IQ News: British Airways Pitches Soft Sell

While rival airlines continue to fashion their sites into virtual ticket sales counters, British Airways has quietly unveiled the first phase of a new Web initiative to educate leisure travelers about its core market, London.
In the process, the London-based airline wants to avoid using the Web as a tool to fill seats last minute at a discount. Instead it wants to build a definitive source of information for its top travel hubs around the globe.
“It’s very much in the kernel phase,” said Simon Rendall, distribution project manager at British Airways. “Our focus is really to provide information to our customers. So if it leads to more sales, then so be it.”
The “Traveller’s Guide to London” was developed by interactive agency of record, Agency.com, New York. It was added to the site at www.british-airways.com/london as part of a soft launch last month without promotional support.
It comes with suggested itineraries, maps and directions, tips on exchanging currency, plus hotel and restaurant reviews from Fodor’s and British Airways staffers. The guide will start to incorporate more user feedback within the next six months, perhaps through user-generated, London-themed communities, according to Rendall.
The company doesn’t plan on directing visitors to make London reservations on the site or even with the airline. However, with an estimated three-quarters of its air traffic flying through London airports, the company wants to build brand awareness among London-bound leisure travelers by giving them a reason to return to the site, Rendall said.
–Bernhard Warner