Friday, January 23, 2009

Airlines Don’t Get It – Airports Are No Longer Synonymous With Cities

I’m traveling out to the Pacific Northwest for my Mom’s 80th birthday. She now lives in Olympia, WA at the south end of Puget Sound. See anything wrong with this email reminder from Orbitz?

Yup, it assumes because I’m flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (at the very bottom of the map), I must be traveling to Seattle, at the top of the map.

The numerous destinations to the South of the airport including Tacoma, one of the airport’s namesakes don’t appear on the map and obviously Orbitz can’t imagine anyone would go anywhere but Seattle, guess.

Actually, as you might surmise, the airport is called Seattle-Tacoma because it is midway between and co-owned by those cities. But it also serves countless other destinations. I’m going to Olympia for instance which is about 50 miles south of the Airport in the opposite direction from Seattle which is 16 miles north.

So even if I’m going to spend a night near the airport, which I am on the return, I wouldn’t be interested in staying in downtown Seattle, nearly 70 miles from my original destination and far to the opposite side of the airport.

So why is Orbitz annoying me with this information? Because, I suspect, some poor soul has the outmoded notion that every airport is in a central city and arbitrarily picked the first part of the airport name.

A wrong headed assumption not just for SEATC but also DFW, SFO, MSP or RDU. These are all airports serving polycentric regions with no dominant city…

All of this is not only harmful to destination brands but it is particularly sad because Orbitz went to a lot of trouble to try to be helpful while making some extra money…but forgot to ask one critical question during the reservation that would have enabled this email to be targeted to where I was going…the name of my final destination.

I’ll bet my airfare that the proportion of people on my flight actually destined for Seattle will be smaller than the proportion going to one of the many other destinations served by SEATAC...and yet Orbitz and many individual airlines focus their communication materials as though we were still in the pre-WWII days of one airport-one city… or that every region isn’t centric…the Triangle and the Puget Sound area are both polycentric.

Orbitz could easily ask your destination and then have the follow up email above morph to information more relevant to the individual traveler.

The current approach…lots of lost business for many communities. Lots of confused and disgruntled passengers. See any win here at all? Nope, just lose/lose.

No comments: