British Airways has announced plans to introduce a ‘brand’ fragrance across its flights to create that special experience for the customer. The objective is two-fold. First, to counter the smell of chemicals and body odor that are characteristic of air travel. Second, to create positive associations for the customer through the pleasant smell which they would then continue to associate with British Airways. British Airways proposes to replicate the experience that customers have when they walk into expensive department stores. The plan is definitely in sync with its marketing campaign which aims at “Making Flying Special”.

The idea of using a fragrance in aircrafts is not new. It has been used by Singapore Airlines for years. And it’s no secret that Singapore Airlines has been ranked consistently amongst the worlds best for many years as well. British Airways has been scenting its executive lounges for many years now. So the decision to extend the fragrant experience to the fleet is a natural extension. Engaging the senses is certainly a sound strategy to build the brand experience. So in my opinion, the decision to create a signature fragrance for the British Airways flights has its merits. However, there are still certain questions that come to the fore, some to do with the execution of the strategy and others that concern the overall experience of the British Airways customer.

As opposed to Singapore Airlines where the scent is delivered through fragrant hot towels as well as is in the perfume worn by flight attendants, British Airways plans to spray it in the cabins. The question then is will the British Airways fragrance retain its integrity when it gets mixed with body odor, perfumes worn by other passengers and the smell of food. Besides, some people may be prone to sneezing, headaches or fall ill apart from the fact that individual tastes vary as well. Even if these factors work out, will a ‘brand’ fragrance serve to create positive associations for an airline which has been plagued with problems? After all, it is the overall experience that counts.

In my opinion, it would behoove British Airways to work out the finer details of its strategy and focus on getting the basics in place before engaging the olfactory senses of its customers.

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