For a fistful of dollars less

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Why am I not this lucky?

Last Thursday at about 4pm our time, the booking site for United Airlines had a glitch and allowed lucky buyers to get airline tickets for just a few dollars. The airline, on discovering the error, closed the website until the problem had been fixed. In the meantime it seems at least a hundred lucky people had landed real bargains – almost 95% off the current fare! All tickets bought at the cheap price will be honoured.

So if this was last Thursday why am I writing about it four days later? Because, four days on, the media is still writing about it.

Because, when things like this happen, it makes people react. And what has happened is that people have been checking the United website in greater numbers since Thursday than before to see whether the glitch has happened again. If this was a prepared publicity stunt, could it have worked out better? With the extra traffic, how many additional seats has the airline sold. Glitches like this can be worth millions in publicity yet it won’t have cost United much at all, probably not more than $10,000. Yet they have had coverage in over 200 newspapers to my reckoning plus all the website and social media comment as well. An ad agency wouldn’t have been able to buy that.

It brings to mind a situation years ago when the Manchester shuttle from Heathrow was serviced by Concord one day for the 6.45am flight. No other plane was available was, I think, BA’s argument. It happened just once, made headlines and people for the next week or three wondered if they would be on Concord when they took the morning shuttle. The publicity value for British Airways was enormous. BA planned the Concord flight. Did United do the same?

Probably not but a smart PR person might suggest they consider that every once in a while.

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