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Airlines Shift Marketing Focus

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cripple the airline industry, major airlines are shifting from their efforts to attract business passengers and are, instead, targeting a much smaller pool of committed, leisure travelers.  And the message they are using has turned from perks and amenities to health and safety.

A new Gallup poll shows that more than half of U.S. air travelers are uncomfortable flying because of coronavirus concerns, and those who are flying are booking tickets based on the hodgepodge of safety measures the airlines have put in place in absence of government guidelines or regulations.

“Airlines are competing on cleanliness and hygiene because there are no federal standards or mandates they all need to follow, so they see [this] as a way to differentiate from one another,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group.

Delta Air Lines is pushing the cleanliness message hard.  CEO Ed Bastian has been promoting this message through the national media for weeks.  The Atlanta-based carrier is sanitizing aircraft between every flight with an electrostatic sprayer; it is blocking middle seats, and it’s providing passengers with prepackaged snack and cleaner bags.

While competitors such as American and United haven’t limited capacity and have said that blocking seats is futile, Bastian said, “In the face of a health crisis, that space onboard really matters.  This is, to us, a really important safety feature.  We hear from customers every day telling us they are switching their loyalty to Delta because of the safety practices we have in place.”