BA’s wholly-owned start-up subsidiary OpenSkies is planning “to do a lot more” with social media after its blog helped drive brand-building during its launch phase.
The airline started operating Paris-Orly to New York JFK on June 19, using a Boeing 757 configured into three classes with only 82 seats. Under US regulations, it was only allowed to start selling tickets on May 22.
OpenSkies’ vice president, distribution and e-commerce Chris Vukelich told Travolution that the airline deliberately positioned its blog to market the airline without breaking FAA rules. ‘We wanted to be part of a conversation that had been happening online since we first announced Project Lauren [Open Skies working title].’
The naming of the brand and its routes were revealed through the blog. Similarly, the blogging community was told when the airline became transactional. Nearly 100K people visited the blog before the airline’s inaugural flight, while a time-lapse video showing how its 757 was repainted has been viewed more than 18,000 times on YouTube.
It has also embraced the blogging community, hosting 20 bloggers from the frequent flyers community FlyerTalk.com on its inaugural flight.
OpenSkies marketing strategy is currently in the brand-building phase, although Vukleich says “he never losses sight of the bookings”. Its agency is the New York-based WebLiquid office. Vukelich promised that the airline ‘would do a lot more’ with social media when the campaign moves into a more tactical phase.
As a ‘wholly owned’ subsidiary of BA, OpenSkies has access to some BA infrastructure which, Vukelich claims, gives it a significant advantage over any other start-up airline. ‘On day one we were available through our own web site, through our concierge desk, and also through all BA’s channels, including codeshare and GDSs. Our flights are also available through BA.com, so we work closely with Carsten [Willert, BA.com’s general manager].’
The booking engine of FlyOpenSkies.com is provided by Florida-based Radixx International, separate from the Amadeus engine used by BA. The ‘clean and simple site’ was developed by Huge Inc, who have built web sites for JetBlue, Atlantic Records and Scientific American, among others.