Networking: A Dallas Love Story

UNTJ4460- PR Communication

Being a part of a pre-professional organization is something that has become very important to my education, and hopefully will continue to be so as I start my career. Here’s my recap of a PRSA Dallas Breakfast I attended this week.

The Wright Amendment, to my understanding, was passed after the regional airports in Dallas and Fort Worth stopped receiving federal funding to allow the creation of what is now the Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport. Southwest Airlines found its success during this time, but in order to continue operating out of Love Field, airlines were limited to where they could fly.

Virgin America was founded in 2007 and branded itself as a low-cost airline that would cater to the young, urban professional, at a time when the airline industry was not doing so well.

Abby Lunardi, vice president of brand marketing and communications for Virgin America and Marvin Singleton, executive vice president and general manager for Hill + Knowlton in Dallas presented a case study on how Virgin came to operate out of Love Field.

Love Field, LaGuardia and Reagan airports are the business airports in America and Dallas’ demographics matched Virgin’s target market. In 2014, with the phasing out of the Wright Amendment, it would be possible for Virgin to move to Dallas.

Virgin did not have the big bank or the relationships that other airlines had in Dallas to be able to easily get the bid for the two newly empty hangers at Love Field. They had to figure out a way to compete for them, which is not a part of Virgin’s company culture. Since they were not seeing any gains with campaigning with officials in Dallas, they looked at creating a consumer campaign to gain support.

Virgin and Hill + Knowlton played up the “David and Goliath” story- them coming to Dallas would lead to more competition in the skies and lower costs, which would be beneficial for all involved, especially consumers.

Virgin announced a press event for which they only had a week to plan for. The team in Dallas wanted to use a plane for the event, but since they were not allowed to park it at a gate in Love Field, they had to be crafty about it. They announced that they were going to start selling tickets for service from Love Field, but at the time of the announcement, they still did not have the approval they needed to operate in Love Field. This led to over 13 stories in the Dallas Morning News alone.

Virgin launched a website (freelovefield.com) that linked to a Change.org petition and had infographics that plead their case.

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They played with the airport’s name and their own brand to appeal to consumers. While the campgain received a lot of momentum (press, consumer support) politically it was still going nowhere.

To thank Dallas for the support that they received, they held a party at The Rustic at which they got more people to sign the petition and showed some corporate social responsibility by making a donation to KIPP DFW, while teaming up with Uber. Sir Richard Branson made an appearance and the next day was appeared on Fox Business pleading Virgin’s case.

That led to Sir Branson’s “love letter” to Dallas, which was dropped during the Dallas city council meeting that determined the fate of the two gates at Love Field.

Virgin’s first flight in Love Field was another event in itself, a short ride from DFW to DAL.

Since Virgin’s arrival in Dallas, air fares have reduced by 30% in the region and Virgin has gained brand awareness among their intended audience.

It is always great to hear from professionals in the field. Listening to current case studies from people that are working now provides an education that can’t always be taught in the classroom, which is why I like to attend networking events whenever I can.

 

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