©Brian Losito

©Brian Losito

The idea of generating revenue by monetizing various aspects of the journey experience will always hold enormous appeal to the world’s airlines. After all, revenues generated by ancillary sales deliver a high ROI when compared to putting “bums in seats.”

But recent economic trends are narrowing the gene pool of potential partners in the monetization of the airline environment. As Robert Smith of IMDC recently stated in Aircraft Interiors magazine,“what little ancillary revenue exists can be expected to drop drastically.”

While this is generally true when looking for partners willing to participate in the selling of onboard meals and other elements of the journey experience, some airlines are seeing an increase in revenue from in-flight media sales. Three good examples:

• Air Canada’s enRoute magazine increased its January 2009 ad pages by 9% vs. a decline of 17% in its competitive set (Source: LNA / Nielson).

• Virgin Atlantic’s pre-movie ad-spot deal with Pearl & Dean continues to deliver revenues and even entertain its customers.

United Airlines’ deal with Westin proves that premium passengers aren’t the only ones who want access to the airline lounge.

So if you’re an airline, how do you increase your media revenues in these challenging times? Here are the 10 Ancillary Revenue Rules Every Airline Needs to Follow:

  • Think fast. Advertisers are changing their creative to suit market conditions as they evolve. No advertiser will wait three months for an airline to “sell” a concept through to all internal stakeholders. Streamlining internal approval processes and getting cross-departmental buy-in before you start selling the concept to a potential advertiser will make your media far more attractive to top brands.
  • Think rich. AVOD entertainment systems and airline online media need to deliver a rich media experience that rivals the customer’s at-home Internet experience.
  • Bonus creatively. Even Condé Nast is offering huge discounts to advertisers: That’s what you’re competing against. Airlines have the ability to offer value-added incentives in the form of bonusing an advertiser into less-performing media platforms (pages, web, online, etc.), so…
  • Discount intelligently but never undersell. Because your rates will never recover post-recession.
  • Sell the quality.
    • The audience: It’s been said a million times, but it bears repeating: The in-flight audience is the most attractive audience an advertiser could want. The transumer’s (consumer in transit) mindset is more open to sales messaging  – and the advent of AVOD systems makes targeting them easier than ever.
    • The products: In-flight magazines are better than ever, and the content on AVOD systems rivals cable networks in quantity and quality. Good content means an engaged – and receptive – customer.
    • The editorial environment: Check out these covers of The Economist. If you were a major luxury brand, why would you want to be in that kind of doom and gloom environment? Suddenly, in-flight magazines and their “safer” editorial environments don’t seem like such a bad thing!
  • Sell the entire journey. Only airlines can deliver multiple customer touchpoints throughout the entire experience with their brand – from trip research and planning through to the return home. When brought together and sold as a whole, these touchpoints are of huge value to an advertiser.
  • Standardize your media. Offer media products advertisers want and are used to – they don’t have the budget to customize creative for your platforms.
  • Provide proof of ROI. Advertisers want to know what impact their messaging is having on your customers.
  • Research. Know who your competitors are, what they’re offering – and offer more!
  • Find and keep professional partners. Your core business is flying, that’s your expertise. You’ll only maximize your media revenues if you work with a professional partner who knows the advertising market as well as you know the airline industry.

Thinking like a media owner and a publisher – and less like an airline  – will ensure a substantial increase in advertising revenues despite market conditions. Passengers are more stressed than ever. Great IFE and a comfortable in-flight environment means receptive – and willing – consumers… all happily adding to an airline’s bottom line.