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Stunts…

April 27th, 2006 · 4 Comments

On April 19, American Airlines teamed up with Mark Cuban (the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA club), and gave away 20,000 free round-trip tickets on AA to Mavericks fans who were in attendance during their Fan Appreciation Night at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. The tickets were good for one round-trip from Dallas Love Field (DAL), where American Airlines began operations earlier in the month in order to compete with Southwest Airlines, who’s corporate headquarters are located on the field there.

But there’s an old saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The idea behind these free tickets was to try and take a bite out of Southwest Airlines at their home airport. The effect American Airlines expected was to create as many as 20,000 new loyal AA customers from those who would otherwise fly Southwest. Of course, the hunger American Airlines has for DAL market share is being created by a movement by Southwest to repeal the Wright Amendment, which restricts travel from DAL to Missouri, Texas, and the states that border Texas. Southwest’s belief is that the amendment is anti-competitive and anti-consumer. American believes that if Southwest doesn’t like it, they should move to Dallas Fort-Worth Airport (DFW), which of course would increase Southwest’s operating costs significantly from North Texas.

Unfortunately for American Airlines, their little publicity stunt looks as if its backfiring on them.

When they gave the tickets out, they failed to do a couple of things. First, they failed to realize that most consumer’s attention spans extend to just beyond the last letter “t” in “Free round-trip ticket.” The fans, amid the loud cheering that ensued after the initial announcement, didn’t hear the most important words of that announcement, which were “to anywhere American Airlines flies from Dallas Love Field.” Dallas flies to all of four destinations (Austin, San Antonio, Kansas City, and St. Louis) from DAL, according to their current route map and press releases.

Second, AA failed to mention what else was in the “fine print” on the backs of those free ticket vouchers. “Must be redeemed for tickets within 10 days.” “Travel to be completed by November 12, 2006.” “No cancellations or changes.” “Taxes and fees not included.” “Regional Jet service only.” “Limited seats available per flight.”

So imagine the disgust when a person who thinks they’ve received free travel to wherever American Airlines flies tries to book a flight from DFW to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, or Orlando.

The following is only one of several possible conversations between a Mavericks fan and American Airlines reservations agents.

Customer: “Why can’t I fly from Love Field to Orlando?’
American: “We don’t fly to Orlando from DAL.”
Customer: “Why not?”
American: “Because the Wright Amendment restricts travel from DAL to Texas, the bordering states, and Missouri.”
Customer: “That doesn’t seem fair. Why do they do that?”
American: “Because DFW is right next door.”
Customer: “So?”
American: “Well, Southwest Airlines doesn’t want to fly out of Dallas Fort-Worth because it’s so expensive to operate from.”
Customer: “Well that makes sense, doesn’t it?”
American: “No, it doesn’t.”
Customer: “Well okay. I want to travel to Orlando. I guess I’ll have to book the flight from DFW.”
American: “Sorry. Can’t do that. That free ticket is only good for travel from Dallas Love.”
Customer: “So this free ticket is really kind of useless to me unless I want to travel to Austin, San Antonio, Kansas City, or St. Louis?”
American: “That is correct.”
Customer: “Well can I use it to connect to flights from one of those four cities to Orlando?”
American: “Nope. We can’t market or ticket any through-flights out of DAL. You can go as far as those four cities.”
Customer: “Why is that?”
American: “I told you before. It’s because of the Wright Amendment.”
Customer: “This Wright Amendment is a big pain, isn’t it?”
American: “Well, we hope that it’s a pain for Southwest.”

So now, American has a bunch of upset people with “free round-trip tickets” that won’t take them where they want to go because of the very Constitutional Amendment that American Airlines wants to keep around in order to keep the proverbial thumb on Southwest Airlines activities out of Love. The free vouchers have found their way onto Ebay, which is against American’s ticketing rules but can’t be stopped. Southwest Airlines representatives have indicated that SWA’s bookings from DAL have increased since American issued their free travel vouchers.

In addition, Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines CEO, has announced that SWA will offer all passengers traveling to or from DAL on Southwest two free drinks per flight through Memorial Day.

From a not-so-well-thought-out ticket giveaway that was supposed to get under Southwest’s skin at their home airport, American’s publicity stunt has generated more disgust for the Wright Amendment. That, of course, is good for Southwest Airlines.

They should thank American.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Flygirl // Apr 29, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    Interesting post…thanks.

  • 2 Flygirl // Apr 29, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    FYI…I wasn’t sure if you had seen this yet or not…pretty cool stuff! http://www.blogsouthwest.com/2006/04/21/luv-and-the-blogoshpere/

  • 3 Sam // May 3, 2006 at 6:58 pm

    Haha, that’s pretty dang funny. It actually sounds more like a classic SWA marketing gimmick… AA thought they’d try it for themselves, and kinda got burned!

  • 4 Scott // Jul 13, 2006 at 3:19 am

    The Wright Amendment is a great example of the kind of congressional action that turns people off of voting. Why vote for an opposition candidate when a big company(AA) essentially bribes (with campaign contributions) a congressman to get anti-competitive rules made into law.

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