United recently announced that it’s joining Delta and American in creating a new Basic Economy fare class, one tier below Standard Economy. This no-frills tier cuts a few of the remaining “frills” of Standard Economy, like overhead bins and pre-assigned seats.
It’s a move to help the major airlines compete with discount airlines like Spirit and Frontier. Spirit advertises itself as “a cheap seat for a cheap-ass” and models after Ryanair which famously considered charging passengers £1 to use the inflight toilet.
A lot of brands offer a continuum of basic to premium, but I think there’s risk to brands that try to stretch this far, literally from “cheap-ass” to first-class. Many travel brands in particular follow a model of low base prices and constant aggressive upselling. But in the process, they can forget all about the impact on customer experience.
Rafat Ali of Skift described how travel brands market to customers as “hate-selling”:
“Delta’s lowest fare seats comes with tons of restrictions, and its ecommerce team thought it would be a great idea to hate-sell it, implying: “Here’s is what you don’t get, you cheap shit!” Passive-aggressive selling at its best. Or worst.”
As Ali concludes, “this is what happens when you let conversion marketers run amok with customer experience. They made it a science, but forgot being human.”
I think this watch-out applies to any brand that has to navigate the tension of conversion marketing and customer experience. Many marketing tactics can come across as “hate-selling.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Here are a few more cartoons I’ve drawn about airline brands and customer experience over the years.