DALLAS – American Airlines (AMR) took a page out of Oprah Winfrey's playbook Wednesday night, giving vouchers for free flights to everyone at the Dallas Mavericks' final game of the regular season.
Fans jumped to their feet and cheered when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and American executive Dan Garton announced the giveaway to an estimated 19,000 fans between the first and second quarters.
Garton, American's executive vice president of marketing, declined to say how much the promotion will cost the airline. American's parent company reported Wednesday that it lost $92 million in the first three months of the year.
If every fan at the game, plus 1,000 watching at home redeem their vouchers, they could have a face value of more than $3 million, based on the average $79 one-way fare on American's Love Field service.
Garton, however, said the cost would be much less, partly because not everyone will use the vouchers. He also said some people with vouchers will bring along a paying companion.
"It's a big promotion for us," Garton said. "It's worth a lot if we get 20,000 people to fly on those flights."
Cuban was asked how the giveaway by American, a unit of AMR Corp., compared to Winfrey's gift of automobiles to the studio audience at one of her shows.
"How many did she give away?" he asked. "This is 20,000 people."