On my way back to Greensboro, I let down the tray table in front of me and saw a full tray table advertisement for Verizon’s 4G service. I should not have been surprised to see it, as recent articles in the news have talked about it. However, seeing the first hand usage of it was a bit unsettling.
What was once a glamorous way to travel has, in my lifetime, has seen a continual loss of brand equity due to a focus that is defined by price. Rather than working to establish a brand message that is meaningful to the traveler and trying to increase traffic through preference, U.S. Airways and other airlines have decided instead to shift focus even farther from the consumer and using advertisers as their means of profitability.
The problem is that ticket prices certainly are not free. If, as a consumer, you believe you get what you pay for, you might be willing to pay slightly more, or at least fly more frequently, if you believed the service you were receiving equaled that price. Instead, I now have advertisements on my tray table, which, by their “in your face” nature, turns me off to the product and makes the airline seem scummy. The resources of airlines is better spent elsewhere: On the brand.
This recent move should come as no surprise, of course. From allowing just enough fuel in their airplanes to make it to their destination, to overbooking, to charging more for a ticket that boards in Greensboro and has a layover in Charlotte then taking one that leaves directly from Charlotte, U.S. Airways seems to be surprisingly good at sacrificing customer preference with corporate bean counting.
The biggest pitfall in the recent U.S. Airways move is that if it advertises more heavily, consumers will begin to devalue their service more. Whether this decrease of value leads to less overall travelers or demand requires even more aggressive price competitiveness from U.S. Airways, it only lends it self to more advertising to make up the difference.
But hey, maybe they can just change their farewell to passengers to “Thank you for flying the subway of the sky.”