Everyone hates baggage fees. It’s a crime airlines don’t listen and let you stow aboard luggage for free, as much as you want, right?
In case you missed it, the airline industry is a tough business. One of the few bright spots helping them stay afloat in the 2009 recession was baggage fees, which drove $2.7 billion in extra passenger revenue to U.S. airlines. Delta came out on top with $481.8 million from such fees — a vital solution, since at year’s end Delta still bottomed with a net loss of $1.2 billion. Without the added charges, Delta’s loss would have been 39% higher.
Sure, customers say they hate fees … but imagine the alternative. If Delta didn’t hide charges until you got to the airport, it would have to raise its ticket prices 2% across the board — about $10 on a $500 flight. And you, dear savvy consumer, planning your trip at Expedia or Travelocity or Kayak.com, would likely click on the nearest Delta competitor flight to Austin to save $10 in your rapid-fire, e-commerce fueled impulse decision. Because when you’re shopping, you want the best deal, brand loyalty be damned.
Run the math, and the 1-2% of customers who really take enough offense at baggage fee surcharges that they would not come back are offset by the 10-20% of air flights that Delta would lose if it had to make all its passenger fees completely visible on aggregator travel sites, a click away from lower-priced competition. Disguising fees to make front-end purchase decisions easier is nothing new: your cell phone, cable company, magazine subscriptions, and even children give you low starter costs that hide whopping fee increases later.
The customer has strong opinions, and businesses should listen. But believe us when we say again, the customer is not always right.
U.S. airlines’ fuel bills will soar $20 billion dollars this year and they’re passing costs on to travelers every which way. So let’s all thank Sojern, a clever company, for opening a new frontier of advertising on boarding passes.
This is such a no-brainer we’re surprised no one has thought of it before. About 250 million boarding passes are printed from computers each year, and until now have been blank slates. Sojern’s ads appear both on the computer screen (where consumers can click through) and in printed form, and include updated weather and timely coupons to minimize the grousing from fliers who may not like advertising clutter.
And the target demo is sweet. On Delta, for example, 64% of fliers have household incomes above $75,000, 62% are working professionals, and about 20% are executives. We see affluence, flying your way.
Speaking of communication design, Delta’s flirty new in-flight safety video follows the psychological rules of human attraction. You see, people the world over use certain expressions to arouse desire. Women smile, lift their eyebrows, and gaze directly at you, and then look down and away to hint at shyness. (See woman in seat at video second :32. Really, we don’t make this up.) Men take a different approach; to signal strength, they lean back in their chairs and stick their chests out, like the captain here at the Delta helm. In fact, chest puffery is found across nature — snakes, frogs and toads also inflate their bodies to demand attention.
(See: Your boss.)
Which brings us back to how good creative captures attention, say, among passengers stressed out that their plane may come to a sudden stop against a mountain. Delta’s little vignette grabs consumers with basic cues — full lips, flirtatious hand waves, and lots of eye contact. We’ll remember that as we hug a seat cushion to our chest and jump out the exit.