Since the crash of the Air France Concorde a year and a half ago, the industry’s only supersonic jet fleet had been grounded. Combined with the fact that the fleet was about 30 years old, many believed the end had come for high-speed air travel. To refute those rumors, British Airway’s maintained on-going communication with their premier Concorde customers throughout the year and half – sending them newsletters, hosting events and keeping them apprised of the safety improvements being made—and by Fall 2001 (post 9/11) they were ready to relaunch the Concorde to what they considered a viable customer base.
While it was no secret to GCI, British Airway’s agency of record, that plans were being made to relaunch the Concorde, they were not aware of the timing because of security reasons. So with exactly one week’s notice they were assigned the challenge of developing a media relations program to reintroduce the Concorde timed to its inaugural flight from London to New York’s JFK airport and to coordinate the program with Air France – the only other airline to offer Concorde travel. Not only was GCI successful in their ability to organize and execute the event in a very uncertain and unpredictable media relations environment, the results generated more than exceeded expectations in quantity and quality.
The post 9/11 assignment presented several challenges:
· The media landscape had dramatically changed and breaking news dominated news coverage;
· Fear of flying was at an all-time high;
· GCI needed to navigate through very tenuous waters to ensure successful execution of a media event about luxury air travel without being insensitive to a shaken post 9/11 consumer audience;
· Airport security was extremely tight, making for more complicated event logistics
Not only did GCI manage to execute a program under such a tight time frame, they were also able to strategically orchestrate an event that accomplished three key objectives:
· It broke through the breaking news barriers;
· Struck a delicate balance to the events of 9/11 and luxury travel without jeopardizing British Airway’s corporate image;
· Ensured that British Airway’s received top billing in media coverage.
GCI immediately recognized the significant positive impact the Concorde’s relaunch could have on consumers’ attitudes towards travel and realized the announcement/event would support New York Mayor Giuliani’s campaign to reinvigorate tourism to New York. GCI successfully initiated their client’s outreach to the Mayor’s office and they in turn secured his participation. This connection with the mayor’s campaign was also an important component because it helped diffuse any potential negative coverage of the Concorde’s relaunch.
GCI used the following additional key strategies to overcome aforementioned challenges:
· Align inaugural flight with a famous NY celebrity
· Leverage celebrity passenger on board inaugural flight (Sting)
· Position British Airways as the premiere Concorde airline.
The British Airways Concorde arrived at JFK airport and media were invited to shoot the landing from the rooftop of the Concorde Lounge.
After the Concorde taxied to Gate 2, British Airways Chief Executive, Rod Eddington who was aboard the inaugural flight, was greeted by Mayor Giuliani. Giuliani then greeted all the passengers on board including music industry celebrity, Sting.
A formal press conference followed and was staged in the Concorde Lounge/First Dining Room and the following event participants delivered remarks:
· UK Minister for Transport, Rt. Hon John Spellar MP Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
· Jean-Claude Gayssott, French Transport Minister
· Rod Eddington, British Airways Chief Executive
· Jean-Cyril Spinetta, Air France Chairman and CEO
Rod Eddington and Jean-Cyril Spinetta presented Mayor Giuliani with a Concorde model with plaque inscription.
Following the Q&A, the curtains of the lounge were pulled open to expose the British Airways and Air France Concordes positioned nose-to-nose.
Rod Eddington, Jean-Cyril Spinetta and Mayor Giuliani then moved out to the tarmac for photo opportunities.
Media were escorted to the roof of the Concorde Lounge to shoot footage and photography.
One-on-one interviews were staged with Mike Bannister, British Airways Chief Concorde pilot
Print Media Highlights include:
· Wall Street Journal: 1,819,528 circulation
· New York Times (with photo): 1,698,281 circulation
· Los Angeles Times- Sunday: 4,351,416
Broadcast Media Highlights include
· ABC-TV Good Morning America: 4,660,780
· ABC-TV World News Tonight: 10,661,850
· NBC-TV Today: 6,096,340
· NBC-TV Nightly News: 11,339,370
· CBS-TV Evening News: 9,805,920
· CNN: NA