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 out 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.