Teresa Hernandez was a rarity among passengers on Interjet's first flight from
Orange County to Mexico City last week. She already was familiar with the
"I flew Interjet before," said the 43-year-old Long Beach resident. "I would go to Tijuana to fly."
Although Interjet is Mexico's second-largest airline, the carrier is virtually unknown in Southern California. Rather than launching a broad-based marketing campaign like that of AirTran -- the other airline offering service to Mexico at John Wayne Airport -- Interjet is focused on Hispanic consumers.
"Obviously our natural market for sales is to Hispanics," said Interjet CEO Jose Luis Garza.
More companies are recognizing the marketing potential in the Hispanic community, said Ruben Alvarez, a Santa Ana marketing expert and owner of the Stay Connected OC social network.
"It's a good strategy," he said. "There's a lot of money in the Hispanic community."
Much of that spending power is in Southern California. By the Census Bureau's count, 8.7 million Hispanics, most of Mexican heritage, live in the Southern California area that includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
HispanTelligence, a marketing research firm, placed U.S. Hispanic buying power at $870 billion in 2008 and projected it will jump to as much as $1.3 trillion by 2015. Total spending is likely much higher because the firm's estimates do not include undocumented immigrants.
Alvarez said Mexican companies are smart to take advantage of the ties that many local residents have to Mexico. "They can establish a foothold here because of the large number of Latin Americans who already know them," he said.
For a Mexican airline in particular, targeting Hispanics makes sense, said Felipe Korzenny, who used to own a Hispanic marketing firm in Santa Ana and now heads the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communications at Florida State University. Even if Hispanics are unfamiliar with Interjet, they generally will be open to flying a Mexican carrier, he said.
Korzenny said offering the service from John Wayne Airport also may prove to be beneficial.
"Driving to Orange County from the L.A. area is not that bad, and the Los Angeles airport is so complicated," he said. "(John Wayne's) parking is cheaper, it's not that hard to park and you have a smaller airport that is easy to navigate."
Tom Parsons of BestFares.com said Interjet was wise to start with only two daily flights to Mexico City and Guadalajara. They are Mexico's two largest cities with millions of potential customers who might want to travel to Southern California.
"Why do the whole world when you have enough of the world to take care of?" Parsons said.
Interjet, which fancies itself the Jet Blue of Mexico, expects to attract non-Hispanic travelers as word of mouth spreads about its low-cost service and amenities, such as allowing two checked bags up to 55 pounds each for free.
To promote its service at John Wayne Airport, Interjet advertised in Spanish-language newspapers and on Spanish-language television in Southern California and offered incentives to Hispanic travel agencies.
"If it gets (non-Hispanics), it will just be icing on the cake," Parsons said.
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