BrainTrust Query: American Airlines – Buying the Friendly Skies?
President, Retail Prophet
Airlines recently announced that it will be testing a retail sales
program aboard selected flights. With the help of on-board internet
connectivity, passengers will be able to shop from their seats for
many items. In other cases, the airline will be looking to its flight
attendants to take an active role in selling products and services.
of the merchandise is said to be similar to what’s currently found in
the infamous SkyMall catalog, known for its off-the-wall items such
as video-recording sunglasses and spy-camera watches. Other proposed
product offerings under the new program include things such as live
performance tickets and limousine rides. Even Disney is considering
selling park passes on select flights.
comes to new retail concepts I firmly believe in pushing the boundaries
of convention. That said, I think this program will fail. Not because
I disagree with the idea of being able to buy what we want, whenever
and wherever we want. It’s because the realities of air travel
are virtually incompatible with successful retail.
Planes Make Lousy
Stores: The conditions in a plane don’t lend themselves to making a purchase
that’s anything more than a necessity. It’s noisy, you have very
little room to move and you’re often dead tired from work or play
– not to mention running the security gauntlet. Agonizing over what
size of heated dog bed to buy is probably the last thing you want
to do on the red-eye between Portland and Chicago.
to Being Ripped Off: When was the last time you bought anything on
board a plane that you thought was of surprising value or quality? The
truth is, we’re conditioned to being ruthlessly gouged by air carriers
and we resent it. I’ll typically only buy food on an aircraft if I’m
desperately hungry because I resent overpaying for a horrible meal. I
can’t imagine experiencing the same irrational urgency to buy tickets
to Wicked or a pair of lawn
but that’s just me.
Flight Attendants Are Not Salespeople: The
airline industry has sunken so low in terms of service standards
that the role of a flight attendant is now almost purely getting
you from A to B safely. Safety is of course of utmost importance
but sadly they seem to do so with very little interest in brightening
your day or enriching the flying experience. To suddenly expect these
same people to morph into cheerful, knowledgeable salespeople between
cabin prep and cross-check simply defies logic.
Above all, there’s one
thing working against this concept. It’s the nagging question that
will play on the minds of passengers like me. Instead of resorting
to peddling stuff to make a few extra bucks, why couldn’t American
(and most other airlines) just put more effort into making their
customers feel happy comfortable and valued? That’s
something I’d gladly pay $15.00 dollars to experience.
Is airline travel incompatible with retailing? Is there a better
opportunity to reach captive airline travelers beyond the SkyMall
catalog? How might adding online capabilities expand the shopping
potential on airlines?
- American Airlines: Buying the Friendly
Skies? – Technorati
- Airline Tests Retail Sales at 35,000
Feet – The New York Times