Delta has found a unique way to make the journey to SXSW as entertaining as the event itself, thanks to the airline’s exclusive festival shuttle from Los Angeles to Austin, which ferries industry insiders to the conference with first class service, free-flowing libations and plenty of Southern charm.
“The purpose of the flight was to make a curated experience for the folks on board that was nothing like what they’ve had at the festival,” explained Melissa Abbott, Delta’s manager of sales partnerships, west region. “We felt like getting them to the destination was part of the experience, and if we could create a memorable experience before they even got there, that made for a better trip.”
Delta partners with United Talent Agency on the flight, and this year’s guest list boasted venture capitalists, techies and entertainment luminaries including Keegan-Michael Key, who is bowing a work-in-progress preview of new film “Keanu” at SXSW on March 13.
According to Paul Lee Ruiz, Delta’s district sales manager, southwest region, the Festival Shuttle allows the airline to “engage with a certain type of customer that we’re really targeting, especially here in LA with all our recent growth – we’ve been adding flights to all of the tech centers, to media and entertainment centers, so it all dovetails really nicely with our strategy.”
And the shuttle service is apparently already a hit with Delta’s target demo, per Abbott: “People flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles just to get on this flight, which is great for us, because they had to fly Delta to do that,” she laughed.
In addition to a pre-flight brunch at the terminal’s Rock & Brews, which also served as a networking opportunity, the flight offered fest-goers complimentary Silver Medallion status for the year, free wifi, and a swag bag full of SXSW essentials like headphones, umbrellas, tequila and eco-friendly toothbrushes. The airline also gave away a number of first class, round-trip tickets to JFK, Shanghai, Australia and South America to randomly selected passengers during the flight, which certainly contributed to the ebullient energy on board.
Ruiz observed that the trip to SXSW is “just a really cool way to get to a certain segment of the traveling population; what they really crave is a unique experience.”
“It’s networking too, not only at the brunch but on the flight as well,” Abbott said. “One of our last flights, real business happened and a company was sold. It was a really fun experience.”