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WhatsApp to Stephen: You know I don’t like working with BasalAir. We agreed the low cost airlines are your clients. They don’t pay enough and are massively demanding — which I guess at least keeps them on brand. Also they are bastards. They once charged me a fortune to reprint a boarding pass and some absurd sum for having the temerity to have a suitcase. I’m totally with ministers on efforts to crack down on these hidden extra costs.
WhatsApp to Stephen: OK but you owe me.
Brian, my colleague Stephen asked me to reach out re your concerns about new consumer regulations. I apologise for the delay in getting in touch but I had to board our priority clients first.
So you are worried about new regulations that might limit or ban “drip pricing”, where you advertise a flight at a very low price but add in extra costs for things like baggage allowances, priority boarding, seat selection and so on. I’m delighted to help. Freedom means we must all stand up for your right to price gouge your passengers.
Before I get to the lobbying effort, can I suggest a couple of things? Since no one likes being hit with extra unexpected charges, even if we are slowly being socialised to these practices, have you considered the potential benefits of being the only “no hidden charges” airline?
Second, on the assumption you have considered and rejected this, is there anything you can do in the messaging that makes it more obvious up front what the low price you are advertising excludes? If regulators push ahead with this, it seems likely this is the absolute minimum they will demand. Getting ahead of that may strengthen the broader case.
Find me on Strava, KoM Sydenham Hill, PR London to Brighton 3h 17m
Brian, I’m glad Stephen “warned you about my sense of humour” and I’m all for banter, but there’s no call for that rudeness. Your monthly retainer only guarantees you a basic level of incivility. If you wish to continue drawing on my advice you will either need to upgrade to premium discourtesy or remember that your sector is meant to be civil aviation. Rutherford.
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Thank you. I accept your apology.
I do think you have an interesting communications strategy in embracing the negative headlines that draw attention to the ultra-low base price. You can do a lot with this. Have you thought about dribbling out news stories such as how, to keep prices as low as possible, you are considering charging people to go to the toilet? Making them pay for a life jacket? Or priority evacuation in case of an emergency landing?
Regulation is clearly a live issue given the new consumer legislation in the King’s Speech. I see three key arguments. First, that denying you these incremental charges will lead to higher prices for everyone since you will have to raise prices to cover lost revenue — can you come up with a faintly plausible figure we can give out? Alas, like the safety demonstrations, no one will pay attention but we need to go through the motions.
Second, and most important — this is an issue of consumer choice since people can go elsewhere and also because there are plenty of customers who do not pay any extra charges, by packing light and not paying for a seat choice or priority boarding. In effect you are boosting consumer choice by allowing passengers to set their own priorities. The message is — you may not like us — but our sales show our passengers like the deal. Third, this is not drip pricing since the advertised fee will get you a seat on the plane and to your destination, at no extra cost — as long as you don’t mind wearing a week’s worth of clothes and not carrying more than a change of underpants.
We could also turn this on the bigger airlines that are using your techniques as a shakedown. I know one that also makes you pay to choose your seat unless you want to sit between two sumo wrestlers.
Choice and price. These are good arguments for a consumer regulator and could also resonate with the government. Finally, have you thought about using a , or a to address the really serious ?
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PS: Apologies for the missing words. I forgot to mention, you have to pay extra for some nouns. But we are the best value communications strategists in the business.