When startup people talk about airlines and airplanes they are typically talking about some new startup to order up a jet plane or to help you find the cheapest fares. Well lately we see more and more American Airlines signage, and people at startup events.
Are they scoping startups for their next talent? Are they trying to find the next innova
tion? Are they looking for their next customers?
Quite frankly the answer is all three. American Airlines has been partnering with startups to get the conversation going about entrepreneurship and innovation.
They found that many people taking American Airlines these days are entrepreneurs, startup founders and small business owners. While every airline has a program for huge enterprise corporations, no other airline has started working on partnerships to fuel the next w
ave of American business, startups and small business.
ican Airlines has a team set up across the country to talk with startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses everywhere about the benefits of American Airlines.
Through their Business ExtAA program, American Airlines offers similar benefits to entrepreneurs and startup founders that Fortune 500 corporate officers get. Their Business ExtrAA rewards program offers increased mileage earnings, discounts and amenities that are second to none.
They’ve also partnered with several startup organizations like Startup America, Startup Weekend
, Tech Wildcatters, Tech Cocktail, Launch Tennessee, and even Nibletz and Everywhereelse.co. They know the importance of making that connection and developing brand loyalty early on.
While programs like the Founder’s Card are great, many entrepreneurs have found out the hard way that most of the benefits to programs like those require at least a series A round or even a series D. American Airlines has made their programs accesible to even bootstrapping founders.
Their team across the country isn’t just a bunch of sales people hawing American Airlines, all of the team members are engaging and they’re connectors. While they are very up
front about their goal, to get more small businesses and startups in the habit of booking American, they are eager to connect startups with other startups and other resources in their network. For instance the everywhere else conference in 2014 will offer a special rate from American Airlines and a special rate from their partner Avis.
Down at South By Southwest Aleda Schaefer and Paul Swartz, two of the people on American Airlines’ startup team, were frantically running around introducing people, meeting people and even engaging in startup pitch contests and other events. Their attitude and likeness to startups couldn’t be more genuine.
American Airlines was one of the key sponsors for the Launch Your City trip to Silicon Valley. This trip allowed several startups and ecosystem partners from Memphis Tennessee to spend a week in Silicon Valley touring VC firms, accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces and networking. The American Airlines team also set up meetings for the group including a tour of RocketSpace and they took some of the group to a startup job fair Thursday morning to meet other startup founders, who were at the stage where they were hiring employees.
American Airlines has strategically placed one of their “startup liasons” in Boston, New York, Dallas and San Francisco, adding their Silicon Valley rep last, because they realize the importance of startups everywhere.
Check out the video below where Schaffer offers a little more insight into American Airline’s involvement with startups: