A ticket for Southwest Airlines' inaugural non-stop flight from Dallas Love Field to Memphis on Tuesday didn't just guarantee a seat; it also provided admission to a live concert in the air.
"Today we have the Black Cadillacs on board with us flying from Dallas to Memphis," Southwest's Michelle Agnew announced to passengers.
Once the seat belt sign was turned off, band members took their positions by the jet's front door.
Southwest had an indie rock band called the Black Cadillacs inaugurate its new non-stop service. They played two songs (both acoustic) for a sold-out audience of 143.
The airline calls this "Live at 35" (for 35,000 feet), and this isn't the first time.
Better Than Ezra performed on one flight. Southwest hosted a fashion show with models using the center aisle for a runway.
And remember that wedding last fall? Two frequent flyers got hitched somewhere over Arkansas.
"We see this continuing," Agnew said. "Our customers love it. Our fans love it. On social, they ask for their favorite bands to perform on a flight."
This isn't just a marketing gimmick; Southwest puts a lot of thought into it. This is strategic messaging that reinforces its brand.
"It is the future of advertising," said Steven Edwards of SMU's Temerlin Advertising Institute. He said these in-flight performances are all about social media, hoping passengers snap pictures, shoot video, and share their experience.
"Advertising is completely going this way, because when you hear about brands from the customer, it's much more valuable than Southwest talking about themselves," Edwards said.
So, Southwest just provides the stage (and a tight one at that) predicting that passengers will create buzz and reach customers that traditional advertising might not.