UP Express wants to keep flight plans from getting derailed

A campaign for the Metrolinx train service aims to show that the return of travel doesn't have to mean a return of travel stress.


Metrolinx is evoking a host of nightmare scenarios for air travelers in its latest spot to promote its Union Pearson (UP) Express train service.

“Keep Your Trip on Track” is the first major brand campaign for the UP Express from Rethink, which won the Metrolinx business in March. It centres on a spot set against a rewritten version of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” which showcases all of the ways that going to the airport can go awry – from late rides to heavy traffic to an engine breakdown.

The goal: to contrast those stressful situations with the stress-free proposition of the UP Express line: a 25-minute trip from Toronto’s Union Station to Pearson International Airport.

“When you travel, heading to the airport is so stressful,” explains Loretta Lau, creative director with Rethink. “When it comes to mode of transportation, everything is so unreliable and there’s so many unknowns: traffic, weather, all of it. But the UP Express is reliable.”

The campaign is deliberately timed to correspond with a resurgence in air travel and intends to tap into the desire for many travelers to have as stress-free an experience as possible, Lau says – especially after months of lockdowns and amid the post-pandemic context, when travel includes so many anti-COVID protocols.

“As people are beginning to plan trips, particularly by air, it is probably more true than ever that they want to take the stress out of that experience,” adds Mark Childs, CMO at Metrolinx. “Traffic is starting to build back up, and there is always uncertainty about traveling to the airport and catching a plane. That’s at the very core of this idea.”

Metrolinx has seen a 122% increase in ridership on the UP Express line from August 2020 to August 2021, with ridership this month being five times what it was in April, according to Childs.

“The timing is right to get people thinking about UP Express again,” he says, adding that when people who are planning trips see the spot, “they’ll be thinking about UP Express.”

To support the spots, Metrolinx and Rethink are placing digital OOH ads around Toronto’s Pearson International Airport that pull in real-time flight data to tease drivers about how the UP Express could have gotten them to the airport quicker – perhaps in time to make their flight – while they are stuck in traffic.


The campaign also incorporates targeted digital ads and new in-airport signage, all of which builds upon earlier radio spots that sound like traffic reports, but instead boast about the UP Express’s traffic-free, 25-minute journey to Pearson from the city’s downtown core.

Though the efforts to promote UP Express stand alone, Metrolinx has also been trying to promote its GO Transit service to leisure travelers in the region throughout the summer with its GO Beyond campaign.

Coincidentally, another campaign by Rethink launched this week also tapped into . A new WestJet campaign features families stressed about being prepared for flying and making unnecessary mistakes due to being out of practice, before WestJet’s staff steps in to help and guide them.