Bold branding shakes up airline industry

Bold branding shakes up airline industry

Mark Elliott explores the new breed of quirkly airline names entering the market

Mark Elliott explores the new breed of quirkly airline names entering the market

The original quirky airline name, Virgin is now commonplace
The original quirky airline name, Virgin is now commonplace

Naming an airline used to be so easy. You simply looked around at what country you were in, and added the word ‘airline’ or ‘airways’ to the end. No fuss, no confusion – just a classic “does what it says on the tin” approach to branding.

But all that has now changed. Increased competition in the airline sector, especially among low-cost carriers, has led to all sorts of weird and not-so-wonderful airline names taking to the skies.

Last week, Travel Daily reported that China’s Juneyao Airlines is planning to set up a new low-cost unit called ‘9 RMB Airlines’ – reflecting the weekly nine yuan promotional fares it plans to offer. For those of you without a currency converter to hand, that’s about US$1.50, which does make you wonder if Juneyao has really thought this through. Exactly how many of these low fares will they make available? And what happens if the promotion doesn’t work? Perhaps they can just paint an extra digit on their aircraft to become ’19’ or even ’99 RMB Airlines’.

But I do admire the airline’s commitment to its pricing model, and it’s certainly not the worst airline name ever dreamt up…

Just last week ANA launched Vanilla Air – its second low-cost airline, following Peach – which makes you wonder if the company conducts its management meetings in a cake shop.

Personally I love the idea of flying with Thailand’s Happy Air, while Singapore’s Scoot is pleasantly quirky (although the accompanying ‘Scootitude’ does grate a little).

Kazakhstan’s Scat Air however, sounds somewhat disorganised, while China’s Lucky Air appears to rely a little too much on good fortune to get passengers safely to their destination. And Indonesia’s Sriwijaya Air really shouldn’t expand internationally, as no-one will be able to pronounce it.

But of course, what sounds strange now will no doubt become commonplace in the years ahead. Plenty of eyes were raised in the UK when Richard Branson launched Virgin, but the company is now so well-established that no-one bats an eyelid.

So perhaps ‘9 RMB Airlines’ will do likewise and become part of China’s aviation fabric. One only hopes, for their sake, that their promotional fares turn out to be a success.

Mark Elliott
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