Cadillac partners with American Airlines

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co.’s Cadillac brand and American Airlines Monday announced a long-term partnership that brings Cadillac vehicle displays into American Airlines’ terminals, plus free terminal transfers to customers and Cadillac test drives to earn miles in American’s loyalty program.

Cadillac’s global Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus told The Detroit News last month about the team up. He is working to bolster exposure of the luxury brand’s vehicles such as the CTS as the luxury brand transforms and grows globally. Last month, Cadillac announced it will move its headquarters for the brand early next year to New York City from Detroit and Ellinghaus said the brand has plans for a new advertising and marketing campaign early next year.

Sales for GM’s luxury brand are off 4.2 percent this year through September due in part to higher pricing on Cadillac nameplates and lack of awareness about the brand’s vehicles, analysts say.

Ellinghaus said he is happy to link with an iconic American brand such as American Airlines that also is transitioning as a company, with new lounges and planes. He said the program will give frequent fliers a chance to see and experience a Cadillac.

“The airport is great because it’s one of the few places in the world where even the busiest people are slowed down,” he said. “Once you are through security, you simply have time.”

Cadillac exhibits are in place in American terminals in airports in Dallas and Miami. Ellinghaus said the CTS will be featured in many displays but it’s possible other Cadillacs will be used, too.

Cadillac and American began the luxury airport transfer program at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) this month, with a few using it, and plan to expand it to other airports by the end of the year, said Suzanne Rubin, president of American’s AAdvantage loyalty program.

American’s frequent fliers who have tight transfer times and selected to be driven to the next terminal in a Cadillac CTS, SRX or Escalade. American and Cadillac plan to roll out the service by the end of the year at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, New York’s LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport if approvals are granted, Rubin said.

Later this month, American’s AAdvantage member customers for a limited time can earn 7,500 reward miles in exchange for test driving a new Cadillac. At first, some loyalty members will be targeted with details on the promotion through emails, Rubin said. Later, the program will be expanded to any of the millions of AAdvantage customers who want the chance to test drive a Cadillac, she said.

Ellinghaus said Cadillac isn’t disclosing costs for the American Airlines’ programs. But he said the return will be high and cheaper than traditional advertising.

“The issue that we face at Cadillac (is) not enough people are familiar yet with our new car and are still a little reluctant to go dealerships and find out more, get brochures and test drive them,” Ellinghaus said Friday in a telephone interview. “And that’s why I always look for opportunities to reach out to new target groups and customers through non automotive backgrounds.”

Rubin said American Airlines is thrilled to team with Cadillac and says the demographics of each company’s customer is aligned.

“We think the exposure and alignment of those brands makes a ton of sense and we can’t wait for our customer to experience it,” she said.

American Airlines Group owns American Airlines and US Airways. Those airlines and subsidiary regional operations fly nearly 6,700 daily flights to 339 destinations in 54 countries. American’s AAdvantage program members earn miles for travel, vacations, car rentals, hotel and general purchases. They can redeem miles for tickets, plus first class and business class upgrades.

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