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ASIAN ROADBLOCKS STALL U.S. AIRLINES MARKETING; U.S. LEARNING HOW TO COMPETE WITH REGION'S CARRIERS

By Published on .

U.S. airlines are trying to expand their Asian business but they are encountering headwinds, particularly from treaties that limit their access to certain countries.

"U.S. carriers have to do more [marketing] to penetrate the Asian-Pacific market," said Rudi Chen, director, Simmet Hellison & Eichner, New York. "But agreements that were written 20 years ago now restrict U.S. carriers."

He acknowledged that the U.S. is trying to negotiate treaties with Asian countries to allow more U.S. airlines into Asian markets.

GROWING JAPANESE MARKET

Mr. Chen's figures show Asian travel is growing at a sizzling pace, with Japan representing the largest market for U.S. airlines.

"This year, 63% of passengers between Japan and the U.S. boarded U.S. carriers," said Mr. Chen.

With proper marketing, U.S. airlines can be as effective as Asian carriers, especially if they can offer as many flights, he said, adding that fares, inflight services and fleet service are what U.S. airlines should be promoting to Asians.

United Airlines launched non-stop service from Chicago to Hong Kong in July, but it has not committed a large budget to marketing the route. In part, United is holding back because it's conducting an agency review. The $100 million account currently resides with Leo Burnett. United introduced the route with a series of full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Chicago Tribune which will continue until October.

Northwest Air Lines, United's major U.S. competitor in the region, said Asian passengers already take up 50% of the seats on their Pacific routes. In Japan the airline is running a print campaign dubbed "Operation Integrity."

"That addresses our reliability, certainty and leadership in technology," said Brandon Zurlo, director, international marketing, for Northwest. The ads for the Asian market come from FCB, Tokyo.

HOW TO COMPETE SUCCESSFULLY

U.S. carriers can compete successfully with Asian airlines, Henry Joyner, vp-marketing planning for American Airlines, believes. "But we need greater access to Asian markets," he said. "We are now trying to get additional route non-stop authority from the U.S. to Tokyo and Osaka."

American, United and Delta Airlines use marketing alliances with carriers that provide them better service to Asia.

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