MSNBC.com highlighted the thorny predicament most airlines find themselves today. Revenues are declining, so they’re tacking on fees to help boost their bottom line.
“This is the conundrum airlines face as they head into the busy holiday season: How many previously free services can they force fliers to pay for without risking a revolt?” the article notes. “But for fliers racked by the deep recession, paying for everything from checked luggage to a bag of chips on board can quickly become an aggravating wallet-buster.”
To paraphrase Senator Everett Dirksen, a nickel here and a dime there, pretty soon you’re talking real money – and a really frustrated flying consumer. Delta Air Lines pocketed a 15 percent spike in "other net revenue" – to the tune of $900 million last quarter. AMR Corp., parent of American Airlines, flew away with $565 million.
Yet at what cost to airlines’ reputations, especially as consumers flee legacy carriers to the upstarts and low-cost carriers who avoid fees?
What’s the answer in an increasingly competitive marketplace where airlines are angering an already frustrated flying consumer? The simple answer is that airlines and airport operators can maximize revenue via in-flight and terminal advertising.
Airport and in-flight advertising has been proven a less expensive and more effective marketing tool than traditional advertising mediums. It steers revenues to cash-strapped airports and airlines, with little incremental cost increases and in a way that’s non-intrusive.
Moreover, passengers welcome advertising – which is an enticing reality for marketers. Most passengers wait at least a half hour in the terminal; one third (33%) spend more than three hours waiting, notes a 2007 Arbitron study. Research has shown that travelers spending hours in airports are highly susceptible to – and welcoming of – advertising.
Air travelers also can fully afford to check bags or buy a meal – making them an ideal target audience of elite consumers. They are well-educated and wealthy, with nearly one in four earning over $100,000 annually. Airport and in-flight advertising can help capture this audience – without nicking their wallets.
The reality of the nickel-and-diming of air travelers supports the idea that airport and in-flight advertising can help bolster airline coffers. Frankly, consumers are frustrated by rising tacked-on fees that affect everything from reservations and ticketing to checked luggage, carry-on bags and the seats they select, the food they eat or the entertainment they enjoy. With its media avails, creative possibilities and the vastness of an idle and affluent customer caught in a heightened state of marketing vulnerability, airport and in-flight advertising is a great way to maximize declining revenues – without further antagonizing the flying consumer.