Why do airline's layoff people in a recession? I believe it's because they are unable to persuade people that it is one of their highest priorities to fly. Anyone with capital equipment needs to be able to amortize them over more customers in hard times.
They need to create reasons for people to fly. In these days of IM and WebEx, business travel is sharply curtailed and airlines sigh. They make the flying experience uncomfortable and miserable for many. What do people want out of a flight? Maybe they want some peace and quiet to work. Maybe they want business connections. Maybe there are potential customers on their plane.
How can airlines help consumers? Maybe they need a family tribe to come to a wedding or funeral - how can the airline help people book economically and efficiently. How can groups be persuaded to take trips? Maybe there's a local tennis club that would love to have people go to the US Open - but there's no direct flight to New York from their town. How about the ski club wanting to try a new resort? Maybe someone wants to meet a lifetime partner on a plane.
The US is weak on charter flights compared with many parts of the world. Why not create events in obscure places that lead to exciting holidays - dining with a couple of movie stars in Burbank, seminars from Warren Buffet in Omaha. How about having special luggage rates for special events - Biker planes - where mountain bikers can take their bikes on a plane to go to a mountain biking resort and meet each other on a flight.
Can airlines train passengers to be volunteer crews? We have volunteer firefighters? Why not volunteer flight attendants who know about the safety regulations and how to evacuate a plane. They could get a discount for flying and augment a smaller regular crew.
Where is personal transportation heading? One has to commend Virgin for picking up executive customers in its limos. Why don't airlines contract with local vendors and - like FedEx for packages - transport people from door-to-door without them having to think? We containerize goods - can we containerize people - so they sit in an office-like pod that is shipped from their home to their destination and moved automatically?
We have school buses? Why don't the airlines promote school plane trips? Getting children on board could make them lifelong travelers? It would do wonders for world peace to take some potential hooligans to another country and work on projects with locals.
How can airlines fund these trips? Maybe they use less traveled airports for one-off trips reducing gate costs and landing fees. Maybe they offer payment by instalment or holdiay savings plans to encourage people to save their coffee money for a trip.
Not only do people have to be persuaded. Airports and towns have to be persuaded to let planes fly at odd hours so that capital assets can be fully used. Flight attendants, check-in personnel, security screeners and baggage handlers may need to smile more. Maybe an entertainer or short YouTube video would enliven waiting areas - rather than CNN.
It seems there's masses of opportunity for rethinking aviation marketing and persuading people to fly.