A Better Way to Market New Basic Economy Fares

The big three airlines have released their basic economy products: limited seats at a low cost and without customary benefits such as overhead luggage space and seat selection. It’s a natural response to recapture the market share of budget travelers, snatched up by low-cost carriers.

Amélie Touroyan

Consultant at C Space

Amélie Touroyan is a consultant at C Space Boston with an unending passion for travel. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from Mount Holyoke and working at a non-profit for several years, she’s now driving her clients to reach new heights – in every sense. When she’s not creating impactful work, she returns to ground level and spends her time blogging about travel. Amélie also loves lists: she’s working on summiting the highest 115 peaks in the Northeast and traveling to all 50 states.

The big three airlines have released their basic economy products: limited seats at a low cost and without customary benefits such as overhead luggage space and seat selection. It’s a natural response to recapture the market share of budget travelers, snatched up by low-cost carriers (LCCs) such as Spirit and Southwest.

Frequent flyers, specifically those who fly under a corporate travel policy, fear their corporate travel policy will force them into these restricted, uncomfortable seats. In some cases, they will eventually lose their status tier and their accumulated miles will stagnate.  This is just one concern we hear from flyers, like this business traveler, who says,

If I’m United, or Delta, or AA, or an international carrier, there is a certain level of service I expect. Basic economy strips all services down to the bare minimum. Unless it’s considerably less money, I would just fly JetBlue, Southwest or another LCC.”

Here’s a crazy idea. Why not frame basic economy as something that enables adventure, not just travel?

Here’s what we know: business travelers weren’t the demographic that flocked to Spirit and Southwest in the first place. By that logic, basic economy fares should seek to recapture the vacationing budget traveler whose loyalty falls with the LCCs. Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Continental, recently stated that basic economy is intended for “folks on a quick day trip or [who] are price sensitive.” Munoz doesn’t think basic economy is designed for the regular business traveler.

Let’s consider the implications of a richly emotional marketing campaign that makes basic economy seats the first choice for the global nomads. Free spirits. Airbnb explorers. For those who travel with barely more than the shirt on their back. For the student who wants tick the list of 50 US capital cities…or surprise his mom. Spontaneous day trips. Adventurous one-way tickets. You get the idea.

Turo, a popular car-sharing service, has a wonderful video that highlights the destination, rather than the journey. Focusing on the reason for traveling, rather than the time spent in the seat, sends a powerful message about the priorities of Turo’s target consumer.

That same consumer will likely be willing to “rough it” in a basic economy seat. Especially if that seat is presented in a way that celebrates their freedom and taps into their desire to go more places, experience more, and see more of the world.

You may be interested in:

The Collaborative Advantage

The Collaborative Advantage7 Ways to Combine Big Data Methods with Active Customer Collaboration The huge promise of Big Data also lies in its biggest limitation. There’s a temptation to think that companies no longer need to bring the active, knowing, feeling human...

Getting the Most from an Online Customer Community

Getting the Most from an Online Customer Community

Harvard Business Review

Simply having access to customers in communities is no longer enough. Not when all your competitors have similar platforms. The differentiator is how you use those platforms to make your customers a strategic asset – what you do with the insights and how you draw inspiration from the community to align priorities, create meaningful change and, ultimately, generate new value.

Twitter: The Art of Influence and Discovery

Twitter: The Art of Influence and Discovery Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: It seems like everyone in the world is on Twitter. Including brands. But what works, and what doesn't? Alex Josephson knows. He leads Twitter's global brand...

In Print: Our best thinking

Thinking In Print: Our best thinking delivered to your desk Every quarter, we publish the very best thinking from across our global network in In Print. It’s a physical magazine that brings together brilliant ideas, provocative thinking & our very latest insights....

Customer Inside: A Practitioners Guide to Online Communities

Report Customer Inside: A Practitioners Guide to Online Communities C Space partnered with the Market Research Society (MRS) and 130 client side practitioners to explore & understand how to get the most out of online communities (and the agencies that run them)...

How do you solve a problem for IKEA?

How do you solve a problem for IKEA? "We discovered a happy life at home is a mix of my space, your space, and our space - but people have a hard time really defining my space, within mixed/shared spaces." Lydia Choi-Johansson Intelligence...

The Rules of Community Engagement

The Rules of Community Engagement: A Study of the Motivations for Participation in Online Communities At C Space, we have been studying the art of engagement and honing our craft for well over a decade. We understand that vibrant participation begins with community...

Market Segmentation in Online Consumer Communities

Market Segmentation in Online Consumer Communities: Does it Matter? It is easy to understand why after investing heavily in a market segmentation strategy, companies would want their online consumer communities to represent those segments. But does segmentation really...

Customer Inspired: How to Achieve Growth in the 21st Century

Customer Inspired: How to Achieve Growth in the 21st Century What do In-N-Out Burger, Ace Hardware, Trader Joe’s, Kaiser Permanente, Nordstrom, and Mary Kay have in common? Here’s a hint: none are leading advertisers. Yet all are cherished by consumers over their...

Gen Z & the Future of Mobility

Gen Z & the Future of Mobility Gen Z is diverse, connected, and mobile. Which begs the question: What does Gen Z want from their mobility experience? And how would they make it better? To find out, we brought together dozens of Gen Zers and execs from brands like Bose...