As I reported earlier in a flight review, I have flown with Atlanta based AirTran about a month ago. Being an airline enthusiast I have kept my eyes open all the way through the booking/boarding/flying experience. I found some of their marketing tools very smart, and some even unrivaled, and have decided to share these impressions and these marketing tricks with you in an article, so here it goes.
A) When arriving to the airport, you may check-in using their ByePass Check-in Kiosks, which offer the possiblity to already purchase drinks for your flight and receive the vouchers, which onboard you can exchange for an alcoholic drink in economy class.
Smart! Less worries for the flight attendants, less change to be carried around, happier passenger who knows while boarding that they will get a nice beer or cocktail, and may sell the drinks easier after all.
B) They offer a few “Rebooking Area“s around the terminal, where you can rebook your flight. The simple, easy to understand text on the huge poster reads: “Enter here to rebook reservation. / Pick up phone. Agent will assist you. / Go to kiosk. Print new boarding pass.”
Smart! Sounds very easy, makes the people believe they can do it (it’s simple), and it’s cost effective, AirTran only has to have a few booking agents in a far away, cheap location answering phones, instead of renting high-price ticketing location at the airport, and hire lots of ticketing agents around all locations. And I saw a few people talking on the phone, so it works, too.
C) Business Class advertisements. Even though AirTran is classified as a low-cost airline, they offer business class on all of their flights. A very cool, again simple worded molino I have seen several times around the terminals/gates reads the following: “Affordable Business Class on every flight. / More room. Free drinks. Less explaining yourself to accounting. / Book at airtran.com.”
I found it’s a very smart idea to point out a step of a business flight, that most airlines don’t care about: expense reporting to accounting! 🙂 Great way to influence passengers, smart again!
D) At most of the gates, or in between two gates in the waiting area you can find small Coffee Stations, with the following text: “Free coffee. See, we’re always finding ways to save you money. / AirTran.com”
Really smart! Another great tool, people feel that a low-cost airline is actually delivering some extra service: coffee on the ground, before the flight (!) which traditional airlines have never offered outside their business lounges. So they pay less, get more, and AirTran makes sure that all passengers realize this with the text shown above. Small costs, big image building, effective!
E) Programs: Co-branded A+ Visa Card, A+ Rewards program for frequent fliers, and my favorite: AirTran U – specially designed for people between ages 18-22, offering standby flights, therefore selling the seats which otherwise remained unsold, in the last minute before the flight closes (http://www.airtranu.com). They even give half credits if the student is a member of the A+ Rewards program!
Most of the other low-costs simply do not worry about cargo, but AirTran uses the cargo holds of its Boeing 717 and 737 fleet by offering cargo services to its customers.
Smart again, using all capacity as much as possible, selling unsold seats at the last minute (with AirTran U), thus reducing losses.
F) My “favorite,” dumbest marketing tool, which may still work, though: the Gourmet Pretzel packaging. While onboard, you receive a small package of pretzels. The basic situation is the following: you’re bored onboard, finally receive the pretzels and start to open the bag. But then you take a look at the bag: what exactly will I eat? And you find the following text on the top side: “How to eat Gourmet Pretzels on a low fare airline. (see back for complete details).” – Just in case somebody would not turn to the back, they place another message at the bottom: “Book at airtran.com for our lowest fares and no booking fees.” Just so that you know. But let’s see the back of the package for complete details:
In the same style as any other packaging, they placed the following text on the left top side of the back of the packaet:
1. Think about our wonderful low fares at airtran.com as you open packet.
2. Place pretzel in mouth. With each crunch, be reminded of our low fares.
3. As you swallow, remember again just how low the fares are.
4. Repeat until pretzel packet is empty.
5. Keep empty packet to remind yourself to book at airtran.com for our lowest fares and no booking fees.”
Then comes the Nutrition Facts, which are normal.
Pathetic! I was just amazed how an airline can give their name to such a cheesy, baby-like advertising and marketing tool, it’s amazing. But to be honest, I have read it, so maybe other passengers read it as well, and it may work in the end. But I just find it the most dumb marketing text in the airline business ever…
Of course, everywhere they place the “airtran.com” logo, instead of a simple AirTran Airways logo, so you meet with the website address everywhere and you will never forget it (engines on the planes, flight details screen at the gate, any communication material, pretzels, etc.).
And their slogan is: “Go. There’s nothing stopping you.” Not advertising how great their services are, or how high they fly, but urging people to simply “Go.”, or “travel” in other words, which will most probably include a flight. A flight with AirTran. Good general marketing job guys, only those pretzels…!