Nine marketing tips for airlines and airports planning to surprise and wow travelers this holiday season
In the last 24 hours, I’ve received over 30 emails and tweets from airlines sharing their latest surprise campaigns for holiday travelers. In fact, last year, Toronto Pearson Airport surprised me by singing Christmas carols for me, just before I boarded my flight to Vancouver. We even released a Top 10 case-pack that showcased what we called “wow” campaigns by airlines during the holiday season.

As airlines look to build brand affinity among travelers during this peak season globally, we thought we’d share the top tips for making these marketing efforts successful. 

  • Work with your own employees, rather than hiring performers. It creates a stronger emotive bond among the staff, and helps the travelers connect to the airline better. In their recent flashmob, 105 Westjetters surprised over 165 passengers waiting for their flight to Toronto. 
  • Try to gather as much behind-the-scenes visual material as possible, and use it to keep talking about the initiative. A “making-of” video can be released together with videos of the event itself, and it’d likely attract just as many views! 
  • Add a local flavor from your country or region. Guess what, every second airline is trying to be “Santa’s official airline”. So what’s yours doing different? Keep it local! 
  • Try to surprise passengers when they are least expecting it, in the least interesting moments of the travel cycle. For example, just before boarding or in the middle of the flight, when not much else is happening.
  • Broadcast directly – put it on YouTube, Vimeo and YouKu and everywhere else. In fact, get staff to shoot behind-the-scenes footage using their mobile phones and upload on Instagram and Pinterest too! The wider you spread the content, the more people are likely to view it. 
  • Give LOTS of royalty-free versions of content in multiple formats. This makes it easy for people to share with another, on multiple platforms. 
  • Have the right tags. Make sure the video and any other material is tagged with Christmas and travel related key words. This make it easy for those spending Christmas at home to discover your videos too!
  • Have a before, during and after plan. Don’t just try to execute your act. Try to drive curiosity before the event, if possible. And within a few hours of the event, in addition to uploading lots of assets online, get customers’ reactions and share them too. And of course, do an internal de-brief with the team to make the effort better the next time. 
  • Watch out for the details! As someone famous has said, “the devil lies in the detail”. Plan well. Make sure there are no security clearances you need ahead of time at the airport. Ensure that the pilots and crew do not compromise safety in any way. And of course, Santa has to be in the perfect Red, isn’t it? 

Looking forward to many airlines surprising passengers this Christmas. Happy holidays!

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

CEO at SimpliFlying
Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco.

Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others.

Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
Shashank Nigam

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