Saturday, February 27, 2010

Frontier Republic Midwest

There’s been some interesting speculation about what brand/name will eventually emerge from the Republic-Frontier-Midwest airline conglomerate. Republic’s head honcho, Bryan Bedford, has seemed to indicate in some press reports that the company is leaning toward an integrated brand. And sooner rather than later.

Having been a marketing/branding consultant for many years, here’s my two cents worth.

Frontier has a much more “generic” name than Midwest, which is a location-based name. (Even the Midwest frequent-flyer program name is provincial – Midwest Miles. But then Frontier’s frequent-flyer program, EarlyReturns, has a terrible name, too – nonsensical, boring, non-descriptive. What does an “early return” mean?)

Frontier is apparently the bigger airline by routes and revenue.

Both airlines have loyal fans in their home airports (Frontier in Denver and Midwest in Milwaukee).

Republic is also a nice generalized name, but it has virtually no name recognition with the traveling public. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the possibility of starting with a clean slate can be appealing.

If they do this right, it will be done soon, and only once. (You don’t want to re-brand your product again in a few years if you screw it up the first time. So don’t screw it up.)

From the amenities standpoint, both Frontier (with their tiered pricing and new Stretch seating) and Midwest (with their Signature seats and warm cookies) have some history. Frontier’s product currently has the ability to be more flexible and aggressive. But Frontier a’la carte pricing menu is too new to have become iconic, so shouldn’t be too much of a factor in leaning one way or another.

So, if I were in charge of everything....

I’d go with the Frontier name for the combined airline, but come up with a new tag line that indicated something new, emphasizing the extended almost-national breadth of the new entity. (I could be convinced that Republic would be a solid second choice for a name.)

This sounds heretical, but I’d ditch the goofy animal tails on Frontier. I’d update the Frontier logo; paint the planes just a little differently than now; maybe use the tail paintjob to slightly honor something from Midwest (a blue/gold streak or something). But in two years, you don’t really want anyone to remember the old part of your entity – you want every customer to think of your airline as Frontier. (Not, for example, how some travelers – after 5 years – still call US Airways “the old America West.”)

I’d immediately create a combined frequent-flyer program, under neither the Midwest Miles nor EarlyReturns names. Something new is needed, probably tied into the new tag line.

Now, if Frontier-Republic would like to pay me to suggest some brand strategies, tag lines, program names, etc....

UPDATE 4.13.2010
Republic decided today upon Frontier as their name. The tail animals will stay, as might the cookies (they are a little vague about that). No news yet about the frequent-flyer program.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Flying Sucks

We just got back from our firsts flights since another stupid Muslim stuck some explosives in his underwear. We’ve also been reading about the tribulations of international security. (Canada seems to be the worst offender, with 3-hour-before-flight airport-arrival suggestions and complete checked bag searches and pat-downs.) Our (domestic) flights went fine this trip, but we got to thinking about various ways to make the flying and airport experience more comfortable.

  • Get a flight with the fewest and easiest connections possible. Non-stop vs. one-stop; flying to Amsterdam instead of Paris, even if France is your destination.
  • Start your trip from an “alternative” airport if at all possible. We know you’re not going to drive 5 hours from Seattle to Spokane if you’re in the Seattle metro area, but if two airports are relatively equidistant, chose the easier (usually smaller) one.
  • Base your flight choices on aircraft, amenities, and comfort as much as on schedules. We much prefer the two-across seating on most 777s than the 3-across on 747s. We don’t really like United, but frequently chose them because they have Economy Plus seating (see below).
  • Buy the best seat you can afford. Frontier, United, JetBlue and a couple of other domestic airlines (and a lot of international ones) have a section of seats frequently referred to as Premium Economy or Economy Plus. For a few extra dollars the legroom is worth it.
  • Only fly an airline where you can check-in online and get an assigned seat. Crowding into lines to scramble for a decent seat on Southwest just isn’t our idea of fun. Likewise, British Airways doesn’t assign seats in Economy until check-in.
  • Sometimes (such as with Frontier) the better economy seats come with free checked bags, priority boarding, and other small perks that balance out the small extra cost.
  • If you have checked-in online and have your boarding pass, check you bags curbside (even if it costs a $5 tip) and completely bypass all the check-in counters.
  • Pack light. Unless we’re taking something like skis, we try to only fly with carry-on baggage. (One carry-on and one “personal item” – briefcase, purse, etc.) But if things such as are happening in Canada continue, it might make more sense to just check all your bags, and walk through security with little more than a tiny shoulder bag.
  • Dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s.” For example, make sure the name on your ticket exactly matches the name on your i.d. For international travel, make sure your passport is good for six months after your arrival date. Remember the TSA’s idiotic rules for liquids, gels, etc.
  • Once you’re in the terminal, don’t automatically just go to the security line behind your airline’s check-in counter. Spend a couple of minutes and wander left or right to see if there’s a shorter security line nearby.
  • If you’re stuck in an airport and have a 3- or 4-hour (or more) layover/connection, consider a lounge day pass. Many airlines offer them for around $50. Or you can get into many, many lounges with a $100/year Priority Pass and $27 per lounge visit. Lounges can give you a lot of extra comfort for your 10 bucks an hour.
  • Join every rental-car and hotel program you might conceivably use. With rental cars, this often offers you a “fast-check” option. With hotels, you might get a few benefits in the way of room upgrades, free continental breakfast, or free internet.
  • Find a hotel with an airport shuttle. Not only are car rentals much cheaper at off-airport locations, but that saves you returning a car at a congested airport location.
Lastly, you can always adopt our mindset: Drive instead of fly. If we’re traveling someplace that’s only a day’s drive each way (even a long day), we’re much more inclined to drive instead of fly. It’s usually cheaper, more convenient (we have our own stuff, and more of it), and takes no longer overall. (1 hour to the airport; arrive 2-3 hours early; 2 hour flight time; 1 hour for baggage and rental car, 1 hour more to get to your destination/hotel/etc. That’s 8 hours right there, not counting possible missed flights or delays.)

Monday, February 08, 2010

More Hours in Your Day for Travel

Time is a totally human construct. Over thousands of years, we have tried to tame the untamable, manage what is inherently chaotic. We set our clocks to suit our farming, education, business, recreation schedules. Then, we tinker with those settings by changing things in the summer with Daylight Saving Time.

A few times in U.S. history, we’ve made DST permanent – during World War II and again during the “oil crisis” of the early 1970s.

Now, the Brits are considering making DST year round. (No, wait. Actually, they’re proposing making all time one hour ahead – both summer and winter. Thus the UK would be GMT +1 in winter, and GMT +2 in summer.) Currently, when the UK sets their clocks forward in summer it’s called... Summer Time. The new scheme (Brit-speak for “plan”) is called... hold your breath... Single Double Summer Time (SDST). This is being promoted as (take your pick): A vote-getting stunt. A boost to tourism. A job creation measure (80,000 new jobs in the tourism sector alone). Reduce accidents. Save energy.

Of course, it’s once again playing “politics” with people’s lives. President Warren G. Harding allegedly called DST a “deception.” (Remember how effective Harding’s brief year-and-a-half in office was?) We actually rather agree with that observation.

But we also say: When in doubt, follow the money. The UK tourism industry is hoping for a £3.5 billion boost in revenue if SDST is implemented.

(Countries that observe DST in blue. Map from Wikipedia.)