By UTalkMarketing Founding Editor, Clark Turner.
There was a time when going on holiday meant browsing through brochures, visiting a travel agent in person and booking an all inclusive package. How radically have times changed.
There’s been two major devlopments that now shape the way we travel – the internet and low-cost airlines. Consumers have never had as much freedom to travel with an ever growing number of routes.
They’re also no longer tied down by the constraints of a week or fortnight long package. A weekend away to indulge in culture or hedonism? No problem.
Low cost carrier Ryanair was born in 1985, with charter airline Monarch introducing scheduled flights the following year. But it wasn’t until the arrival of easyJet in 1995 that the air travel industry was revolutionised. Offering low cost flights from a web driven operation, the airline was an instant success.
The impact of low cost airlines has been far reaching. They no longer simply operate on short haul European routes. Carriers now operate transatlantic routes and between the UK and both India and Hong Kong.
And the national carriers have had to shape up to remain competitive. BA’s most recent campaign had one clear message - it’s ‘attractive prices’ . The positioning was clear – an attempt to draw passengers from the low cost carriers.
Once purely a charter airline, scheduled flights now make up the majority (55 per cent) of Monarch’s business. Charter only accounts for the remaining 45 per cent.
And the scheduled sector is growing too with new routes launched this year from its five UK bases (Aberdeen, Birmingham, London Luton, London Gatwick and Manchester) to 17 European destinations.
In 2006 Monarch carried 3.2 million scheduled passengers, a 23.9 per cent increase on the 2.6 million for 2005.
The airline puts the success of its scheduled services down, in part, to holiday home owners making frequent visits.
Managing director of flymonarch.com, Liz Savage, said, “Scheduled flights are about assisting the marketplace. In the past few years we’ve provided low cost seats as the number of independent travellers has grown.
“We’re catering for people who own a holiday home and want to make frequent visits rather than travellers who would traditionally book a holiday package with flights, transfers and accommodation. Instead people are now making their own arrangements.”
Monarch’s USP in the low cost sector is simple. It aims to offer a great value product – low fares to popular destinations. The company slogan is ‘Expect More, Pay Less’ and comes into practice in terms of offering consumers choice and care.
The choices offered include the option to buy seats with extra legroom, in-flight catering and pre-allocated seating. Other perks include complimentary daily newspapers and hot towels.
Customer service is paramount to the airline and something which it prides itself on. According to Savage, customer feedback tells them the service delivery of the crew is exceptional.
This, Savage claims, has created a high level of customer loyalty and repeat business. While the airline may have dedicated frequent flyers in the 35-plus age demographic, it’s an aging bracket.
The airline has recently been taking action to address this, broadening its customer base beyond the traditional audience. The new target is18-30 year olds whom Monarch hopes will be attracted by the ‘Pay Less’ proposition.
Key to this has been the launch this month of four new routes from the UK to the party island of Ibiza. Already served by BA and easyJet as well as charter airlines, the pitch for customers will be a competitive one.
Liz Savage said, “We’re confident the demand is there. The flights are at accessible times providing customers with the option of holidaying for a week, or simply to go the island to indulge in a weekend of clubbing.”
The route is being promoted through a partnership with the dance music label Hed Kandi who host regular club nights around the UK and have a Saturday residency in Ibiza at El Divino.
The deal has seen one of the fleet’s Boeing 757 aircraft given a full exterior makeover by Hed Kandi – believed to be the first time that an aircraft has ever been liveried by a music brand.
Hed Kandi CD’s will be available to purchase on all Monarch flights, plus passengers will be able to tune in to Ministry of Sound (Hed Kandi's owner company) radio through the airline’s inflight entertainment system.
A strapline, ‘flyfabulousflymonarchflykandi’ has been created for the partnership which will run until September 2007 and is being supported online with a dedicated site.
flykandi.com features flight and hotel deals, the latest information on Hed Kandi’s club nights at El Divino, exclusive DJ blogs as well as weekly competitions to win flights plus entry to Hed Kandi Ibiza events.
Hed Kandi ‘flykandi’ themed parties will take place in each of Monarch’s key cities (London, Manchester and Birmingham).
Each venue will feature a flight departure lounge, complete with Kandi styled ‘cabin crew’, and in which party goers can relax, receive a massage as well as check-in at the Monarch check-in desk to win the ultimate VIP luxury weekend in Ibiza for six people.
Monarch will also have a presence on all support marketing material in the UK and in Ibiza including all UK CD releases plus the creation of a special summer sampler CD which will be distributed in Ibiza.
Savage said, “It’s a neat way of getting our brand and offering in front of our target demographic at both the Hed Kandi parties in the UK and Ibiza.
“The thing about Ibiza clubbers is that they tend to have a high disposable income and we’re hoping that be experiencing Monarch’s level of service on the Ibiza route, that there will be an uptake on other routes. We’re convinced there are benefits far and beyond the Ibiza route.”
She added, “There’s been a positive response in terms of press coverage and we see the deal a real marketing success.
“Branding the aircraft makes us stand out from the competition but has also been communicating a real statement to company employees that the airline is moving forward, we’re on a journey.”
Bookings are up but with many Ibiza travellers booking late for impromptu weekends away, the real impact has yet to be felt.
It’s hoped the Monarch experience will also secure brand loyalty. Regular travellers can also apply for the Vantage frequent flyer scheme run by the airline. Clocking up points, benefits include advance notice of new routes allowing consumers to get the lowest prices, a separate check-in facility on the day of travel and priority boarding.
The bid to attract new and younger travellers has also seen a shift in the approach to the marketing mix. Traditionally press has played a central role with some outdoor and radio but in a bid to push key messages, spend is now up on outdoor and radio.
While radio spend only accounted for five per cent in 2004/5 it’s now up to 20 per cent. Research has found promoting the ‘Pay Less’ message has had great pick up.
Outdoor is also up by five per cent, now accounting for 45 per cent of the current budget. Again. Research has shown it’s impactful in communicating key messages such as, ‘Expect more comfort’ and ‘Expect more legroom’.
This has been supported by taxi advertising with a fleet of more than 150 operating in London, Birmingham and Aberdeen. Field marketing has seen a stand being erected in key regional shopping malls. Wed access allows shoppers to experience flymonarch.com.
The internet plays a key role for Monarch. In 2006, some 90 per cent of bookings were made online, up 20 per cent year-on-year.
Direct e-mail marketing and CRM also allows for fragmentation so specific messages can be delivered to key markets, so a clubbing message to a young audience or perhaps a golfing promotion to an older sector.
Savage said, “In 2005 we were perhaps sending out a monthly mail to a small data base. We now send a weekly newsletter to 500,000 plus registered customers.
“Segmentation for specific messages allows us to secure new customers while maintaining established ones.”
So what does the future hold? Well, growth obviously. 2006 saw a 20 per cent growth in the number of passengers carried and with an expanding number of routes this looks set to soar.
In a bid to address ecological concerns passengers can now off set their carbon emissions. The airline is also investing in greener aircraft. One billion dollars has been invested in a new fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft, which will be introduced in the coming years.
Check out 12ahead, our brand new platform
covering the latest in cutting-edge digital marketing and creative technology from around the globe.
12ahead identifies emerging trends and helps
you to understand how they can apply to modern-day companies.
We believe 12ahead can put you and your
business 12 months ahead of the competition. Sign up for a free trial today.