Here’s how to trash your brand. If I could completely avoid flying American Airlines I would. Not because of the airline’s mediocre rankings in on-time arrivals, lost baggage, fees, and customer satisfaction. After all, there are some airlines that are even worse. (Spirit, I’m looking at you.)
No, it’s their infuriating habit of pitching credit cards to passengers on every flight. For example, while I was trying to sleep on the red-eye I took last week.
I find the two- to three-minute pitches really annoying. We are literally a captive audience, strapped into our seats with nowhere to escape.
To add insult to injury, The Points Guy reports that many of the claims made for the credit card are misleading or simply incorrect.
What the airline says
According to American Airlines spokesperson, Sunny Rodriguez: “We have found that in-flight is a great time to talk with our customers about airline credit cards.”
Actually, Sunny, you’re not talking with your customers, you’re talking at them. There’s a big difference.
Notice that this justification is 100% about what’s good for American Airlines. Not what’s good for its customers, as the following sample of customer complaints illustrates:
One thing @AmericanAir needs to stop harassing their valued customers with; the incessant, intrusive, shrill–and decidedly false-statement-ridden– in-flight credit card pitches.
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) November 8, 2017
— Andy’s Travel Blog (@andystravelblog) May 9, 2018
It’s awful on @AmericanAir. The airline claims flight attendants are there primarily for our safety. Except when they’re obnoxiously hawking credit cards multiple times over the PA during the same flight.
— Mark Graban (@MarkGraban) July 19, 2018
Why does American Airlines do this?
Besides annoying the heck out of me, I’m at a loss to understand how this is a good business decision.
—Is the revenue they receive when some hapless passenger signs up a significant boost to their bottom line?
—Are flight attendants so eager to supplement their salaries (apparently, they get ~$50 for every new customer) that they beg the airline to add extra work to their flight duties?
—And, most importantly, does American Airlines think that pitching their credit card on every flight to captive passengers improves their brand?
After all, this survey found that over 90% of airline passengers said they’d never apply for a credit card in flight. (And, of course, some of those who would have already got one—yet still have to put up with the same spiel on every subsequent trip!)
A creative alternative
Even if American Airlines truly believe that hawking credit cards to a captive audience is a good thing, they don’t have to do it in a way that annoys almost everyone on the airplane. Edward Pizzarello notes that United Airlines also pitches cards on their flights, using a classic marketing technique that is far less intrusive and, I suspect, far more effective.
Flight attendants walk through the cabin handing out free boxes of mints printed with a code for a United Airlines card offer. Yes, the classic give-away, good will marketing approach! Passengers are free to ignore the advertisement and, regardless, receive a small gift. Pizzarello concludes: “Mints versus speeches? I’ll take the mints.”
Can American Airlines learn?
It amazes me that AA doesn’t realize (or doesn’t care) that customers are turned off by brands that spray unwanted pitches on trapped consumers.
Frankly, I’m pessimistic that American Airlines can change the culture that leads to this kind of clueless marketing.
A final piece of evidence: the American Airlines pitch for paying more for seats that are as roomy as those they provided standard five years ago.
We call it Premium Economy. You’ll call it the seat you’ve been waiting for.
— American Airlines (@AmericanAir) April 3, 2017
I call it “The seat I used to have in Economy.”
Image attribution: Quartzy