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KLM just launched a VR marketing ploy to make budget flyers feel bad

KLM just launched a VR marketing ploy to make budget flyers feel bad
[Photo: Vincent Versluis]

Here’s a bad idea: implicitly shaming economy travelers because they had no other choice. Well that’s kind of what KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is doing with its new virtual reality app, intended for people to use while they’re flying with their ol’ run down cheap-o tickets on budget airlines.

Called “Flight Upgrader,” the app lets flyers use either Google Cardboard or a VR headset to “pretend to fly KLM.” This includes watching a movie from the Dutch airline’s entertainment system and seeing virtual flight attendants be virtually nice to you. The VR session makes it feel like you’re sitting in an aisle seat talking to a flight attendant, because there’s no better way to forget you’re in cramped flying box by pretending you’re in another, slightly better cramped flying box. The flight attendant is sure to remind you that all of the amenities being shown off are included in the base ticket price, making it the most boring commercial ever produced.

While obviously a ploy to show off how great KLM is compared to other airlines, it can easily be interpreted as elitist. If you ask any passenger why they’re flying a budget airline, it’s because flying is expensive! The reason I don’t pay more is because I can’t afford to pay more. So perhaps KLM should trim back its marketing budget and use that money to make their tickets more competitively priced. Or at least get a better marketing strategist.

Update: KLM provided Fast Company with this statement:

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines often aims for a cheeky, humorous tone in its marketing, as seen in last year’s ‘KLM It’s an airline’ campaign. The ‘KLM Flight Upgrader’ campaign is intended to be playful and highlight the fact that we offer economy passengers an exceptional full service experience at a price point that is competitively priced to budget carriers. In retrospect we should have made that key message clear: our economy fares are competitively priced vs budget carriers, especially when you start adding in the substantial fees for basic services that budget carriers charge at every step along the journey.

CGW