Summer 2015 BSB Power 50: Airlines Doing it Well
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Regardless of whether you choose to travel by business or private jet, does anyone actually enjoy the experience of flying? Add to this the dull and uninspiring tone of flag-carrying airlines and you begin to wonder why anyone would choose to fly when an alternative method of transportation is viable (we’re waiting for you, Hyperloop). Yet, when you cut through the clutter, you notice that some airlines truly do care. Two homegrown examples who keep their customers coming back for more are Porter and WestJet.
Porter, founded in 2006, is a charming regional airline that many in Toronto and its neighbouring cities have all grown to love. Aside from Mr. Porter, their adorable racoon mascot, Porter offers a number of great perks, including complimentary snacks and (alcoholic) beverages both in their lounges and in-flight. They also run a very successful frequent flyer reward program called VIPorter, where points can be redeemed for free flights. As any traveler knows, it’s the little details that really make the difference.
Porter has tremendous plans to expand three key facets of their business: their planes, routes and airport. The first two go hand-in-hand, as their current Q400s have a range of only 900 km. The new CS100s have a range of roughly 5000 km, which theoretically opens up the entirety of North America. As such, Porter’s new routes will include LA, Miami and Vancouver, to name a few. Still, larger planes require longer runways, and longer runways require larger airports. Expanding Billy Bishop Airport will arguably be the most difficult facet of Porter’s growth, as there is a passionate and organized opposition throughout the GTA.
Founded in 1996, this low-cost international airline currently holds the title of being Canada’s second-largest air carrier. What sets their business model apart is that, unlike many other international airlines, they are public, non-unionized and not part of any airline alliance. In other words, they have the freedom to be creative. This is nowhere more evident than in their recent viral marketing campaigns, which have helped build their brand and corporate identity.
With over 41 million views, WestJet’s Christmas Miracle, a YouTube video published in 2013, touched the hearts (and wallets) of more people than WestJet ever imagined. In short, travellers told Santa their wishes before boarding, and staff raced to meet them at their destination with those gifts. Not only did the video go viral, but it also made a difference to WestJet’s bottom line. The month the video was released, revenues rose by 86%, showcasing the sheer impact that a great social and viral campaign can have on a company.
Central to WestJet’s corporate identity is that of being a caring airline. This is especially important in the aviation industry, where the price and commodity you offer (i.e. the destination) are often no different than every other airline. In cases like this, the difference often becomes the people. As such, WestJet will continue to do good, and to release annual viral videos with a focus on cause marketing. As the old adage goes, you can never go wrong doing the right thing.