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Airlines Courting Consumers: Just A Ploy?

Tomorrow night Houston Councilmembers will hold another meeting to hear from the public about the proposed expansion of Hobby Airport. Meanwhile — both Southwest and United Airlines have taken the issue to the advertising desk.

Southwest Airlines wants to add another terminal to Hobby Airport and start providing international flights to Mexico
and the Carribbean.

United Airlines says all international flights should fly out of Bush Intercontinental.

Houston Councilmembers will ultimately make the decision on whether to allow Southwest to expand at Hobby.

So why are both airlines aggressively airing TV and radio commercials, launching websites and paying for big splash ads online?

“They want people on the city council to believe they’re taking it to the public.”

Betsy Gelb is a professor of marketing at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business. She says the airlines want to create a perception with these ads that they’re courting consumers.

“I don’t think their real audience is consumers, I think it’s the folks on the city council. They just want them to perceive, in the case of United, hey you really need to think about this. And in the case of Southwest, since United is going to be out there advertising, we’re going to be advertisting.”

Gelb says one reason the airlines might want to create the perception of taking the issue to the public is because lobbying is seen as negative while listening to constituents is viewed as positive.

A community meeting is scheduled tomorrow from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Houston Marriott South.

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Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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