American's Business Class Ads Won't Fly

Last Updated Mar 31, 2008 1:19 PM EDT

American Airlines has decided to install a near lie-flat seat in business class, and it wants to tell the world about it. In principle, that makes sense. But here's the problem: The airline is trying to plug its new business class seat in a television ad. First, let's think about where business class passengers come from.

The majority of big business is managed travel. In other words, there are specific agreements between company travel departments and airlines to drive traffic. American could reach these people with a targeted sales campaign much easier than with television advertising. Then there are the frequent flier upgrades. Well, those people are easy to reach because they're frequent fliers. American has all their information and can easily target a direct mail/email campaign toward them.

Who's left? Other airlines' frequent fliers? Sure, they'll definitely want to try to sway those guys over to them, but is an ad campaign going to do that? Probably not. Even if it would, frequent fliers are savvy, and just a little bit of research would show that American's new seats are inferior to most major international airlines anyway. The world's leading airlines -- British Airways, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, etc have all gone with a true lie-flat bed. Even United has slowly started to install its new fully lie-flat seat.

Maybe American just wants to show the world that it's investing in its product, so that even passengers flying in coach will think it's going to be better. I hope that's not their goal. If it is, they're just going to disappoint those fliers by having the same old product onboard. Even domestic First Class travelers will get the same old seat, so this is just going to get people's hopes up.

It should be no surprise that American launched this campaign during this year's Oscar telecast -- their ad strategy is just as out of touch with reality as the Academy.