Tuesday, 27 March 2012

More on airport advertising: when does it makes sense to advertise an airport and when it doesn't?

In this blog, I have repeatedly brought up the topic of whether it made sense or not for a major airport with already serious congestion problems, like London Heathrow, to advertise itself in the public transport system (see my entries here and here)...and while BAA continues to spend its marketing budget in what, to me, look like pretty useless ads (maybe I am missing something, airport marketing experts, please, let me know if this is the case!) such as the one below (spotted at Angel station, Islington, this week), I came across an example of when it makes sense for an airport to advertise itself to the public

Pointless: if there is something LHR does not lack is travelers!

What if you are a new entrant into a market that has long been dominated by an oligopoly of firms that are well known to the general public? What if you have a fairly competitive product and ample scope for growth but most people have never heard about you?

So here is an ad of London Southend airport, also spotted in Islington. 

 Remember to check me out next time you go on holiday!

I think this is the case where it makes perfect sense to advertise an airport to the general public. People are starting to plan spring breaks and the summer season, there is a new airport in town and it has some interesting new routes that might be of your interest, so next time you are browsing for your low cost flight to the Mediterranean you remember to check this one out too. 

The ad is also straight to the point, rather than pitching some sort of abstract "passenger experience" it tells you they are new, it tells you, very visually, where you can fly to, and on what airlines

I am not sure what is the goal of the Heathrow ad, but it is clear what the Stobart Group aims  for with this ad: position London Southend as one of London's airports and make their market entry known to potential low cost airline passengers. Whether they succeed or not is a different matter.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Iberia Express update

Just a quick update on my previous post about Iberia Express where I posted a link to what looked like the new airline's livery. Today Will Horton has tweeted the following picture that confirms the simple mainly white livery of the "new" airline.

With this livery Iberia is possibly wishing to highlight the fact Iberia Express is a "lite" version of itself. I must say I am unimpressed by this design, however this approach might make sense if what you are willing to sell is an unexpensive, basic product stripped out of all unnnecessary extras. Finnair recently moved also to a mainly white livery, although for a different set of reasons.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

What's really new with the new Iberia Express?

Time to maneuver for Iberia
The answer is: very little!

For those readers that might not be familiar with the whole story, Spain's flag carrier Iberia, now part of the IAG Group, is starting a new low cost airline that is to take over most short -haul routes from its parent company, so that what's left of Iberia can concentrate on the long-haul, primarily its most important market: the links between Spain and South America.

This move is due to the need to lower costs, forced by the strong competition Iberia is facing at its own hub by low cost carriers (Ryanair is already number one airline in Spain!).

A new airline in Spain then? hardly...well at least from the point of view of passengers (if you are an Iberia pilot, this is another matter). From the informations that are being made public, Iberia Express product is not going to be significantly different from that Iberia currently offers on short-haul routes:

Same aircraft, as Iberia Express is going to use Iberia's current A320-family fleet

Same route network as Iberia Express will be progressively taking over some of Iberia's domestic and, at a later stage, European routes (while possibly Iberia proper might keep some key European routes with heavy business traffic such as those from Madrid to London Heathrow and Barcelona).

Same level of service: while it is still not sure whether Iberia Express will offer single-class service or provide some sort of premium service, for those flying economy there are possibly going to be any noticeable differences, since Iberia has long been a no-frills carrier when it comes to economy class on short-haul routes.

I also assume the new airline will use the same commercial channels than Iberia and that you will also be able to buy connection flights and multi-leg flight itineraries, after all one of its major roles would be to feed Iberia's long-haul, and Iberia's American network would not be viable without its large proportion of connecting passengers.

Why go all the way and create a new airline then?

It's primarily a legal and labour relations IAG chariman Fernando Vazquez explained at a recent conference at the London School iof Economics, Spanish labour laws made almost impossible to change the labour relations framework within the company, so it was easier to start an entirely new entity and transfer its assets to it. Of course this has not gone down well with Iberia's unions that have resorted to a protracted industrial action campaign.

IAG's CEO, Willie Walsh, seems unimpressed, as he is well aware that Iberia is IAG's underperforming leg (while BA made €592M in 2011, Iberia lost €61M.) and can ill afford to keep its high-cost structure if it wants to survive and be around in the long-term.

Iberia is not alone in this move, Air France is also trying to cut costs the same way, although its efforts have focused on French provincial cities that had limited Air France service, rather than in its own hub.

It is not the first time Iberia enters the low cost market, it already did it with Clickair, a low cost it started to compete with then-startup Vueling in Barcelona (with whom it later merged) and in the last few years through its shareholding in vueling, but these were projects with a life of their own...we'll see how it works when applied to its own brand...

By the way, for those of you that are into planespotting, here is a picture of what looks like Iberia Express' first aircraft, there is no consensus as to whether this is the final livery or not, though!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Volotea opens for business!

Europe's youngest airline (Picture: Volotea)

Lots of speculation has surrounded the launch of a the new startup airline Volotea (in case you missed it, this blog was one of the first to report it back in December!) but the veil has finally been lifted...

 It's not every day that you can witness the birth of a new airline, but this is exactly what happened last Friday: Volotea is now open for business!

Volotea, taking off on 5th April (Picture: Volotea)

Volotea won't be flying until 5th April, but it is already possible to book flights on its website, which went into count-down mode last Friday before finally being unveiled (a few minutes ahead of the scheduled time actually!)

If the website is the ultimate reflection of the value of a business, Volotea's is stylish but nimble, cosmopolitan and with a touch of minimalism (its designers haven't even missed the Pinterest phenomenon)

By the way, in case you missed the news, despite being headquartered in Barcelona, Volotea is going to start with a base in Venice-Marco Polo and from there it is going to fly to 14 medium-sized cities across Europe, plus some routes that do not go through Venice (I imagine as a way to optimize its Boeing 717s rotations). It is going to offer single class seating and pricing, seems to be really competitive with the low cost carriers, although it has deliberately chosen to focus on routes that currently see little or no competition from other low cost or network carriers...this means more options for European air travellers, particularly those that do not live in big metropolitan areas, and more alternatives also for managers at secondary airports, that had become increasingly dependent on Ryanair to maintain traffic numbers up...and it looks like Venice is just the start, Volotea might be soon coming to an airport near you!