Cathay Pacific Lets Social Media Stars into Its San Francisco Lounge

Cathay Pacific has recently embarked on what is at the very least, a truly unique and interesting experiment. Those who have a high level of influence in the world of social media will now be allowed to enter the airline’s lounge without charge whenever they happen to be flying Cathay Pacific Gives Klout Stars Lounge Accessout of the A concourse in San Francisco’s international terminal.

To me, this smells like a very smart promotion. The rationale is simple. Those who are social media stars are likely going to be Tweeting, posting on Facebook, and maybe even pinning things on Pinterest. If they have a wide reach, then Cathay’s lounge is going to be talked about a lot by a lot of people with influence. Not only will the airline get good, targeted exposure, but it will get some of the benefits of having a celebrity spokesperson without having to actually pay for it.

Why do companies get celebrity spokespeople? Because they think that you will have a more positive view of the offering and be more likely to buy it if someone you trust supports what they’re selling. That works to varying degrees (are you going to get a payday loan from MoneyMutal because Montel Williams says so?), but in this case, it should work wonders. There are plenty of social media stars who are hardly celebs, but they have avid followers that they can influence. If that helps keep Cathay Pacific top of mind and it gets people onboard the aircraft down the line, then it’s a success.

The threshold for success should be low because this can’t cost the airline much. The only real potential issue I can see is if so many people use it that it dilutes the experience for paying passengers.

The biggest issue, of course, is determining who should be considered a social media star. The vehicle Cathay Pacific has chosen is Klout. Klout uses a lot of voodoo and hocus-pocus to score people on their influence in social media circles. This score is on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being the most awesome person to have ever lived. I rank as a 51, which is apparently good enough to get me in the door for Cathay Pacific. If you have a score of 40 or higher, you can get past the velvet rope.

There’s just one problem. So far, it’s only valid for those with the Klout app on the iPhone. I’m assuming that’s just a temporary issue, because there are plenty of people with Android phones or *gasp* Blackberries who might like to take advantage of this.

The big question in my mind is . . . how many people will actually use this? I mean, the Cathay Pacific lounge is in the A concourse at SFO’s international terminal. Without going through each airline, it’s effectively the home of non-Star Alliance airlines that fly internationally out of SFO. Oh, and JetBlue is there as well for domestic flights. The lounge is open four hours before each of the airline’s two daily flights. That means you can get in there from 935a to 135p and from 910p to 110a.

People don’t just have to be flying on Cathay to take advantage of this, so there is a wider audience than you might expect. Heck, if I’m flying JetBlue to Long Beach on the noon flight (and if I had an iPhone, which I don’t), I could walk right in and relax with the Cathay passengers. That’s pretty sweet.

And you know what? I’m sure I’d tweet about it. And I’d write it up in my trip report. And then maybe some of you would start thinking about how you wish you could try out Cathay Pacific. That’s exactly why the airline is doing this. I think it’s a very smart play, as long as the response isn’t too strong that it hurts the experience for paying passengers.

[Original photo via Flickr user Ken_Mayer/CC 2.0]

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28 Comments on "Cathay Pacific Lets Social Media Stars into Its San Francisco Lounge"

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David
Guest

You forget however about the credibility on the web of the person who’s doing the blogging. Start advertising too many products without disclosure, and twitter followers starts to go down…

Rohit Rao
Member

Doesn’t appear to be too hard to get a 40… I think they’re going to need to raise the qualifying score…

Rohit Rao
Member

For the record, I have a score of 41 myself, and I had no clue that I was influential at all.

Nick Barnard
Member

I manage a 36.49.. Sadly my only planned trip through SFO in November departing at 5:55 pm…

SEAN
Guest

Sorry Brett, I need to call it for what it is. This is a freek’n joke. Ever herd of the term sheeple? Anyone who is easily influenced by online communication in the way you describe, are just that – sheep & we all know what ends up happening to sheep.

SEAN
Guest

Point taken. However, regardless how trusted a given source might be, the public needs to think for them selves & not get caught up in what someone says on social media. Hense my sheeple comment above.

Sorry if you didn’t take it that way.

David SF eastbay
Member

If I saw some social media posts from inside the club posting about it, I would just think they got something for free and are saying nice things so wouldn’t make much of it.

Wait until the first celeb or Silicon Valley billionaire starts seeing tweets about them from someone within the club saying how they just picked their nose, went to pee, stunk up the toilet, didn’t wash their hands, etc.

Sounds more like CX is just trying to ‘buy’ good press.

SEAN
Guest

Sorry Brett, I need to call it for what it is, a pittiful joke. Cathay Pacific is looking for sheeple & giving access to a lounge to those who can leed the herd.

Jason H
Guest
SEAN – I think you are having a reaction to something that you might need to pause and consider. The rise of blogs and other social media are a two edged sword (which is an odd saying, but that’s a digression for a blog perhaps). The democratization of news and information that they enable have led to more information on otherwise obscure topics. However, they have also led to the compartmentalization of people and their opinions. Twitter is a natural extension of this process with the added “quick and fast” format that many people are demanding today. The reason they… Read more »
SEAN
Guest

CX is trying to use the growing penetration of social media and the number of people that use social media contacts to help form opinions and make decisions to position their airline as cutting edge.

Fare enough, but everyone needs to consider that just because social media is used to influence opinions &shape decision making, doesn’t meen the outcomes will be positive. Again as I posted to brett, the public needs to think for them selves. Just because Cathay Pacific is cutting edge, will that translate in higher profit margins?

AbFabSkyLife
Guest

I think my major takeaway from this is that Klout finally has a mobile app. Nevertheless, I think an AVGeek roadtrip is necessary.

Derek Pugh
Member

I just learned that if you link BOTH your facebook and twitter to your Klout account that your score goes up…Mine is now 46 (was 33 only with twitter)… Brett if you can link your blog/flicker to Klout somehow, your score will go even higher!

David
Guest

Wondering now if this is all an (albeit interesting) overblown reaction. Someone at Cathay’s office in SFO has probably been reading about Klout and Kred, and decided ‘we wanna be cool too !’
It’s one station in a town where everyone is a tech wannabe. Certainly worth a trial, but may well be squished by management in HK if it doesn’t produce some results

Chuck Westcott
Member
Sorry Cranky but I have to go with the majority of the replies here. I believe that “social clout” is even more over-valued than Facebook stock. Just because someone has an elevated Klout score (much like their ego, I’m sure!) doesn’t mean they have a clue about the value of a product or service. If you, as an experienced travel industry insider, tweet from there telling me what a great value it is, I’m likely to pay attention. But when some techno-geek-hipster-mogul-wanna-be, with an inflated Kred score–which means they likely spend more time posting and checking in than doing something… Read more »
Jason H
Guest

While a valid point to disregard it out of hand is folly of the opposite extreme. People often opt for the either/or extremes because it is easier to handle than forming an educated opinion. Not saying you are doing so, but that it is the majority rather than the minority.

QRC3288
Guest
Sorry Brett, but it’s a complete joke. The folks I know who pay for premium classes on Cathay already know what Cathay is – they don’t need someone on Twitter to tell them about it. Myself, colleagues and peers have contributed at times upwards of $100k USD/year each to Cathay in recent years, and it is an embarrassment, a degradation of the brand and an point of complete disrespect. I know at least one person who has switched to SQ01/02 (SFO-HKG flight competitor to Cathay’s) because this was the last straw. 1.) The CX new lounge in SFO is already… Read more »
Sean
Guest

Honestly this post define for me exactly everything that is wrong with the attitude of people who buy first class tickets. It’s less about buying a comfortable chair to fly in then lording it over the so called little people with the fact that you can drop your company’s travel budget on your flights.

Sanjeev M
Guest

Yes I also don’t like it when first class people feel over-entitled but they’re they ones subsidizing our cheapo economy tickets.

Lets see what the effect on the lounge at SFO is. A report from a Cranky reader or somewhere on one of the airline forums would be good.

QRC3288
Guest

I’ve been there twice now. It’s a nice lounge but crammed.

Sean
Guest

Saying first class fliers subsidize economy class is like saying someone who buys the more expensive bauble at a retail store su sidize those who buy something more reasonable. While space on an aircraft is rather inelastic, the truth is airlines could cut back on the suites and simply have more biz class and still come out even. The reality is that fliers are concerned with getting to their destination, and however the airlines decide to set up the cabin consumers will have to tolerate.

QRC3288
Guest
I don’t mean to sound over-entitled, my apologies for the tone. My vitriol is certainly not about lording over the “little people”. There are HEAPS of people who pay fair and square for economy tickets and earn their benefits, and they should get every ounce of what they’re entitled to. And they do it with a lot less $ for Cathay than guys who fly J and F, but they still are fair well entitled to the benefits the airline has promised them. Those promised benefits greatly affect pax’s purchasing decisions. Cathay has a “Silver” tier (30k miles a year),… Read more »
Sanjeev M
Guest

Good point. It’s like when DL values Amex cardholders as much as its butt-in-seat Silver Medallions by giving them a free bag.

Yeah this is probably the byproduct of some MBA/Consulting firm. This is why airline people need to run airlines.

Sean
Guest

Except many in the seat people have the card. Why not when I can earn double miles?

V
Guest

Klout is easily gamed into increasing your score. Google it and you can see how to artificially increase your score. This is the reason why it is not a reliable source of information.

AdventureRob
Guest

Certainly a good move from a PR perspective… until an influential blogger has a negative experience there. Companies are only just realising how influential some of these people are and like starting a facebook page, they don’t always know what they are getting into.

This has potential negative side effects for them, so it does require some bravery on Cathay Pacific’s choice, but shows they have confidence in their lounge. Now to see if it has any effect at all…

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[…] exchange for the odd promotional snap. It’s the latest in a trend of campaigns such as this.┬áCathay Pacific Airlinesopened up their lounges to those with high social influence scores, and Ford were even more explicit […]

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