By Matthew McCarthy
Back in March of 2020 when the lockdown to help to stop the spread of COVID-19 began, the air travel industry was among the hardest hit. With the world going into lockdown, restricting most of international travel, and many countries including America restricting domestic travel, airlines saw a devastating loss of both revenue and demand for their services. The International Air Transport Association estimated that there was a $84.3 billion dollar loss in profit for the global air travel industry. As well as an over 40% loss in passenger capacity and an over 50% loss in passenger demand for air travel. United Airlines’ stock fell about 74% in value in a few short months since the pandemic began, plunging from around $80 down to nearly $21. The small silver lining for air transport companies during the first year of the pandemic was that packages shipped via air travel hit an all-time high due to the closing of all non-essential brick and mortar stores. However, with the growing number of vaccinated individuals, airlines are looking towards the summer of 2021 to bounce back from their historic lows. So, that raises two questions, how are airlines marketing for their hopeful revitalization, and in general how do airlines market as compared to other companies?
Compared to most other companies, airlines have to take a very different approach to marketing. Companies like Apple, Gucci, BMW, and McDonald’s all focus mostly on the product that they are selling their customers. Airlines are a service and have to market the experience, not just the product. The experience could be more emotional, appealing to people’s sense of adventure, or their want to get away from the grind of day-to-day life. It could appeal more logically by highlighting the ease of a company’s booking and boarding processes, as well as the timeliness of their flights. They could help to calm their customers worry, by marketing their security and safety. Despite the world being seemingly unrecognizable from years past, the marketing basics for airlines have not really changed, even leading up to this summer.
Even though more people are getting vaccinated every day and vaccines are being distributed everywhere from grocery stores to football stadiums, many people are still afraid of contracting COVID-19. Because of this, airlines have been ramping up their cleaning procedures. In America, many companies have taken to cleaning their planes in between every flight, especially international flights. Along with deep cleans when their aircraft of grounded for an extended period of time. This includes United, JetBlue, Hawaiian, and the great majority of American airlines. Additionally, sanitization practices have increased in the airports themselves. These companies are making it known to their customers that they have been and will continue to put the safety of guests and their employees first. Despite Delta planning to discontinue the practice of leaving middle seats empty to enable greater social distancing, many companies will continue doing so through the summer to give their customers an extra layer of protection and peace of mind. However, airlines are not just appealing to the want for safety, several—like Alaska Airlines—are appealing to the emotional side of the consumer. Let’s face it, this lock down has gone on for a long time, and all of us are really feeling the cabin fever. People want to get away from it all more than ever. Airlines know this and are looking to market towards that feeling. Alaska Airlines acknowledges this in their recent campaign saying that the first trips after all of this will mean more. That is where other companies should follow suit. People want to get out, to have a sense of normalcy, and we could all really use a vacation.
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