Hotel Chains Use Travel Troubles as Selling Points

April 13, 2017

travel-troublesThis week United Airlines has faced a surge in public anger following the release of a video that showed a passenger being dragged off of an overbooked flight. Along with its plummeting reputation, the company’s stock price has also experienced quite a bit of turbulence since the incident. At its worst point United shares fell 6.3 percent, reducing the the airline’s market value by $1.4 billion. United’s CEO has repeatedly apologized for the way the company handled the situation and announced that it will reimburse all the passengers who were on the offending flight.

Of course, United still has a long way to go before it can win back the public’s trust. For many fliers, though, their hostility towards air carriers began long before this disturbing incident hit the Internet. Sky-high ticket prices, additional fees for checked bags, and increasingly cramped cabins have all contributed to widespread disapproval of the ways that airlines do business. In fact, complaining about travel has become so commonplace that many hotel chains have started to address the issue in their marketing.
For example, a recent print advertisement from Westin Hotels & Resorts reads, “Take back what seat 34E took from you.” Another campaign from Hilton centers on the phrase “Stop clicking around,” referring to price-comparison sites like Expedia that can sometimes overwhelm travelers with choices. The idea is to acknowledge the inconvenience of traveling while promising the customer a comfortable destination at the end of their journey. “It can actually be a strategy to disarm consumers,” said Derek Rucker, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University. “When you represent some of the potential negatives of a product or service, that actually makes me feel as if I’m better informed.” As effective as these ads may be, however, it’s likely that many passengers would prefer to see air travel improve instead of acting as an easy punchline for advertisers.



  1. Are hotel ads that acknowledge the hardships of travel effective?
  2. Do you think airlines will try to improve passengers’ flying experience in the coming years?

Sources: Martha C. White, “Traveling Is Stressful, but Do It With Us, Companies Say,” The New York Times, January 22, 2017; Michael Sasso and Mary Schlangenstein, “United to Reimburse All Passengers on Flight That Caused Uproar,” Bloomberg, April 12, 2017; Lucinda Shen, “United Airlines Stock Drops $1.4 Billion After Passenger-Removal Controversy,” Fortune, April 11, 2017.