EasyJet shoots itself in the foot with price attack on full service British Airways

I was very pleased to see the new British Airways campaign break over the last few days for a variety of reasons; not least BA setting out a clear positioning that puts a clear stake in the ground versus their various competitors. But more of that a little later.

Then I saw the easyJet response to the BA line ‘To Fly, To Serve’ which is To Fly, To Save’.

Just have a look at this comparison I made today (2.00 p.m Monday 26th September). I was looking for flights from London to Nice going out this coming Saturday, 1st October returning Monday 3rd October.

easyJet from Gatwick: Flights, £315.35, 1 bag £24.00, speedy boarding £22.00, credit card charge £17.23 (odd!), total: £378.58
British Airways from T5 Heathrow: Flights, £297.50 with no other charges.

Timings roughly comparable, the early easyJet flight from Gatwick was 05.55, no thanks, so I went for one mid morning, BA was earlier.

Also taking in to consideration Heathrow is far more convenient for me (I’m 10 minutes from the Heathrow Express), T5 is on a different planet to the South Terminal at Gatwick, I don’t have to pay for food or drinks on BA, also I get airmiles on BA whilst easyJet make no attempt to get my loyalty, all in all BA is a far superior service.

So BA ends up £81.08 less money for a superior service yet easyJet continue to suggest they are cheaper. That is rarely my experience unless I book ten months in advance which doesn’t suit my life at all.

I have done quite a lot of work in the airline market and the impact of the low cost operators has been significant and there are clear, obvious benefits; in particular it has liberated air travel for millions of people. However it isn’t all one way.

A few years ago the BBC programme Watchdog conducted an on-line survey of attitudes towards air travel and they had c. 25,000 responses. It was very clear a big proportion of the survey were highly critical of the low cost operators, in particular Ryanair. Also one clear outcome was that price was not the main reason for choice for more than a quarter of the survey; service and value were the two main reasons for this group. As we all know, value isn’t about price per se, it is the net outcome after considering all of the variables.

I would much prefer to pay £50 more for a return flight with BA than fight my way through the easyJet experience.

The BA campaign should be applauded because it does say there is another way, a choice, with a brand that has heritage and a customer facing mission. Also it creates clear blue water between them and Virgin Atlantic.

I loved Virgin’s 25th anniversary TV work, it was uplifting and I wanted to be part of their gang. So for me it’s always a toss up between BA and Virgin for a long haul flight, I almost never consider an alternative.

Someone I work closely with in the airline sector is a top level finance guy and his Aussie observation is “they all fly the same tin so the difference is the power of the brand and its delivery.’’ Well put for a finance man.

Most of us work on the recommendation/opinions of our own peer group and word of mouth is very, very powerful. People love swapping stories about flights, airlines, airports, etc. Therefore perception is a strong influencer of decisions and this is a very important role for advertising; reinforcing perceptions rather than constantly promoting cheap flights because the word ‘cheap’ sticks eventually.

I would have thought BA is committed to being a ‘full service’ operator and therefore needs/must ensure every part of its connection with passengers is consistently good quality, including their advertising. Their web site is excellent, their advance notice of travel arrangements is first class, and everything combines to make a statement of the brand.

For me the new advertising is out of the top draw and gives me more ammo I can add to my reasons for actively choosing BA over easyJet when I fly to and from Europe.

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.