IMB_FlyClear2 This is the sad story of a company that died. Actually, it’s more of a question of how it could have been saved. I’m talking about the now defunct FlyClear service run by a company called Verified Identity Pass that launched in nearly 20 airports across the country with a paid service that promised a way to avoid the travel lines at security with a dedicated “VIP” line. The reasons for their demise are relatively easy to understand … as the number of travellers has reduced, the lines too have reduced and fewer people are seeing the value of paying $99 or more per year to access these special lanes.

IMB_FlyClear1 Unfortunately for me and about 250,000 others who already signed up and paid for the service, we are now officially out of luck and left with many questions about the service. Will something take it’s place? Will we manage to get any of our money back? What will they do with our profile data (including in most cases retinal images and fingerprints)? As a marketer, though, my first thought is about how preventable this seemed to be. After all, the people who had the service loved it. And as soon as travel from major airports started to recover (which is fairly inevitable), the security lines and hassle will again drive more people to consider joining.

So how could social media have saved FlyClear? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Collect real life stories. One of the truths about the travel industry is that just about everyone has a negative story to tell. FlyClear was one company that could have benefited from this conversation, because their entire mission was to make the process of travel easier. If they did collect stories of the negative (and the positive stories of customers who had good experiences because of FlyClear), social media would have been ideal to capture them and prove the necessity for FlyClear.
  2. Create an army of blog ambassadors. I was only one among many other bloggers who loved the service and blogged about how great we felt it was. Guy Kawasaki agreed, and even tweeted today about its demise echoing what many card holders felt when he said “Clear has shut down I just want to cry. I loved that service…” What if they had reached out to bloggers like myself and Guy and any others that had blogged about the service and brought us together to tell their story and drive members more than just offering us a “refer-a-friend” discount code? My bet is Guy would have jumped on it, and I probably would have too.
  3. Leverage Twitter for secret offers and promotion. FlyClear did have a Twitter account that is now taken down, so it is tough to go back and see what they did or didn’t do with it, but it would have been the ideal platform to run membership drives, share updates on travel delays and answer customers and potential customers directly.
  4. Extend memberships through social media. The nice thing about the business model for FlyClear is that it scaled well … ie, the more members they had, the better they could do. The problem they had was that they never hit that critical mass. To try and get it, they did offer free memberships to members of hotel frequent flier programs, but they could have done it more actively through their existing members – such as letting them extend free memberships to some friends, and then sell those friends extensions.
  5. Launch a last ditch effort. Part of conversation about FlyClear’s demise was how sudden it seemed. Surely they would have known about this financial trouble before today – and assuming they did, they could have taken any number of steps to try and get the people who loved the service to help make sure it would stay around. Some might have renewed, while others may have more actively gone out to their networks.

Like many of the FlyClear fans, I was sorry to hear it’s gone and will definitely miss the convenience. The worst part is, I would bet that as soon as travel volume (and airport crowds) pick back up again, the other people who might have signed up will be sorry its gone.