon (‘group coupon’) that unlocks the deal. Typical offers include discounted hotel stays, spa treatments and restaurants and Groupon makes money by keeping approximately half the money the customer pays for the coupon. Groupon rapidly became hugely popular and is credited for making virtual coupon-clipping exciting by having offers expire after just a few hours and cancelling them if they do not attract a minimum number of buyers.
Launched in November 2008, Groupon already had over 50 million subscribers worldwide by the end of 2010 and in December 2010 turned down an USD 6 billion takeover bid by Google. Meanwhile, Groupon’s success has attracted numerous competitors, including Facebook, which has just started a similar service called ‘Deals on Facebook’.
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28 February 2011 | Southwest Airlines has partnered with Apple to create an entertainment download store called InAirtainment. To be used in the air or on the ground, the service takes the form of a website through which people can browse for music, movies or TV shows hosted on iTunes. Southwest says is it is receiving a small royalty from each download, which may be 5 percent if the airline is enrolled in the normal iTunes affiliate program. To promote InAirtainment, Southwest currently offers a playlist of 20 free songs from acts “about to fly” in their careers.
Asked whether the main goal for the InAirtainment service is to provide Southwest passengers with an alternative for in-flight entertainment, a Southwest spokeswoman said that “Our goal is to make southwest.com an one stop shop for all travel needs. Besides the option to book flights, car rentals, and hotels on our site, customers now have access to InAirtainment where they can download all their music and movies before they depart. Southwest.com is also available free of charge for customers on board our Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft. InAirtainment is a page within southwest.com, so customers are able to access the content free of charge in-flight.”
The option to access iTunes for free on Southwest flights may be a sign of new in-flight entertainment options to come. For example, in-flight Wi-Fi provider Aircell last year announced plans for an in-flight video downloading service, called Gogo Video. This service would give passengers on Gogo-equipped aircraft (which number nearly 1,100 in North America) the ability to download movie and television content from an onboard server to their laptops via a portal similar to iTunes. According to in-flight entertainment expert Mary Kirby, Gogo however has delayed the introduction of the video service in order to further perfect it.
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12 January 2011 | At number 6 is Southwest Airlines (airline code: LUV), which carries more domestic passengers than any other airline in the U.S, and has evolved from a quirky regional airline to a national powerhouse without losing its startup, fun culture. Southwest is widely regarded as one of the most customer-centric airlines in the industry, encouraging its employees to make a difference. Southwest President Colleen Barrett describes a Southwest employee as someone “who dares to make mistakes; dares to be different; finds a way to utilize people’s special talents; and lives a little on the edge” (witness the Southwest pilot who recently held his plane so a passenger on his way to a funeral could make it, or the airline’s famous rapping flight attendant David Holmes).
Southwest is one of the very few U.S. airlines to go against the industry trend of charging for an increasing number of amenities. For example, the airline is the only major U.S. carrier that doesn’t charge to check a first and second bag which, according to a spokeswoman, is now among the top five reasons for customers to choose Southwest. Using its most visible assets as billboards, the airline put a ‘Free Bags Fly Here’ slogan on more than 50 aircraft with an arrow pointing to the cargo bin and tagged 1,000 luggage carts across its network with banners that say “I Carry Free Bags.”
Southwest also offers passengers that happen to be onboard during specific festivities an alcoholic beverage from the in-flight menu ‘on the house’. For example, in May 2010, Southwest offered Moms a free drink of their choice on Mothers Day, while service personal with military ID received a complimentary drink on Memorial Day.
As part of Southwest’s philosophy to give back to society, the airline’s ‘Share the Spirit’ program encourages employees to embrace local charities and nonprofits in destinations across its network. To pay tribute to its employee volunteers, Southwest in 2010 introduced ‘Tickets for Time’ which, for every 40 hours a Southwest volunteer dedicates to an organization, provides one complimentary roundtrip ticket on Southwest for fund-raising or transportation needs. Read full article »
Airlines in the U.S. team up with brands to offer travellers free amenities during the holiday season
15 December 2010 | Faced with ever more experienced consumers, who routinely ignore the commercials and ads thrown at them, brands have to find new ways to break through the advertising clutter to reach and engage consumers. In the spirit of the holiday season (which in the U.S. starts at the end of November with Thanksgiving), airlines in America have partnered with brands such as Google, Microsoft and Chase Cards to offer their customers free, sponsored services that make life a little bit easier. Ofcourse, the brands hope that offering some ‘generosity’ will get them a bit of sympathy in return.
Virgin America, Delta, Airtran & Google Chrome
From November 20 through January 2, 2011, Virgin America, Delta, and AirTran offer free inflight WiFi on all domestic flights, courtesy of Google. Google offers the free WiFi to promote its Chrome Internet browser and it projects that 15 million passengers will use the free service this holiday season. The carriers were chosen because their entire domestic fleets are outfitted with GoGo’s inflight WiFi. Passengers can use any browser they wish while surfing the Web but will be invited to download Google Chrome upon landing. As part of the promotion, Delta has also just introduced ‘Delta Embark’, an online travel guide available as an Google Chrome ‘web app’.
In a similar initiative, Google last year teamed up with Virgin America to offer free WiFi on the airline’s flights from October 2009 until January 2010, and footed the WiFi bill at 54 airports across the U.S. Last year, Delta also partnered with eBay to offer free inflight WiFi during the week of Thanksgiving.
Southwest & Microsoft Windows
From December 2 until Christmas, Microsoft and Southwest Airlines’ ‘Holiday Photos on the Fly’ campaign offers passengers travelling on Southwest a free holiday photo that is captured, edited, e-mailed and/or printed using Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Windows Live Photo Gallery. A pro photographer snaps passenger’s portraits with Santa Claus or a holiday backdrop, and ‘Windows 7 elves’ show how to edit, share, and store their photos. Flyers can then print their photo at the Southwest/Microsoft photo booths or visit freeholidayphotos.com to access and share their photos online. The ‘Holiday Photos on the Fly’ promotion is held at 26 airports across the U.S. and also showed up at New York City’s Bryant Park at the end of November, where besides having their picture taken, visitors could also play with Microsoft’s new Xbox Kinect gaming console and the latest Windows-based smartphones. Read full article »
19 October 2010 | With 144 daily nonstop flights to 42 destinations, Denver (Colorado) is the fifth largest airport in terms of departures for Southwest Airlines (airline code: LUV). According to the airline’s CEO Gary Keller, Denver is “very important to Southwest as it is the fastest-expanding market in Southwest’s 40-year history.” Since Southwest’s competitors in Denver — United and Frontier — are distracted with either merger or restructuring activities, Dallas-based Southwest is taking its chance to establish itself as Denver’s new hometown carrier.
In July 2010, Southwest launched a Denver-specific advertising campaign professing its dedication to the market with a tagline of, “Say Yes, Denver!”. The ads starred the airline’s local Denver employees which asked the public, “Denver, will you fly us?” To further back its commitment to Denver, Southwest is aligning itself with the city by supporting a host of community organizations, as well as a series of free ‘brand butler’ services, such as free pedicab rides. Says the airline, “At Southwest Airlines, we make it our mission to become engaged and involved in the communities that we serve in a meaningful and relevant way”.
The Southwest Porch
This summer, Southwest sponsored concerts and movies (including free cupcakes) in Downtown Denver’s Skyline Park, and from July to December 2010 offers free pedicab rides to and from events across the city. In September 2010, Southwest also opened ‘The Southwest Porch at Skyline Park’ at the base of Denver’s historic Daniels and Fisher Tower. The Southwest Porch is an year-round outdoor lounge where Denverites can relax and enjoy pizza and drinks from local suppliers. Read full article »
26 May 2010 | While some low-cost airlines don’t shy away from turning their aircraft into flying billboards, Southwest Airlines is using its most visible assets – airplanes and ground support equipment – in an innovative way to advertize its ‘Bags Fly Free’ policy. The airline has put a “Free Bags Fly Here” slogan on more than 50 aircraft with an arrow pointing to the cargo bin, and also tagged around 1,000 luggage carts across its network with banners that say “I Carry Free Bags.”
Aimed at anyone who looks out the terminal window or the window from their airplane, Southwest’s ‘planevertising’ initiative is a smart way to target people at the time when they are most unhappy about having had to pay bag fees.
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10 February 2010 | Southwest Airlines’ ‘Share the Spirit’ program encourages employees to embrace local charities and nonprofits in every destination across the carrier’s network. To pay tribute to its employee volunteers, Southwest Airlines is introducing a new program called ‘Tickets for Time’ (T4T). The T4T program is an addition to the Share the Spirit program and provides one complimentary, roundtrip ticket on Southwest Airlines for fund-raising or transportation needs for every 40 hours a Southwest volunteer dedicated to an organization. A nonprofit organization may receive up to six tickets a year through T4T and the hours can be accrued by one or more volunteers.
T4T puts a nice twist on corporate volunteering programs, since rather than simply match donations, Southwest is offering their employees the opportunity to earn tickets for nonprofit organizations of their choosing. In Southwest’s words: “We know that our employees do so much for so many organizations and T4T is a great way for Southwest to applaud and encourage employee volunteerism.” Last year Southwest staff collectively volunteered more than 35,000 hours to nonprofit organizations across the country, about one volunteer hour to every Southwest employee.
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24 December 2009 | Packed with gifts for Christmas, many people across the U.S will be traveling by air this week. However, the Transportation Security Administration is asking air travelers to leave their gifts unwrapped in case they require secondary screening at the security checkpoint.
As in previous years, Southwest and home & office storage retailer The Container Store have teamed up to offer travelers a free gift wrapping service in the post-security areas at five airports across the U.S. Last Monday, December 21st, passengers with unwrapped gifts (or those who do a little last minute shopping at the airport) that travel through Baltimore-Washington, Dallas Love Field, Denver International, Phoenix Sky Harbor, and Saint Louis Lambert airports, can stop by one of several designated gate areas to have their items wrapped. And, in the spirit of Christmas, travelers don’t have to fly Southwest to make use of the free service. Read full article »
22 October 2009 | Southwest Airlines has designated a 4-year old Boeing 737-700 ‘Green Plane’ to serve as a test-aircraft for a series of sustainable interior materials. For example, a 100 percent recyclable carpet is installed in sections, eliminating the need for total replacement of areas such as aisles, where Southwest currently uses 1 single piece of carpet. The carpet is returned to the manufacturer at the end of its service life and completely re-manufactured into new carpet. Also, two new leather seat covers (one recycled and one a leather substitute) will be tested, which are more durable and almost two pounds per seat lighter. To reduce weight, a lighter weight fill from foam in the back of the seats reduces weight, as well as life vest pouches made from canvas, instead of metal.
Overall, the uses more weigh-efficient materials save the new plane approximately five pounds (2.3 kg) per seat, adding up to about a 472-pound (214 kg) difference, which is said to reduce 9,500 gallons (nearly 36,000 liters) of fuel each year. Additionally, Southwest expects the eco-friendly products to be more durable, which will save on materials and labor.
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