Archive for the 'low-cost' Category

Oasis Hong Kong Airlines Goes Out of Business

On 09APR2008 14:00 Hong Kong time, the first long haul low cost airline has ceased its operations. Oasis Hong Kong has been a story that a large portion of the Airline Industry was following as it was the ice-breaker in the long haul low cost market with its cheap flights between Hong Kong and London Gatwick.

Oasis Hong Kong Boeing 747

They started their daily flights in October 2006 with the above mentioned route and have later added 6 times weekly service between Hong Kong and Vancouver, Canada. Their fleet has grown to four Boeing 747-400s, two are (were) former Singapore Airlines aircraft and two were formerly operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA). They were providing two cabins: Economy and Business starting from just GBP 358 return fare.

The airline was planning new routes to Europe (Berlin, Cologne/Bonn, Manchaster, Milan), North America (San Francisco and Chicago) and Australia (Melbourne and Sydney) “in the near future” according to their website, which plans will probably be cancelled or at least revisited now. Less than a month ago (19MAR2008) they still had news about new appointments in their sales force, but now it looks like those were too late.

Currently the following statement is on their website (www.oasishongkong.com):

It is with regret that Oasis Hong Kong Airlines announces that the airline has applied to the Hong Kong Court to appoint a provisional liquidator on 9 April 2008. The Court has appointed Edward Middleton and Patrick Cowley of KPMG as the provisional liquidators, and they have assumed control of the airline with effect from 1400h the same day Hong Kong time.

Our flight operations have been cancelled until further notice. The Provisional Liquidators are liaising with other airlines in order to help customers make alternate travel arrangements as quickly as possible.

This will probably mean a lot of business for British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and Qantas – who operate most of the flights between Hong Kong and London as well as for Air Canada and Cathay Pacific who fly between Hong Kong and Vancouver.

Looks like after all -in this case- the traditional airlines managed to withstand the promised competition of a low cost long haul operator…

by balint01

Air Asia Airbus in Williams F1 Livery

AirAsia WilliamsF1 livery Airbus A320 - by F1live.com

AirAsia is a sponsor of the Williams F1 team, and has recently extended the 3 year contract. As the 2008 Formula-1 championship was kicked off a week ago in Melbourne, Australia, the second round is arriving to Kuala Lumpur for the coming weekend. To mark the Malaysian Grand Prix and the sponsorship with Williams, AirAsia has painted one of its Airbus A320’s into a special, Williams F1 livery.

The aircraft, whose livery is an exact look-alike of the AT&T Williams racing car, with Williams’ traditional racing colours of blue and white, whilst the ‘nose’ of the aircraft is designed to look like Nico Rosberg’s racing helmet. At the belly of the aircraft you can also find painted Bridgestone tyres in the front and in the aft part as well. The aircraft (new registration number: 9M-AFW) was named ‘Sir Frank Williams’ in tribute to Sir Frank Williams, Team Principal of Williams.

Nico Rosberg said: “It has been incredible to see the AT&T Williams livery on AirAsia’s plane. I’m delighted that the design of my helmet, which I have been racing with all my life, has been used to create a lasting tribute to the team’s partnership with Air Asia.” Kazuki Nakajima has added: “I am very impressed at how well the Williams Toyota FW30’s design has translated to the SFW30 Airbus. I think we would all like to thank AirAsia for this great venture and we are proud to be associated with the Airline of the Year 2007. This is indeed a source of inspiration to both of us going into the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend.”

A high resolution picture of the plane on airliners.net by Rajesh Changela:

Link to airliners.net for the Large photo

by balint01

No Booking At Ryanair For 3 Days

Ryanair is temporarily closing down both its online and call center booking office between 10 pm on 22 February and 11 pm on 25 February. This painful step is necessary, because the airline migrates to a new booking engine that will comply with EU’s regulation to include all taxes and extra fees into the ticket price.

As AirlineWorld wrote about it earlier, the European Commission decided to be very strict about airlines communiating prices that do not include taxes or other extra fees. Although the initiation may sound good for the customer, there are several circumstances that makes it impossible to intorduce such a business model in the aviation industry. See our earlier article about the topic.

According to Ryanair’s spokesperson, the airline has already missed a January 31 deadline, but got an extension of the deadline until the end of February.

I am personally doubtful if Ryanair will be able to make it – not the upgrade, but to include all taxes and extra fares into the prices – because to fully comply with the regulation the low-cost airline will need to change their policy about the extra charge in checked in baggage and so on. Once the new software will be up and running, we will definately test it.

By Szafi 

First Low-Cost Alliance: JetBlue and Aer Lingus

I have been talking (and thinking) about the future of the low-cost market around the world with many friends as well as colleagues from the airline industry for a few years. I’m happy to see one of the ideas I always mentioned in these conversations actually happening.

The equation is very easy to understand. In the beginning there was one, then there were two and by today there are a large number of low-cost carriers. Some of them have a really strong brand, but let’s face it, the average is only known to a certain region -close to their home base(s)-, where they concentrate all their branding and advertising. But you have to get business somehow, so you –as just one of the zillions of low-cost airlineswill eventually be forced to add some extra service to be different from the rest. You will either offer a frequent flier program, or drinks on board, or sandwiches on board, or guaranteed seating or satellite XM radio or TV or something, that differentiates you from the other low-costs. Maybe you team up with another low-cost to offer a wider network, more destinations and connections, one of the things that still keeps the costs of traditional airlines a little bit higher than of the low-costs. Until now low-costs only offered point-to-point flights, or maybe a single connection in their hub from their own flight, to their own flight. But now this is changing!

Aer Lingus Logo  JetBlue logo  

As ATW News reported recently American JetBlue Airways and Aer Lingus from Ireland unveiled details of their strategic partnership late last week, nearly one year after the “alliance” initially was revealed, proving that it will actually happen. The tie-up will take effect 03APR2008 and will feature a booking engine on the website of Aer Lingus (airline code: EI) that will allow customers to purchase tickets on EI flights to the US and onboard JetBlue services from New York JFK in one transaction. EI will have a transfer desk in the arrivals lobby of JFK‘s Terminal 4 where passengers can check in and drop their luggage upon clearing customs. Those flying to Ireland will be able to check their bags through from their initial US departure point when first checking in for a JetBlue flight. “Our partnership with Aer Lingus is a perfect fit with our brand and culture and we are thrilled to extend our network,” JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said. Aer Lingus CEO Dermot Mannion said, “We are proud to be pioneering the model of linking low-fare networks.

It’s interesting to see this latest step in the transformation of Aer Lingus. The story so far: a state-owned, traditional airline, that has a domestic, low-cost rival named Ryanair… The strategy has been laid a few years ago: EI needs to move towards the low-cost model to be able to compete with Ryanair and escape bankruptcy. Well, they kept their long-haul operations as the flag carrier of Ireland but have really transformed to a low-cost airline on short-haul routes. They used to be a member of the oneworld alliance, which they quit just more than a year ago, due to being too “low-cost-ish” and not fitting the requirements of oneworld anymore. But it looks like they still need the help of other airlines’ networks, and having the experience of a global alliance membership for years, they are now starting their own new alliance, which happens to be in the low-cost market. Just look at any of the currently operating alliances, they all have a strong European and a strong US founding member. This alliance follows the same idea, but in a different market. Let’s see how far they will go with this alliance, whether if it will remain a marketing solution only (linking booking engines, issuing tickets in one transaction (with internal accounting between the two members) and allowing through-check-in of passengers and luggage), or if they will soon link up TrueBlue and The Gold Circle Club to allow frequent flier point/mile collection on each other’s flights and will roll out other joint services? Maybe new, smaller members will be revealed later on? We’ll see.

by balint01 

Low Cost Airline Marketing at AirTran

As I reported earlier in a flight review, I have flown with Atlanta based AirTran about a month ago. Being an airline enthusiast I have kept my eyes open all the way through the booking/boarding/flying experience. I found some of their marketing tools very smart, and some even unrivaled, and have decided to share these impressions and these marketing tricks with you in an article, so here it goes.

A) When arriving to the airport, you may check-in using their ByePass Check-in Kiosks, which offer the possiblity to already purchase drinks for your flight and receive the vouchers, which onboard you can exchange for an alcoholic drink in economy class.
Smart! Less worries for the flight attendants, less change to be carried around, happier passenger who knows while boarding that they will get a nice beer or cocktail, and may sell the drinks easier after all.

B) They offer a few “Rebooking Area“s around the terminal, where you can rebook your flight. The simple, easy to understand text on the huge poster reads: “Enter here to rebook reservation. / Pick up phone. Agent will assist you. / Go to kiosk. Print new boarding pass.
Smart! Sounds very easy, makes the people believe they can do it (it’s simple), and it’s cost effective, AirTran only has to have a few booking agents in a far away, cheap location answering phones, instead of renting high-price ticketing location at the airport, and hire lots of ticketing agents around all locations. And I saw a few people talking on the phone, so it works, too.

C) Business Class advertisements. Even though AirTran is classified as a low-cost airline, they offer business class on all of their flights. A very cool, again simple worded molino I have seen several times around the terminals/gates reads the following: “Affordable Business Class on every flight. / More room. Free drinks. Less explaining yourself to accounting. / Book at airtran.com.
I found it’s a very smart idea to point out a step of a business flight, that most airlines don’t care about: expense reporting to accounting! 🙂 Great way to influence passengers, smart again!

D) At most of the gates, or in between two gates in the waiting area you can find small Coffee Stations, with the following text: “Free coffee. See, we’re always finding ways to save you money. / AirTran.com
Really smart! Another great tool, people feel that a low-cost airline is actually delivering some extra service: coffee on the ground, before the flight (!) which traditional airlines have never offered outside their business lounges. So they pay less, get more, and AirTran makes sure that all passengers realize this with the text shown above. Small costs, big image building, effective!

E) Programs: Co-branded A+ Visa Card, A+ Rewards program for frequent fliers, and my favorite: AirTran U – specially designed for people between ages 18-22, offering standby flights, therefore selling the seats which otherwise remained unsold, in the last minute before the flight closes (http://www.airtranu.com). They even give half credits if the student is a member of the A+ Rewards program!
Most of the other low-costs simply do not worry about cargo, but AirTran uses the cargo holds of its Boeing 717 and 737 fleet by offering cargo services to its customers.
Smart again, using all capacity as much as possible, selling unsold seats at the last minute (with AirTran U), thus reducing losses.

F) My “favorite,” dumbest marketing tool, which may still work, though: the Gourmet Pretzel packaging. While onboard, you receive a small package of pretzels. The basic situation is the following: you’re bored onboard, finally receive the pretzels and start to open the bag. But then you take a look at the bag: what exactly will I eat? And you find the following text on the top side: “How to eat Gourmet Pretzels on a low fare airline. (see back for complete details).” – Just in case somebody would not turn to the back, they place another message at the bottom: “Book at airtran.com for our lowest fares and no booking fees.” Just so that you know. But let’s see the back of the package for complete details:

How To Eat Gourmet Pretzels - AirTran

In the same style as any other packaging, they placed the following text on the left top side of the back of the packaet:
Eating Instructions
1. Think about our wonderful low fares at airtran.com as you open packet.
2. Place pretzel in mouth. With each crunch, be reminded of our low fares.
3. As you swallow, remember again just how low the fares are.
4. Repeat until pretzel packet is empty.
5. Keep empty packet to remind yourself to book at airtran.com for our lowest fares and no booking fees.

Then comes the Nutrition Facts, which are normal.
Pathetic! I was just amazed how an airline can give their name to such a cheesy, baby-like advertising and marketing tool, it’s amazing. But to be honest, I have read it, so maybe other passengers read it as well, and it may work in the end. But I just find it the most dumb marketing text in the airline business ever…

Of course, everywhere they place the “airtran.com” logo, instead of a simple AirTran Airways logo, so you meet with the website address everywhere and you will never forget it (engines on the planes, flight details screen at the gate, any communication material, pretzels, etc.).

And their slogan is: “Go. There’s nothing stopping you.” Not advertising how great their services are, or how high they fly, but urging people to simply “Go.”, or “travel” in other words, which will most probably include a flight. A flight with AirTran. Good general marketing job guys, only those pretzels…!

by balint01

Flight Review: AirTran Airways

AirTran Logo 

Route: Atlanta, GA – Dayton, OH – Atlanta, GA
Operating Airlines: AirTran Airways
Travel Date: 30NOV2007 and 02DEC2007

Ticket Purchase

I have bought the ticket through www.airtran.com. The website is very simple, and thus very easy to use, very understandable, clear. It shows you all available fares in a very simple table with all flight details being displayed in small pop-up dialog windows. It is clear which flight is nonstop, and which ones involve a transfer. What is a nice feature that I have not seen before at other airlines’ sites, is that you can have a printer friendly version of the flight search results. So you can print your options and discuss it with somebody or attach it to a business trip plan, etc. Very handy, as mostly you end up with complicated, colorful search results which you can scroll for minutes and may be printed on four pages which then you have to somehow compile to see the actual information. This is a nice added value feature! After selecting your flights you get an overview, that includes the most important fare rules, terms and conditions, check-in information, and the option to add your a+ rewards number (frequent flier program of AirTran) as well to book a trip protection insurance. You also have the option to secure your seat when booking, which is at extra cost, but at an acceptable level I think. I chose 17F for both of my flights for an extra USD 5 for each flight, but could have chosen emergency exit seats with extra leg room for USD 20/flight. You can of course pay by credit card, but you can also use your PayPal account, with BillMeLater or with CheckFree account. In the last step you confirm your payment details and recieve a confirmation mail afterwards.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions 

There is no option to offset your carbon emissions on this website.

Check-In

I wasn’t worried about check-in at all, as I had pre-selected my seat, I knew I will have a window seat, still I received a mail 24 hours before the first flight that check-in is now available. I went ahead and checked in, where I could select another seat. (Actually on the way back I did so, as 17F didn’t have enough legroom due to some wiring at the bottom of the previous seat.) Online check-in at the website is also straight forward, and fast. You have other choices to check-in, such as the Bye-Pass Check-in kiosks at the airport, and you can also drop your luggage off at the sidewalk check-in areas at the Atlanta Airport so you don’t even have to carry your luggage in the terminal building, they take it away from your right where the taxi can drop you off.

AiTran B717 in Atlanta, GA, USA (by balint01)

1. ATLANTA, GA – DAYTON, OH (FL 702)

Aircraft: Boeing 717-200 (N923AT), relatively new aircraft operated by AirTran Airways – with special sticker: 100th Boeing Delivery
Class: Economy
Punctuality: Flight took off 10 minutes late, arrived at about the right time.
Boarding: Was very efficient, due to the boarding zones -printed on the boarding card- called one by one.
Seats: Comfortable, but not wide enough seats, with small legroom (especially as the bottom of the previous seat had extra wiring)
Flight Attendants: There were 3 of them, they were average looking, all of them seemed friendly.
Meals: Everybody is asked if they want snacks (small pack of pretzels) and a glass of soft drink (Coca-Cola products). For USD 5 you can also get beer, wine, shots or mini-cocktails. In business class these are included in the ticket prize for economy, you may pay onboard, or while checking in on the ByePass Kiosks before your flight, which would give you vouchers.
Entertainment: Free Satellite XM radio with optional headsets (but you can use your own, too) and on-board magazine: Go. Huge SkyMall catalog

2. DAYTON, OH – ATLANTA, GA (FL 414)

Aircraft: Boeing 717-200 (N-963AT), aircraft operated by AirTran Airways
Class: Economy
Punctuality: Flight took off exactly on time, arrived 10 minutes late.
Boarding: Dayton airport was deserted on this Sunday night, no lines to que, just walk-through to the gate. Same zoned boarding used as in Atlanta, due to the low number of people plane was boarded very quickly.
Seats: As my seat was on the left side of the plane where you only have two seats, it felt a little bit more comfortable. I had a bigger guy sitting next to me, but as soon as doors were closed, he moved elsewhere, so we were both more comfortable.
Flight Attendants: There were 3 of them, average.
Meals: Same small pack of pretzels, same soft drinks as on the outbound flight.
Entertainment: Free XM satellite radio at every seat.

Overall Experience

AirTran just does what air travel is basically about: Takes you from point A to point B. Considered as a low-cost, it still offers free drinks on board which is nice, and I also liked the XM satellite radio. Other than that it does nothing more, nothing less. It’s good value for your money with efficient procedures (online booking, online check-in, efficient boarding). I paid USD 248 for my return ticket, and if I will ever visit my American families in Ohio from Atlanta again, I would take this flight once more.

by balint01

Indonesian Boeing Loses Part of Wing Inflight

Many people around the world thought it’s not fair for the US and the EU to introduce and maintain a list of airlines which they ban from their airspace and classify as “not acceptable” basically in terms of flight safety. Besides saving their airspace from possible accidents, they are trying to protect their citizens by providing them with a list of airlines they believe is not safe to fly. The reason is usually the lack of proper technical maintenance at these airlines. ALL air companies of Indonesia have been on these lists since they were introduced, and many people did not like the idea of putting all aviation companies of a certain country on the list. But the recent events in Indonesian Air Transport show the list is (at least very close to being) right!

Batavia Boeing 737-400 (by airliners.net)

Let’s see the latest occurance of a flight threataning situation in Indonesia (following two deadly crashes this year) from last night:

A Boeing 737-400 operated by Batavia Air – a low cost airline on the Indonesian market since 2002, operating 36 aircraft including Airbus A319 and A320’s besides the older Boeing 737 family versions (-200, -300 and -400) – took from Jakarta Sukarno-Hatta airport, carrying 144 people (138 passengers and 6 crew). Not so long after take-off (about 15 minutes according to some of the news sources) a piece of the wing has simply fallen off the aircraft. Some reports claim it was a 2 m piece, while others are mentioning an “only” 40cm×50cm part. It doesn’t really matter how big it actually was, the fact that a part of the wing just falls off of an airplane carrying passengers is scary enough in my opinion and should not happen! According to some reports, the separated chunk of the wing landed close to the airport, others say it fell on a residential house. The plane was bound to fly to Pontianak on Borneo island before turning around and safely landing at the airport. Nobody onboard was hurt.

Fortunately this third relatively bigger incident in Indonesian Aviation this year did not claim any lifes, unlike the two crashes earlier in 2007 by Garuda and Adam Air, where a total of 123 casulties were suffered. We hope there will be no more aviation safety news from Indonesia this year, and that the domestic airlines will start taking air safety seriously following such accidents and incidents!

by balint01


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