For the new low-fare shuttle service, United-accustomed to business and vacation travelers- was challenged to rethink its marketing approach to reach regional shuttle flyers. So the company last year brought on board Alan "Sky" Magary, 53, formerly exec VP at Northwest Airlines and a one-time owner of a travel consultancy bearing his name.
"There was some interest in having someone who wasn't steeped in United tradition," Mr. Magary says.
His first challenge was to craft an expanded image for the friendly skies.
"Despite being the largest airline in the world, [United] did not have top-of-mind awareness with the casual passenger," he says.
To achieve this, United needed to target the type of value-oriented, frequent travelers that fly shuttles, but who had little to do with the airline's traditional customer.
"Those [potential shuttle] customers were united by one characteristic," says Mr. Magary. "They [continually] go back and forth to the airport."
So he decided on the logical medium to reach potential Shuttle by United passengers-"Outdoor [advertising] was one of the few efficient tools."
Since then, United has diversified into local multimedia campaigns in primary Shuttle departure cities Los Angeles and San Francisco, while outdoor, radio and newspaper run in six others. A unified campaign focusing on price is planned this summer from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.
Since the shuttle's launch in October, the service averages 22,000 to 30,000 passengers daily on 380 flights, up from 12,000 passengers on 180 flights at startup.
The shuttle fleet now is getting a distinct look, white bodies with blue underbellies, and the shuttle's script logo on the side.
Shuttle by United is expecting to add three additional markets in the West by year's end, bringing its destinations to 19.
In the future, operation outside the West Coast is something Mr. Magary would "certainly like to do."