Delta taps Express veteran to help new airline take off

ATLANTA: Delta has appointed Stacy Geagan, a veteran of its Express and Shuttle brands, to head of corporate communications for its new, yet-to-be-named, low-cost airline.

ATLANTA: Delta has appointed Stacy Geagan, a veteran of its Express and Shuttle brands, to head of corporate communications for its new, yet-to-be-named, low-cost airline.

As GM of corporate communications for the low-fare subsidiary, Geagan will be responsible for all internal and external relations, including the launch of the new brand in early 2003. She will report to the president of the low-fare subsidiary, John Selvaggio, through Delta's matrix system, wherein communications staffers are assigned to each managerial team, working alongside internal and external communications teams.

The low-fare subsidiary will use the brand marketing, entertainment, and corporate arms of Ketchum, Delta's AOR.

From 1999-2001, Geagan headed communications for Delta Express, Delta's earlier low-fare effort, which is being phased out to make way for the new brand. In 2000, Geagan also took on Delta Shuttle, the airline's premium shuttle service between New York, Washington, DC, and Boston.

Delta Express was a disappointment, and Delta, along with several rivals that attempted similar low-fare sub-brands, was criticized for failing to differentiate it from its parent.

But the new airline will be a tricky balancing act, debuting just as Delta cuts business fares on its main service by up to 20%. To prevent it from eating away at its parent's figures, the new brand will be targeted at leisure travelers rather than business passengers.

"Whereas the main line continues to focus on business travelers, we're looking for a more price-conscious, well-rounded brand," Geagan said, adding that a typical low-fare customer might be a regular Delta business traveler looking to save money when visiting family.

Delta unveiled the business plan in a conference call featuring CEO Leo Mullin late last month, but is rolling out the new brand in stages to build suspense among the business press. A brand identity will be unveiled by February, Geagan said.

Delta, the nation's third-largest airline by passenger miles, has fared better in the downturn than rivals US Airways and United, thanks in part to lower labor costs (though it recently announced 8,000 job cuts). Delta has concentrated its communications of late on reassuring passengers that it is taking steps to reduce the "hassle factor" of post-September-11 travel through amenities such as wider check-in lanes and self-service ticket kiosks.

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