LCCs and Valentine's Day: Low cost airlines corner the love market


LCCs and Valentine’s Day go hand in hand in promotional calendars, announcing discounted fares and new routes to stimulate awareness and demand.

Many LCCs have Valentine's Day promotions, but behind the PR fluff are some significant competitive developments that are resulting in the rapid evolution of several major aviation markets around the world.

Interestingly, none of the full service carriers tracked by the Centre had Valentines Day offers.

‘Love is in the fare’ is the latest Pacific Blue slogan, launching its new ultra-low mid-week fares on the key domestic New Zealand routes. Pacific Blue's entry into the New Zealand market has resulted in significant reductions in some Air New Zealand fares, while Air New Zealand and Qantas are making major product upgrades and adding to their domestic fleets. Both incumbents are yet to match Pacific Blue’s new “mid-week mini-fares”, priced from NZD49. General Manager, Commercial, Adrian Hamilton-Manns said “New Zealanders have fallen in love with our low domestic fares so we thought Valentine’s Day was a perfect time to introduce even lower fares on selected days.”

AirAsia is promoting its E-Gift Vouchers this Valentine’s Day, suggesting to viewers to its website that they they are “running short, how about rewarding your loved ones or business partners with a great holiday?” Recipients of vouchers select a destination and enter the voucher code to redeem their travel. AirAsia is poised to enter the crucial Hong Kong market in the first half of 2008, with Airport Authority Hong Kong reportedly now offering incentives packages to LCCs. It follows AirAsia’s entry into the previously protected Kuala Lumpur-Singapore market earlier this month. The carrier has 175 A320s on order.

India’s GoAir has announced a “Valentine Free” offer, which, according to Managing Director, Jeh Wadia, “is a our way of gratifying the smart fliers who wish their loved ones would be with them this Valentine’s, even when they are flying out of their hometowns. Moreover, we believe that a thoughtful flier might like to celebrate such occasion not only on Valentine’s Day but till 30th June - ie travel over the next 135 days and make the most of his personal and professional life.”

In Australia, where Virgin Blue and now Tiger Airways have launched a massive assault on the Canberra market (previously dominated by Qantas) in recent weeks, Tiger is promoting its new route in association with a AUD19.95 offer on the new Melbourne-Canberra service. According to Managing Director, Chris Ward, “instead of sending roses to your loved ones today you can send them away on a romantic weekend to one of our great destinations”, Mr Ward added, “well done [Canberra] on bagging yourself a Tiger!”.

Jazeera Airways has blazed a trail across the Middle East, opening up emerging tourism markets, such as skiing in Iran. Its latest 2 for 1 Valentines Day sale promotes “a passionate dinner by candlelight in the cozy chill of Beirut, an electrifying late walk by the captivating beaches of the Maldives or a fancy dinner in a chic restaurant in breathtaking Dubai?”. According to Jazeera, “no matter what Cupid stroke in your mind, here is an offer you'll love!

Leading European LCC, Ryanair, always uses holidays to great effect, with “flight vouchers for kissing couples”. In a promotion in London’s Leicester Square later today, Ryanair is “spreading the love” by giving away flights to the “50 best kissing couples, as judged by Ryanair’s cupids”.

Denmark’s Sterling Airlines has launched a “lovely 2 for 1 Valentines’ campaign”, covering 301,500 seats available on all routes. Sterling has been one of the European LCCs leading the push into major city and hub airports, which is having a major competitive impact for incumbents. The carrier has also contributed to strong growth rates at Scandinavian airports through its Sterling Viking destinations promotions.

Eastern European LCC, SkyEurope, is aiming to set a "world kissing record", with thousands of couples expected to participate in its Valentine's Day promotion. Each passenger that kisses his or her partner on board a flight today will receive a World Record participant certificate and one free air ticket. The carrier has consolidated its bases, focusing on Prague, Vienna and Bratislava, and is targeting more business routes in 2008.

Virgin America has a "Flying is in, Flowers are out" Valentine's Fare Sale offering “to give that special someone a chance to fly beautifully for less”, with USD39 fares between San Franscisco, San Diego,, New York and from Seattle to Los Angeles. Virgin Blue’s transcontinental services in particular have shaken up the market, lowering yields for other key players, JetBlue and United Airlines.

But the final romantic promotion for the day goes to Southwest Airlines, which is “helping customers find LUV” in its annual Valentine’s Day pitch. (LUV refers to the airport designator code of Southwest’s home at Love Field Airport in Dallas and its stock price code).

Southwest Airlines is partnering with Cupid.com to host the World's Largest Speed-Dating Night in five cities across the nation -- Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and New Orleans. According to Linda Rutherford, the airline’s Vice President of Public Relations and Community Affairs”, "Southwest Airlines has been in the matchmaking business for awhile. With our open-seating policy, you wouldn't believe the amount of letters we get from couples who've met on our planes!”.

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