Alaska Airlines Gets Recession Marketing Right

If I were an airline marketer (as I once was) charged with devising a plan to make the best of the current travel slump, I'd focus on two areas: discounted airfare deals and frequent flyer program bonuses.

Regarding the latter, I'd go all in with double miles, for all flights, on all routes, in all classes of service.

And if I were feeling really generous—and my CFO were amenable—I'd make those double miles qualify for elite status. Times like these call for bold measures!

Someone at Alaska Airlines' headquarters has been reading from the same marketing playbook—the Seattle-based airline has just announced a systemwide double-mile offer for Alaska and Horizon Air flights from May 6 through June 30.

And yes, the double miles are not only redeemable for awards but count toward elite status as well.

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This offer won't overcome the effects of a worldwide economic meltdown exacerbated by a stage-5 swine flu epidemic. No promotion would, or could. But Alaska's offer will prompt a few more people to fly, and give those already committed to flying a reason to book on Alaska rather than on another airline. It will reinforce and reward Alaska's customers' loyalty. And—perhaps most importantly—it will force other airlines to seriously consider mounting similar promotions.

One thing I would have done differently: Rather than the somewhat timid seven week promotion period, I would have put the bonus on offer for a solid three months or more.

Still, this is the first airline promotion that is as serious as the circumstances it is designed to address.

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