Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Captain Monkeypants' Great Epiphany: Sponsored Flights

Today, I will not rant about United Airlines. I did enough of that yesterday. They also received a nice letter of complaint from me. One thing Captain Monkeypants likes to do is to write a strongly worded letter when something does not please her. This is why I've written letters to restaurants when they take things off their menus that I like or when I write to airlines if they irritate me with their crappy service. For the most part, it's mostly just a therapeutic way of dealing with things. I'm never rude, just...blunt and to the point.

I'll let you know how United responds. I've discovered in my Nightmare Travels that the usual way is to throw a voucher at me to try to get me to shut up. In this case, I don't think that's going to work. You see, a voucher would mean I'd have to use THEIR service and, well, given that I despise them with every part of my Monkeypants being at the moment, United Airlines isn't going to be a large part of my travel future.

If I was a better business woman, I'd start my own airline: Monkeypants Air. I had a novel idea after watching TV last night and seeing a commercial for the Glad Stick and Seal wrap stuff. They had everyone on an an aeroplane using it when they hit turbulance. Very useful stuff that, I'm a big fan myself.

I digress. Anyway, I started to think, wouldn't it be cool to have "Sponsored Flights?" I mean, seriously, if you're a company with a product that needs promotion, what better way to raise people's awareness than to trap them in a plane with you?

I'd use my own company's software as an example but we're a bit of a niche market. Also, despite my constant suggestions that we aim towards newer, younger clients who aren't on the verge of retirement, currently our company still seems to be continuing to cater to our somewhat curmudgeonly old-school clients. I'm not saying this is bad but, as a newcomer to the company, I can't help but wonder what happens when those people start retiring and their replacements are overwhelmed by our product. We provide training and consulting but, to me, it still seems like it'd be helpful to 'hold-the-hands' of new clients to lure them in and help them feel like we're not talking over their heads.

I digress. Again. So, let's not use my company. Let's use a company that we all may know...Subway Sandwiches.

Now, everyone knows Subway's doing ok. They're healthy, have great deals and can be found everywhere. They shouldn't need to promote much more than they do, right?

Except...I disagree. Sandwiches aren't terribly hard to make; the most they really require is a toaster oven to make 'em nice and hot and one of those oven things in which to bake the bread. They don't need to come with french fries; they can use potato chips (crisps is actually what I originally typed being a die-hard Brit and all but I realized I should probably gear this towards my U.S. readers since I do live here and all). My point is...there are a lot of competitors popping up to challenge Subway. Some of them are very good. Yes, Subway is healthy but other sandwich shops do offer tastier options that benefit from not being so healthy. They're also getting smart and offering five-dollar foot-longs, just like Subway. Subway even has acknowledged this and started their "Imitation is the highest form of flattery campaign." Smart.

But it still means they're constantly competing with Quiznos, Blimpie, Togos, Jimmy John's, Penns Station...whatever sandwich chain happens to be in your area. Although they rely on fresh ingredients, they're not as hard to set up as a fast food restaurant because of the lack of need for heavy cooking equipment. Thus, competititors are always cropping up, trying to oust Subway from our consciousness.

So my conclusion is that Subway would be a perfect candidate to 'sponsor' a flight. I'm not talking about putting logos on planes and making everyone have to buy Subway sandwiches if they want food. No, what I'm talking about is marketing. Think about it. You have planes full of people. They might have work to do, books to read, movies to watch but, chances are, they're going to be slightly bored, no matter what they have to do. While I enjoy reading a good book on a plane, I'd much rather be on the ground reading that book. I'd feel less trapped.

So, what if companies sent representatives on planes with us? They could conduct focus groups, give out samples, get feedback. Basically, they could have the opportunity to get everyone on that plane to want to eat at Subway every time they wanted a sandwich.

Given how much companies spend on advertising, it might actually be good for the passengers too. Companies could 'subsidize' flights, covering part of the cost of each ticket for passengers who would knowingly know they were on a 'sponsored' flight and agree to pay attention. I suppose it'd be a little like one of those time-share companies who woo customers in with free vacations in exchange for listening to their spiel.

Aside from lowering the cost of tickets, it would also be good for the airlines. If ticket costs lower and table out, people might actually CHOOSE the airline they fly based on the product being promoted rather than have to grab a flight because it was cheapest. We could even change air travel completely. First class passengers obviously wouldn't want a sponsored flight because it would be 'tacky'. We could convert planes/build new ones that are entirely first-class. That way everyone on that flight could walk on their stupid red-carpet and feel special while the rest of us can enjoy the fact that we are all equal: We all want our Subway Sandwich Flight...no red carpets here. Only ones emblazened with the logo of the company sponsoring our flight.

The possibilities are endless. For example, if you're flying to a place that relies on tourism, such as Las Vegas, why not have them sponsor the flight? They could promote the city and make everyone more aware of what's on offer, not just the casinos but the Grand Canyon trips, the Hoover Dam trips, the restaurants, the shows....it'd be a way to get a trapped audience to learn more about what's on offer.

I know. I probably sound a little crazy. I'm just trying to find a way to make flights easier, better, fun for passengers. If a corporation, company, group, etc. sponsors a flight, it'd would make the airlines have to be more accountable for their actions. The company could help offer quality control in exchange for exclusive promotions.

It's just an idea. The way I look at it is that five years ago, we were outraged that they showed commercials before movies. Now we've come to the point where we still hate it but it's just part of the package. We're an adaptable species. If I can get a Subway Sandwich flight on Monkeypants Air that only costs me half the price of a regular ticket provided I give feedback and attention to the Subway rep for the portion of the flight they command, I'm there.

I probably sounds a little whacked out today. Truth be told, I had planned on blogging about Vegas and the Monkeypants Restaurant Tour (Exterior Only). However, I sat down and this is what came out. Um...yay?

On the plus side, this is on the internet now. It'll be date-stamped and officially 'published' by blogspot so if someone wants to steal my idea, they can go ahead. But I'll expect credit, thank you very much. Perhaps if it happens, I really can start my own airline.

Nah. Nice thought though.

Happy Tuesday.

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