Top Airline CX stories from the Purple Goldfish Project


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Extras from the not-so-friendly skies

The Purple Goldfish Project was an effort to crowd source 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe. Brands that give little unexpected extras (g.l.u.e) in order to drive differentiation, improve retention and promote word of mouth. This post is the first in a 12 part series looking at the top 200 examples from the Project by industry. Here are 10 examples that take flight:

horizon beer and wine

Horizon Air (#78 submitted by Marcia Hoover) “The best one I can think of is Horizon Air – the regional affiliate for Alaska Airlines. They have always served free beer and wine to all passengers on their flights. Given today’s economy and stifling service in the airline industry Horizon definitely stands out as a marketing lagniappe.”

porter airlines

Porter Airlines (#300 by Brian Millman) “Porter Airlines is a short-haul airline which flies out of Toronto’s city centre airport (very cute and small airport) and focuses on business travelers. It started primarily operating in Canada with one US route to Newark but has expanded to fly to Boston, Chicago and Myrtle Beach.With most airlines, you expect to sit in the typical terminal with old rows of seats. At Porter’s hub, they offer a VIP lounge for everyone. The terminal area is set up similar to that of any VIP lounge: a kitchen stocked filled with FREE soda and water, two cappuccino machines, and free snacks (Cookies & chips). Porter also offers FREE Wi-Fi with a power port under every seat as well as 14 computers for those without a laptop.

jetblue trueblue

Jet Blue (from Sharon Trainor-Smith) “When flights are delayed they often show up at the gate with tables full of free water and snacks, and then set up a trivia game for everyone with good prizes such as free flight tickets, gift certificates, etc. The stranded passengers LOVED these bonuses and there was a lot of positive buzz. Plus by giving out flight tix, we were incented to come back to Jet Blue. It turned a bad situation into a really positive group and brand bonding opportunity.”

virgin america

Virgin Atlantic (Taken from a blogpost by smith + co.) “Create ‘difference’ in the experience. Like all other airlines, Virgin Atlantic used Boeing 747s for its long-haul flights. In a real sense, the multi-million dollar plane was a commodity – all the airlines had the same plane. The difference in the guest experience came from something Richard Branson dubbed ‘Virgin flair’. To ‘be different’ – because they knew that being surprising was what made the passengers remember their Virgin flight – Virgin started serving small ice creams during the in-flight movie. Because people often enjoy an ice cream in a cinema.”

klm delft blue house

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KLM Delft Blue Houses (#596) ”Each year KLM presents a new collectable Delft Blue house to its World Business Class passengers on intercontinental flights. The miniature houses are replicas of historical Dutch buildings. KLM’s porcelain houses are filled with genever, Dutch gin. Over the years they have become desirable collectors’ items, generating a lively trade among passengers.” YouTube video at:

Jet Blue (#579) A very nice purple goldfish on the whole. “Jet Blue gives customers a full can of soda during the beverage service and free unlimited premium snacks.”

logo_spanairSpanair #681. Taken from a tweet by@Michelle_i2i
“Talk about WOW! Love the thoughtfulness behind the initiative.Great job @Spanair #custserv”
From the YouTube video:
“On December 24th our flight from Barcelona to Las Palmas arrived close to midnight. 190 people were flying while everyone else celebrated Christmas Eve. Christmas is a very special moment so we decided to do something special for them, too.”

Southwest CouponSouthwest Airlines #691 Submitted via e-mail from Marylynne Colacchio. Marylynne forwarded a post by Fran Golden from AOL Travel.
Here is a summary from Fran’s article:

“An Arizona family is praising a Southwest Airlines pilot who held a Tucson-bound plane to wait for a passenger trying to get to a hospital to say his goodbyes to his 2½ -year-old grandson, who was about to be taken off life support.

The Southwest pilot’s efforts to help Caden’s grandfather, Mark Dickinson to get to the child’s bedside on Jan. 5 first came to light when his wife, Nancy Dickinson, wrote of the incident to travel blogger Christopher Elliot.

“He got to say his goodbyes thanks to Southwest. I am so grateful for the airline for doing what they did.”

She says her stepdaughter, Ashley Rodgers, 26, needed her dad. And if Dickinson had missed the plane it would have been a tragedy on top of a tragedy.

“It was heartbreaking,” Dickinson says.

Mark, an engineer with Northrop Grumman, had been on a business trip in Los Angeles when he got word his grandson was to be removed from life support that night. He already had a flight booked back to Tuscon and booked a connecting flight to Denver.

He arrived at LAX two hours early, but had to check in his suitcase, which took an hour, and then encountered a security line that was “out the door and down the sidewalk,” Nancy says.

Mark, on the verge of tears, ended up just grabbing his computer, belt and shoes as they came through security screening and running shoeless to the plane, knowing the minutes were ticking by.

At the gate, the pilot of the Southwest plane and ticketing agent were both waiting for him.

“Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson,” they said.

“It was the pilot’s call to make. We are grateful that he felt comfortable in making that call,” Nancy says.

Mark was able to get to Denver to say goodbye to his grandson and be with his daughter.

Caden was buried yesterday. The toddler’s organs have been donated to several people in need of tranplants.

Nancy explained that Mark thanked the captain as they walked down the jetway to board the plane. Here was the exchange:

“I can’t thank you enough for this.”

The pilot responded with, “They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

handwritten_note_book_2United Airlines #710 and #711
Taken from a blogpost by Ivan Misner:
“Long lines, deteriorating service, flight attendants grabbing a beer and pulling the emergency exit handle to slide out onto the tarmac are part of our vision of airlines these days.
However, I had an experience last week that was truly amazing in this day and age.
My wife and I were flying on United from LAX to New Orleans for a business conference. Before we were about to land, Rebecca, the flight attendant, handed me a business card from the Captain. His name is Patrick Fletcher. On the back of Captain Fletcher’s card was a handwritten note that said:

Flight 139, January 19, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Misner,

It’s great to have you both with us today – Welcome! I hope you have a great visit to New Orleans – we really appreciate your business!


Pat Fletcher

Rebecca (who was a great flight attendant, by the way), told me the Captain wrote these notes to everyone who was a member of their premier level frequent flier club as well as all the 1st class passengers. On this day, that was around 12 people. She said he is great to fly with because he really treats the passengers AND the crew very well, mentioning that he had brought scones to all of them that morning.
I fly A LOT. In the last 20 years, I’ve probably traveled on over 800 flights all around the world. In that time, I’ve never received a personal note from the Captain.
Entrepreneurs and major corporations alike can learn from this story. Personal service that goes above and beyond the call of duty, can generate great word of mouth.
Captain Fletcher – my hat’s off to you. Well done. I think this is a great example of how one person in a really large company can make a difference in a customer’s attitude. Your note was creative and appreciated. I hope to be flying with you again.”

southwest change fees

Southwest Airlines
#823. Free Peanuts from Southwest. Taken from an article in the Economist:
It is the small things that make the difference. Southwest still gives out free peanuts, an oddly emotive subject among travelers. It lets passengers switch their flights often, for no extra charge. Most importantly, perhaps, it does not charge for checked-in luggage. Bob Jordan, Southwest’s vice president for strategy, reckons that charging for bags would have given the airline an additional $300m a year. But bag fees are so irritating that Southwest decided to go without.
Executives crow that this has allowed Southwest to poach customers from rivals, which has made up for the forgone fees. Meanwhile, Southwest has no qualms about charging for extras that irk passengers less, such as those early check-ins, and this generates a happy whack of cash.
Other airlines could imitate Southwest’s original approach to smiles and peanuts. “Anybody can copy anybody, right?” Mr Jordan concedes. But he argues that the others have grown so addicted to the extra revenue from bag fees that if they change, the hurt will linger like a jumbo grounded by a snowstorm.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is a flight attendant singing the praises of Southwest and the importance of added value:

wypg look inside

Your experience is now your marketing. How do you stand out in the sea of sameness? How do you win repeat customers and influence word of mouth? Is your CX sticky? Are you Giving Little Unexpected Extras?

What’s Your GLUE? What’s Your Purple Goldfish?

Buy the book here for $9.95 using this special discount code: GL546Y5S

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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