From the start of the pandemic, it was clear that the travel industry was not going to recover quickly. In fact, some executives estimate that it could be three years before airlines focus on their prepandemic business as the schedule for vaccine distribution remains in flux.
But on the eve of a much-needed New Year, there are signs of hope as airline marketers brace for a long rebound unprecedented in the industry.
“If you are trying to predict the deal and forecast bookings, all bets this year will be void – the previous models don’t make sense,” said a marketer for a US airline who was not allowed to talk about the deal strategy. “You have to see what works and what doesn’t and build from there.”
To sum up a year: The industry wants to forget: Despite a billion dollar rescue package from the federal government, the aviation industry still laid off 30,000 employees when the funds were used up in October. However, as of last week, these workers could return as legislators agreed to allocate an additional $ 15 billion to extend wage support through March 31.
According to Airlines for America, the industry’s trading group, passenger numbers are still down around 70%. However, United noted a light at the end of the tunnel in its December earnings report: current bookings for the third quarter of 2021 are only down 40% year over year.
“We have been working in crisis mode since March,” said another marketing manager at another US airline. “We have to try to get back to a sense of normalcy.”
Travelers are still listening
Currently, airline marketers are stuck between a rock and a tough place. “You want to create incentives to travel without looking inconsiderate in the face of the rising Covid-19 cases. From a marketing perspective, travelers seem to be listening.
“I don’t want to say that Covid is behind us, but since we know there is a vaccine, we plan to have it post-Covid to some extent,” said another airline marketer who is behind the scenes with Adweek spoke.
In the first few months, every social post on Twitter or Facebook was “destroyed” and classified as “irresponsible”. That is no longer the case.
“With the increase in cases, the number of searches and bookings fell the longest. At the end of September, beginning of October it started to switch, ”they said. “There was a real breakup. People look to the future; You are desensitized to the virus. It’s not great, but it’s a reality. “
From a spending perspective, airline advertising spending has been and still has fallen around 67% year over year since the early weeks of the pandemic. According to MediaRadar, the past few weeks had dropped by up to 80%.
Southwest, an outlier in the aviation industry, has actually increased its ad spend by 15% and has spent more than American, United, Delta, JetBlue, Frontier and Spirit combined since April. Although Southwest benefits from the fact that it relies less on international travel than on competitors, CMO Ryan Green said in late summer he wanted to “open the advertising funnel as much as possible” and convert travelers from their usual airlines.
The competition for security – described by a marketer as “super unpleasant” – has decreased. American, United, and Delta all offer rapid Covid-19 tests on certain routes, and other airlines have test-at-home plans. Several airlines use an app to track tests and vaccinations. Only Delta has committed to blocking the middle seats until at least March 30, 2021.
Instead, the aisles have shifted to tariff sales and promotions.