Conde Nast Traveler 2008 airline rankings prove that product is the brand

Schiphol Airport Amsterdam

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Innovative products and services – the key ingredient for strong brands – ooze out all the chart-toppers in Conde Nast Traveler 2008 airline rankings released recently. Last week, in an interview with this blog, Gary Leopold, the CEO of ISM Boston shared that “the product is the brand”. This certainly holds true for for the top few airlines in each category. Below, we’ve pointed out what the top two airlines in each category do right, that makes them so good.

Surprise! in the air

Before we get into what the to airlines do right, how about pointing out some surprises about this latest ranking? Interestingly, Singapore Airlines operates only one trans-Atlantic flight (Frankfurt – JFK), and yet they are in the top two airlines on this route. Even though they don’t use their latest and best planes on this route, the great brand leverage they’ve built for themselves continues to give them lots of mileage on this route.

Where are the US airlines? Bad product + Bad service = bad brand!

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The US airlines are glaringly missing from the international rankings, but even in the domestic US rankings, where are the biggies? Right at the bottom. Only Continental is in the top three, and Delta just peeks in at the fifth place. Where is United Airlines? Where is American Airlines? Where is Northwest Airlines? The fact that these airlines are missing further enforces the importance of having a strong product to build a strong brand in the airline industry. Will the US airline industry ever get back its mojo? We wonder… May be the rest need to learn from the upstart, Virgin America, which has topped the ranking in just one year!

Here are some rankings from the annual Conde Nast Traveler business-travel awards 2008:

Top Trans-Atlantic Business Class

Top Trans-Pacific Business Class

Top U.S. First and/or Business Class

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Showing 3 comments
  • kalleboo
    Reply

    Well you can have a “bad” product and still have a very strong brand, as long people know what to expect. See Ryanair, who is Europe’s third-largest carrier and the world’s largest in # of international passengers.

    Their CEO boldly goes on record to say “If you want a quiet flight, use another airline. Ryanair is noisy, full and we are always trying to sell you something.” (source http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2008/sep/25/ryanair.mobilephones). You know exactly what you’re getting, so nobody is disappointed.

  • kalleboo
    Reply

    Well you can have a “bad” product and still have a very strong brand, as long people know what to expect. See Ryanair, who is Europe’s third-largest carrier and the world’s largest in # of international passengers.

    Their CEO boldly goes on record to say “If you want a quiet flight, use another airline. Ryanair is noisy, full and we are always trying to sell you something.”. You know exactly what you’re getting, so nobody is disappointed.

  • Shashank Nigam
    Reply

    @kalleboo: You bring up a very good point. I think What Ryanair does well is that it sets very low brand expectations of its product and then meets that low expectation. And people are well prepared for less legroom and un-smiling staff since they’ve paid peanuts for the flight. Hence, I believe that the product still is the brand. Where things get awry is when high expectations are set, and then not met.

    Interestingly, a report in The Telegraph released today states that Ryanair is “The world’s least favorite airline” (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/francisca_kellett/blog/2008/10/16/the_worlds_least_favourite_airline). That speaks volumes about the brand image.

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