Monday, January 29, 2018

Mohawk Airlines, the most progressive airline with an amazing marketing campaign you've never heard of

With the advent of the jet age, and while some passengers were complaining about Mohawk’s outdated aircraft, Mohawk was phasing out the last of its Douglas DC-3s and working to keep a few of them around for as long as possible in order to provide some extra lift and generate revenue.

At that moment some marketing genius decided that if they were struck with old airplanes, they might as well decorate them to look even older.

In a most novel marketing ploy to make the old birds as attractive as possible, the company looked at pictures of old railroad cars, measured the aircraft for lace headrest covers, gold-filigreed wallpaper, and Victorian curtains, and painted two of its remaining DC-3s in a Gay Nineties theme and christened them “Gas Light Service” aircraft.

The theme was applied brilliantly – with a marketing ploy designed to make businessmen feel as if they were enjoying an exclusive “private club” type of service - interiors of the planes featured brocade curtains and carriage lamps, the flights were restricted to men only, every Stewardess was dressed like a dance hall lady passing out 5 cent cigars, pretzels, and free beer,... and the airline schedules carried the warning that passengers should close the windows when going through tunnels.

It was a wonderfully silly promotion that worked brilliantly; suddenly passengers wanted to fly the previously scorned airplanes instead of their faster rivals. During the two years of service, 1960-62, Mohawk served 31,700 cans of beer, 17,600 cigars, a ton of pretzels, and half a ton of cheese, and earned enough money to buy new airplanes.

The company finally retired the last of its DC-3s in 1962.

When hired by Mohawk Airlines on 11 February 1958, Ruth Carol Taylor became the first African-American flight attendant in the United States. Six months after breaking one historic barrier, Ruth Taylor's career ended due to another discriminatory barrier: the airline's marriage ban, a common practice among airlines of the day. Airlines often dismissed flight attendants who married or became pregnant.

In 1961 Mohawk was the first airline to use a centralized computer-based reservation service, and in 1965 the first regional airline to use flight simulators

What happened to Mohawk? Zapped by the triple whammy of a long, bitter strike, a recession and the shutdowns of General Electric plants in the Northeast — Mohawk’s main source of corporate traffic — the airline never made it to the deregulation starting line. It was sold to Allegheny in 1972.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:34 PM

    It was brilliant marketing. The DC-3's were cheap reliable, and so operating them meant virtually all profit, so it was a good way to build some capital to expand. The trick was getting people to fly on them when there were other options, and Mohawk found it. The Convair 240 and 440 were great aircraft, every bit as economical and reliable as the DC-3, but had the added advantage of having the comfort of cabin pressurization, and so the ability to fly at higher altitudes for additional safety.