British Airways launch stresses service

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British Airways’ OpenSkies focuses on improving customers’ flight experiences
British Airways’ OpenSkies focuses on improving customers’ flight experiences

British Airways is focus­ing on the customer experience with the June 19 launch of its OpenSkies subsidiary. The car­rier, which offers flights from New York to Paris, is seeking to treat each of its flyers to a luxury expe­rience and allow British Airways to take advantage of a US-EU Open Skies treaty that liberalizes the cross-Atlantic flight market.

“The idea started 15 or 16 months ago in a British Airways board meeting. It needed to come up with something that was new and innovative that would take advantage of the Open Skies treaty,” explained Ron DiLeo, SVP and head of marketing for OpenSkies. “We wanted to do something that would take the best of British Airways and use the leverage British Airways had in a new environment, but we also wanted something different from British Airways. British Airways is looking to grow a whole new market segment.”

By the end of 2009, OpenSkies plans to operate six aircraft on non-stop flights from Europe to New York.

British Airways' Executive Club loyalty program will be extended to OpenSkies fliers. OpenSkies passengers are being offered mem­bership to the Executive Club, which allows users collect points for flying, using a British Airways credit card, staying in selected hotels, renting a car from part­ner businesses or shopping with British Airways retail partners. Points can be earned and used interchangeably between British Airways and OpenSkies. The airline is reaching out to existing Executive Club members as a key demographic in its direct market­ing efforts.

To build up its own customer database, OpenSkies is tracking requests to its concierge service, which is offered to all three cabin classes, branded Biz, Prem+, and Economy. The concierge assists in finding hotels, transportation, tours and event tickets, and this infor­mation will be used to customize future incentives to travel.

Key markets for OpenSkies include small and midsize enterprises, due in part to the carrier's three-tier pricing structure for its cabin classes. Destinations will also play a role in determining passenger types. Open­Skies operates in Paris and New York with plans to expand to Milan, Amsterdam and Brussels — DiLeo expects a number of busi­ness fliers from the fashion, beauty, culi­nary and financial services industries.

In addition to the existing Executive Club fliers, the airline is reaching out to select travel blogs with its own closed user groups offering special deals for those communi­ties. OpenSkies is also targeting the sub­scribers of gourmet magazines and other high-end leisure lists.

OpenSkies signed Taxi New York as its creative agency in April of this year. The agency is responsible for all creative and branding, as well as the launch campaign.

“On the creative side, we chose not to use the guerilla antics that are popular with launches because we wanted to be tasteful and were more interested in doing things right and in a timely manner,” DiLeo said. “We did some fun things in Paris, [such as wrapping] a couple hundred taxis with ads for the launch.”

Web Liquid was tapped for digital mar­keting in May. Plans for Web Liquid, which is working in conjunction with Taxi, include social media and online videos at www.flyopenskies.com.

“Our selection process for hiring a digital and creative agency included a number of different providers, including British Air­ways' agency [BBH],” DiLeo added. “What we saw from Web Liquid and Taxi was that they completely understood that we were trying to do something different from what our parent lineage had done in the past.”

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