AA to Shanghai

I fly a lot, and I've figured out how to make effective use of the time that would otherwise be wasted on travel.

Last week I'm in the AA terminal at LAX. I have a conference call scheduled for the 15 minutes between when I arrive and when I have to board. Perfect. Except that as I'm walking to my gate, my call is interrupted by a very loud Chinese New Year celebration.

Nothing against Chinese New Year, but this wasn't even a real celebration. American launched its direct service from LAX to Shanghai on that day, and I was caught in the middle of a promotion.

Okay, I'm pissed because I couldn't hear my call and just had to hang up. But then I start thinking about the promotion and what was wrong with it. First of all, it added no value whatsoever. Those of us in the terminal may have had plans for their time and may not have wanted to be interrupted by the loud drumming. Even more, many of us may never travel to China, so the announcement provides to benefit to us. The only things American knew about us as a group is that a) we fly, b) we sometimes fly American, and c) we're in LA right now. What does that have to do with flying to Shanghai? Nothing, that's what.

Here's what they might have done instead:

If they were stuck on promoting within the terminal, which is a bad idea, they could have handed out some kind of cute Chinese trinket, like maybe a fortune cookie, with a promotional offer printed on the fortune. Not particularly revolutionary, but they would have been adding value. Or give everyone free Wi-Fi with a message and an offer at launch.

They really should have gone down to Chinatown and pumped some dollars into the New Year's celebration there. Help the locals make it the best and biggest LA has ever had, and make everyone feel good about American's involvement.

They could have worked with the Chinatown locals to bring the celebration out to other parts of the city, perhaps reaching affluent travelers who might view Shanghai as a vacation destination. Maybe mini-celebrations at The Grove, Century City, Americana.

Give everyone on American flights free Gogo for the day, after making them watch a video promoting travel to Shanghai and letting them enter a sweepstakes to win a free flight.

This is easy stuff. We could sit around and come up with more exciting ideas, but even these would be (air)miles beyond the stupid terminal stunt.