Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. But three times? I have to give United Airlines credit for taking a highly theoretical concept, its new supersonic aircraft, and turning it into a marketing bonanza.
United Airlines Theoretical Supersonic Aircraft Shows Us The Power Of Marketing
At the outset, I think one of the biggest losses to aviation ever was the loss of Concorde, not so much because these speedbirds were efficient or comfortable (they were neither), but because their futuristic design and Mach 2.0 cruising speed represented an amazing step in aviation progress. Leave London after afternoon tea and be home in New York in time for lunch? Simply amazing.
And now comes the next generation of supersonic planes, by a company called Boom Supersonic. United has placed a firm order for these jets, with plans to enter service by 2029, but there’s a huge asterisk. Even United’s marketing material states that the order is subject to the aircraft meeting United’s “safety, operating and sustainability” requirements. I can only imagine how much wiggle room there is in the contract.
But the excitement over this is palpable. When United announced its new “order” for supersonic planes, it made headlines across the world. Not just blogs like mine, but national news networks. In a sense, one press release unleashed weeks of positive press without buying any ad time for a product that does not exist and may never come to fruition. That’s powerful marketing.
United now screens this commercial after the safety video on its flights—
Over the last couple weeks, I cannot believe the comments I hear onboard. People are genuinely excited. One dad told his daughter, “Look! Look! United is going to run supersonic jets across the ocean!”
On another flight, the man sitting in first class next to me leaned over and said very matter-of-factly, “Pretty soon we are going to be able to travel to Tokyo in six hours. Did you see this?”
Yesterday, it was the people across the aisle from me, all strangers, talking to each other about how cool it would be to travel supersonic.
I’d say three instances within two weeks represents a strong pattern.
And yes, it would be so cool to travel supersonic, even in a coach seat.
I have to hand it to United’s marketing team: it’s like when Polaris was rolled out six years ago to great fanfare, even though the vast majority of United’s fleet still featured the older business class product. And sure enough, it worked: I’l never forget the time I was traveling from San Francisco to Frankfurt and my seatmate proudly told his travel companion that this (8-seats-across) business class cabin was “the new Polaris. Isn’t it great?”
My takeaway is that people love to dream…the idea of cutting travel time down by almost half in a curvaceous new supersonic airliner combines the so many elements of aspirational travel. To all of this, I can only say, well done United: now don’t disappoint us.