As a student to the aviation industry, I've been picking up on a lot of marketing techniques airlines use. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I've noticed that they're all pretty much the same. Cheap fares, gourmet food, top amenities, etc. They're not advertising travel, they're advertising comfort. They're advertising a chance for people to "get away" from their mundane lives. Que the United Airlines billboard:
Is this what people dream about these days? Getting away? I can picture it now: someone stuck in traffic on the way to their day job, looking up at that billboard and dreaming of somewhere far away, of sunny weekends and no work. Aviation, arguably, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, invention of all time. When combined with telecommunications, aviation has globalized the world in ways that were unimaginable just a century ago. But ads like the one above are geared towards those who live for the weekend and slouch through the week. Ads like this remind me of why I'm attracted to a varied work schedule. Why should we go through life hating Mondays? If others think we were put on earth to work the same five days each week from 9 to 5 every day until they day we die, hats off to them. But I think life is much more than that. There are days we work, and days we don't. And both should be wonderful in their own unique ways. I don't care if I get work off on a Wednesday or a Saturday; just don't lull my life into a sense of monotony.
In fact, every day when I take the train out of the city towards Mawson Lakes for class, I see the exact type of people that United Airlines target with their billboards. I see hoards of businessmen and businesswomen unloading off the train, coming from the suburbs and going to work in the city. They're all dressed up. Their clothes look good, some of their faces look good. But the expressions on nearly all of them? Bleak. The way they walk? Hasty. As if they're late for that same thing they do every other day of the week. And there I am, taking the train the opposite way. On a spacious, comfortable train headed away from the crowd. Different from everyone else.
That aside, I bring up the subject of airline marketing because in the following story, I am about to utilize one of these airlines to get from Adelaide, Australia, to Christchurch, New Zealand. Let it begin...
Aviation is fantastic because it provides rapid transportation over vast distances. But it's where we go after the luggage carousel that makes everything worthwhile; the places airplanes cannot reach. Upon arriving in New Zealand's South island, we rented a car and set off for the various sites it has to offer. Beginning in Christchurch, we essentially circled the island by heading north along the East Coast, West along the North coast, South along the West Coast, then turning back East in the center and back to Christchurch. What I noticed, quite curiously, is that the greatest places we discovered could only be found on foot. No cars, boats, planes, or even helicopters could safely land on the mountains we scaled. And none of them would ever be seen on the bike path leading us to the serene grandeur of Lake Wanaka.
You know that feeling you get when you're so exhausted that you don't really want to talk to anyone? That's how I felt after arriving back in Adelaide from New Zealand. It's not like I was annoyed or crabby, I simply didn't feel awake enough to adequately listen to whomever spoke with me. My three hours of sleep left me so tired that I forgot about doing simple things that would make me less tired, like taking my backpack off while sitting down.
In order to get back to my residence from the airport, I needed to take the bus. So I sat down next to the airport bus stop, and after almost getting on the wrong bus twice, decided I needed to review the different routes. Hand on head, backpack still on back, I leaned to the side and noticed a familiar sign beaming in the afternoon sun. Despite my contempt for advertisements, this particular ad displayed to me a very conflicting, yet strangely comforting phrase...
It's funny, really. This idea of home. Australia is not my home, but as soon as a trip to New Zealand is involved, suddenly it is. I've developed a new life here in Adelaide, and once that life is put on hold for 10 days, everything other than Adelaide is a vacation, and Adelaide becomes home base. A journey within a journey. A round trip flight within a round trip flight.
So when I looked up at this billboard presented by Australia's flag carrier, I couldn't help but smile. I knew the simple phrase it conveyed was wrong, but at the time it felt so right. It was the two words I needed to hear most.
Qantas. Welcome home.