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In the days leading up to the 53-hour "Carmageddon" closure of Los Angeles’ Interstate 405, JetBlue Airways has turned a crisis for local drivers into a golden PR opportunity by launching a campaign to help people fly over the area's crippling gridlock.
Authorities are warning Los Angeles motorists of area-wide traffic tie-ups of apocalyptic proportions from July 15-18 to allow crews to demolish a bridge as part of a $1 billion freeway-widening project for one of the city's biggest arteries.
To combat the congestion, JetBlue’s #OverThe405 campaign was announced on July 13 with the introduction of two special nonstop flights over the freeway between Los Angeles’ Long Beach Airport and Bop Hope Airport in Burbank on Saturday, July 16. For only $4 each way (including taxes and fees), customers could take nonstop flights from Burbank to Long Beach—one in the early afternoon and one in the evening—and two more in the other direction, from Long Beach to Burbank.
Alison Croyle, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue, told PR News that the main PR objective for the #OverThe405 promotion was to educate the Los Angeles community about the three different airports in the region—Burbank, Long Beach and Los Angeles International.
“Our ultimate goal is to earn new customers and introduce new customers to our product,” says Croyle. “Our research shows that when new customers fly with us, they become fans.”
The promotion—the fastest-selling in JetBlue history, says Croyle—sold out in just two hours. “It really spoke to the interest the L.A. community had to stay away from the traffic snarls that will ensue this weekend,” says Croyle.
JetBlue also utilized Facebook and Twitter as a springboard to talk about its other new vacation packages to Las Vegas from Burbank or Long Beach. “The campaign was a great way to collaboratively use social and traditional elements by pitching with the press release and incorporating the Twitter hashtag," says Croyle.
The greater Los Angeles community has embraced the short-term promotion, including Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster. "I congratulate JetBlue on taking their customer service to new heights by providing alternatives for travelers in the L.A. Basin during 'Carmageddon' weekend," said Foster in a statement. "JetBlue's solution to Carmageddon will allow everyone in the L.A. Basin to visit Long Beach this weekend and enjoy a weekend of fun on the beach just a quick flight from Burbank."
Croyle says that JetBlue has been challenged by a bicyclist group in the L.A. community to compete in a "Bike vs. Flight" race that covers the route from Burbank to Long Beach—another sure path to media coverage.