This week's PRWeek/NOP survey into consumer attitudes towards air
safety should make encouraging reading for major airlines reeling from
the cost of implementing safety measures.
Sixty-seven per cent of the 1,000 respondents to the PRWeek poll said
they feel as safe, if not safer, travelling now as they did last year.
But there is a sting in the tail.
British Airways' and Virgin Atlantic's decisions to reinforce cockpit
doors have received substantial and supportive editorial coverage at a
time when it is most needed. However, according to this week's poll,
just under half of respondents felt that the airline industry overall
has not done enough to reassure passengers of their safety.
In particular, the survey reveals that the target group whose confidence
has been most affected are women - the major purchasers of family
holidays - and young people between the ages of 15 and 34, many of whom
will be economy class travellers.
Sir Richard Branson's decision earlier this month to market on the basis
of safety comparisons, has infuriated BA and created a pressure to
promote on the back of safety measures.
BA is currently conducting its own more detailed research to correlate
patterns in future demand with specific safety concerns - which would no
doubt make for interesting reading if it were ever to be made
The company's existing monitoring of the market points not surprisingly
to the terrorist atrocity of 11 September, and subsequent military
action in Afghanistan, as the main driver of the slump in forward
bookings in both business and economy. The very real fears of travellers
on both sides of the Atlantic are of course a great leveller, as it
matters not a jot to the potential hijacker whether you travel first,
business or economy class. But could there be a class issue here?
BA, of course, remains committed to its economy class travellers, but
could the company's overt concentration on the premium business market
over the last couple of years have given rise to a perception on the
part of economy class passengers - including those nervous women and
under 34-year-olds - that their concerns are secondary? And could this,
in turn, have been compounded by the media coverage of the safety risks
to economy class travellers of DVT on long-haul flights?
The investment in extensive measures to ensure the safety of staff and
passengers is laudable - and will hopefully go some way towards
reversing the falling passenger numbers - but as BA's new communications
director Iain Burns plans further safety-orientated PR activity he would
be well advised to more closely target messages and media to reach
female business and leisure travellers plus the youth market.