Home > NewsRelease > #108 Selling Air Travel amid Covid-19
#108 Selling Air Travel amid Covid-19
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Posted by Denny Hatch


#108 Blog Post – Tuesday, September 8. 2020

The Ultimate Marketing Challenge:
Selling Air Travel Amid Covid-19

After 6 months of self-inflicted Covid-19 isolation, Peggy and I would love to jump on a jet and fly off to one of the two trips we canceled last February. Looking at the current pandemic data worldwide, the answer is NFW.

What if a family emergency on the West Coast or across the globe suddenly required our presence?  

     How could the airlines make me feel safe and emotionally comfortable amidst the crush of humanity in the airport and later inside an Airbus A-321 hurtling at 520 MPH at 35,000 feet altitude—squeezed into an 11'-6"-wide tube sitting immobile 3-aisle-3 across—for six-to-ten hours amidst 186 other passengers any one of whom could be a highly contagious spreader of the killer Covid-19?

     What triggered this post was the P.R. pitch from a flak at The Aviation Agency dot com, where business is probably very slow. From her email:


Imagine in the future you want to fly to Florida. One airline is $350, another $450. But the more expensive one has spent the last 18 months convincing you that their Coronavirus protocols are the best in the industry. They retrained their staff, replaced all the seats with antimicrobial fabric, they doubled the air filtration system, etc. Wouldn’t you pay the extra $100 if it made you feel safer? 


Troy Hayes, Creative Director of The Aviation Agency, thinks you would. And so would he. Please reach out if you would like to speak with Troy about his insights on why now is the time for airlines to save their brand. Not make quarterly numbers. Thanks! —Lauren Smith September 1, 2020


Lauren’s Fascinating Marketing Challenge Got My Juices Flowing!

When Covid-19 eventually disappears—or a vaccine is widely distributed and proven effective—another pandemic will probably show up. Call it eBozo, London Fluzie or MOO-GOO-GAI-PANdemic.


For Covid-19, the airlines have mothballed their fleets and are riding out catastrophic financial losses. As Lauren Smith and Troy Hayes above suggest, maybe now is the time to invest in saving their brands.


Quite simply, saving a brand means upgrading aircraft, dramatically improving travel protocols and selling the scheme to the public.


The airlines carried 924.4 million passengers in 2019, so the potential market is huge and eminently reachable. Will they bite?


Needed for Passenger Safety and Emotional Comfort:

    1. Separation (either 6' distance or Plexiglass panels)

    2. Face shields and masks.

    3. Seat upholstery and carpet disinfectants.

    4. Frequently sanitized loos.

    5. Double/triple air filtration.

    6. A Swag Bag of PPE and protective goodies.


Prowling the Internet for Current Thinking (OUCH!)


I stumbled across the above rendering on Google.


This is separation at its most austere—a 21st century version of a Bauhaus interior. Sterile, cold, harsh and impersonal.


• What a gawdawful environment! Imagine these surroundings for 6 hours flying across country or 23 hours straight from Chicago to Singapore!  


• Further, it puts airline profitability in extremis—way too much separation for far too few passengers. 


Three Possible Safe-seating Configurations

1.   High Plexiglass back-screens to separate rows and ward off sneezes, hawked lungers and baby brats hanging off the seat tops. Here three people would be scrunched cheek-by-jowl with no separation devices. The refit would cost the airline killer amounts of money per plane while individual passengers are still endangered.


2.   No pricey cabin redesign. Seats sprayed prior to take-off. Plexiglass back screens installed atop existing standard three-across seats will diminish the danger of sneezes, the hawking of lungers and oh-so-cute babies. However, the middle seat is eliminated with a Plexiglass separation panel, seriously reducing passenger count and profitability.


3.   Existing seats (à la version 2) with two Plexiglass panels efficiently separating three passengers. If two people are traveling together, the panel between could be removed.

      Let’s say the airlines' sphincter-tight bean-counters agree to
     invest in the low-cost merger of illustrations #2 and #3 above.

Their mantra would be that of Kevin Costner: “Build it and they will come.”


Build it and they will come is bullshit,” said Willard Rouse, developer of Boston’s Faneuil Hall Market restoration and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. “Build it, sell the hell out of it and they will come!”


                        The Challenge of Selling the Public
As a marketeer, I always try to put myself inside the heads of my prospects—think how they think, feel what they feel. Actually I BECOME my prospect. What would I say to me? What would sell me—on travel in a commercial jet?


     Here are the protocols I think I could live with (and hopefully not die from):

Face Shield, Mask and Swag Bag

(NOTE: With face shield, it's possible to push mask below chin for intake of food and drink. Not exactly gracious dining, but life sustaining.)

• Remember, I am paying the airline a $100 Pandemic Supplement on top of my airfare, so I should expect a bunch of goodies. 

• Okay, here's the drill: I arrive at PHL via limo, Uber, taxi, family car or bus. I am stopped and required to show boarding passes. Guard puts a check mark on the paperwork and returns it to me along with face shield and mask. These must be donned prior to entering the airport interior.


• At some point during check-in we are each handed a travel kit:

If airline bean counters nix Denny's low-cost seating modifications...
Plan B: Hand out all of the above plus a sturdy, lightweight PPE isolation gown.

                                Takeaways to Consider
• The above may represent the future of air travel. Yuck.


• BTW, also the future of train and bus travel.


• If I walked into a crowded airport where everyone was wearing a face shield and mask, I do believe I would indeed feel a helluva lot safer flying out to a family emergency.

• Is the above sufficient to persuade Peggy and me to take a pleasure trip? NFW. 


• I would like to postpone an eternity without vodka for as long as possible.

          Dear Readers... Your Input and Ideas Are Wanted!
• What ideas can you add?

• What have I missed or got wrong?

• Your critique of this post—pro or anti?

Thank you.



Word count: 1008


 You Are Invited to Meet Denny Hatch: http://dennyhatch.blogspot.com/2020/03/87-geezer-fast-yoga.html

At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


Denny Hatch
The St. James
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Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk) 

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