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A Video Journey of First Airbus A380 Deliveries July 6, 2013

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation.
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On 3rd July, 2013, British Airways became the world’s 10th airline to become an Airbus A380 operator.

Here’s a look back into time when these 10 airlines took delivery of their first Airbus A380s. As you can see from these compendium of videos provided by Airbus, A380 delivery ceremonies are lavish and elaborate affairs, with beaming airline executives taking delivery of their mighty superjumbos in the company of Airbus executives. These events are lapped up by global media and aviation enthusiasts and often culminate in a take-off of the A380s from the Delivery Centre to their home bases, where they are accorded a royal welcome.

Singapore Airlines on 15th October, 2007 became the first airline in the world to take delivery of the A380.

Emirates followed suit on 28th July, 2008 and is today the world’s largest operator of the A380, with 35 in fleet and 55 on order. Make sure you watch this video capturing one of the grandest A380 delivery ceremonies ever!

Qantas on 19th September, 2008

Air France was the first European airline to join the elite A380 club on 30th October, 2009

Lufthansa on 19th May, 2010

Korean Air on 24th May, 2011

China Southern Airlines on 14th October, 2011

Malaysia Airlines on 29th May, 2012

Thai Airways on 27th September, 2012

And most recently,

British Airways on 3rd July, 2013

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Emirates Aviation Experience takes-off in London July 5, 2013

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation.
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Are you fascinated by the magic of flying? London now has a new tourist attraction that will appeal to all aviation lovers – The Emirates Aviation Experience.

Tim Clark and Boris Johnson Emirates Aviation Experience Image 1

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline, at the opening of the Emirates Aviation Experience

The Emirates Aviation Experience, which costs in excess of £4 million, will take you on an interactive journey into the world of flight. In a UK first, it includes 4 commercial flight simulators under one roof including 2 A380 SIMs and 2 Boeing 777 SIMs. #avgeeks will also get to check out a 3D hologram of the internal mechanisms of an aircraft, a state-of-the-art HD video-wall and a full-size nose-cone and flight deck of an Airbus A380.

Enjoy this walk-around of the Emirates Aviation Experience:

The Emirates Aviation Experience will be open to the public daily from 6th July, from 08:00hrs to 19:00hrs. It is located at the Greenwich Peninsular end of the Emirates Air Line cable car. The closest underground station is North Greenwich.

Flight simulators can be a lot of fun, as you can see in this video below of 3 Arsenal players attempting to land an Airbus A380 at Dubai International Airport in an Emirates A380 Simulator.

Emirates Aviation Experience

Emirates Aviation Experience

In addition to the ‘Flight Simulators’ zone, visitors will be able to look at a cross-section of a Rolls Royce Trent 800 jet engine partially built in LEGO, a virtual wind tunnel application looking at how this influences flight, a touchscreen game explaining the turnaround process of an aircraft, and a replica A380 Economy Class seating area – with a range of aviation themed videos utilising Emirates’ ice system. In addition, the Emirates Aviation Experience will also include a food and beverage outlet  and retail zone.

The Emirates simulator experience will start from £45 for a 30 minute slot, when booked in advance online. Entrance to the Emirates Aviation Experience will be £3.00 for adults and £1.50 for children under the age of 12. You can book online at http://www.aviation-experience.com.

Travelogue – A weekend in Jakarta March 29, 2013

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Travel.
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A visual travelogue from my weekend getaway to Jakarta, Indonesia in October 2012. This was my first trip on Emirates Airline since joining them. Enjoyed the journey on Business Class onboard the Emirates Boeing 777-300ER. Lovely flight, fantastic service. Jakarta is a very chilled out destination. Very green city. Extremely friendly people. The welcoming smiles begin at the Visa on Arrival counter. It is one of the most populous cities in the Far East and can be a bit overwhelming, however I was able to find my unique oasis of tranquility. I enjoyed a relaxing stay at Le Meridien, watched the rains from my window, did a bit of mall crawling and city hopping, and caught up on much-needed sleep, before jetting back to Dubai. I wouldn’t mind going back to Jakarta again. Bali as well, next time!

All pics clicked on iPhone 4s.

 

My last flight on Kingfisher Airlines April 2, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Social Media, Travel, UAE.
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I’m a loyal customer of India’s Kingfisher Airlines. I first flew Kingfisher in Jan 2011 but since then I have flown them 15 times. I fly them as much as possible. I often pay a premium to fly them even when I have cheaper or non-stop flights available. I even recommend it to those who are looking for flights to India. The only time I flew another airline to India instead of Kingfisher I felt like I was cheating on a partner.

What I like the most about Kingfisher is how they make me feel special when I fly with them. Another reason I love to fly them is their social media engagement. I became a loyal Kingfisher customer because of how they engaged with me on social media the first time I flew with them and have been connected to me since then.

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Seattle Ahoy on the Emirates Inaugural March 9, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Travel, UAE.
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So I lost control of my #avgeek senses and flew off to Seattle for a weekend on the inaugural Emirates flight out of Dubai.

I’ve always wanted to go to Seattle, visit Boeing and the Future of Flight Museum, catch up with #avgeek friends in the Puget Sound and most importantly, get on an inaugural flight and experience a water cannon salute. So I HAD to be on the inaugural EK229 on 1 March 2012 and tick off a couple of items on the bucket list.

Seattle is an amazing place and I don’t say that just because it is the home of Boeing. I will be back soon with more stories on Seattle but till then, enjoy these 2 videos!

Click here to read a travelogue of my trip featured on ArabianSupplyChain.com. 

What every brand can learn from Finnair’s social media content strategy January 31, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Social Media.
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I’m a huge fan of Finnair’s content strategy on social media. Suddenly, content strategy sounds like a buzzword. So for the sake of simplicity, I’d say unique and creative ways of connecting with travelers and creating buzz.

If I could create a manifesto for them, it would be something like:

At Finnair, let us create engaging content by –

  1. Focusing on passion points that people already love
  2. Being relevant and topical
  3. Being emotionally appealing
  4. Owning the experience at all touch points
  5. Ensuring attention to detail
  6. Having fun while creating the experience

It’s not easy bringing all these elephants into one room, but if and when you do, you have created magic.

It started in September 2011 with the Angry Birds flight from Helsinki to Singapore featuring the first ever Angry Birds Asian Challenge (sponsored by Samsung and Roxio). They branded and owned the experience like no other, from a creative and execution point of view. The entire plane, airport, crew and in-flight experience screamed Angry Birds. They got the passengers to play an in-flight Angry Birds challenge. Even served Angry Birds cupcakes when they landed in Singapore.

Check out these delightful snaps from the Angry Birds flight at Travelerfolio.

And then they did it again in January 2012 with the Bollywood dance video on a flight to New Delhi to celebrate India’s Republic Day. The video has nearly 3.5 million video views as of today and tons of positive PR. They spotted an opportunity at the unique intersection that Indian airlines or other international airlines majorly serving India missed – India’s love affair with Bollywood and patriotic feelings inspired by the Republic Day. And the fact that Indians would warmly appreciate the gesture by a ‘foreign airline’.

The secret here to create engaging content is to have an open slate, tell an interesting story and not be restricted by the canvas of your industry. Think about who you are targeting, what captures their interest most and be creative about it while having fun. The views will take off and the buzz will happen.

My secrets to air travel on a budget June 10, 2011

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Social Media, Travel, UAE.
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4 comments

I’m a budget conscious traveler who takes a lot of pride in unearthing the best travel deals. I’m usually the guy my friends come up to because I always lead them to the best travel deals in the market. What’s my secret sauce?

Today, there are a plethora of online resources available that help you unearth great bargains no matter where you are flying to. These tools are my lifeline.

In today’s post, I’m going to put out some of my secrets as well as some cool tips that can help you discover great deals when it comes to flights. Fasten your seat belts, folks!

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Will Air India’s flight to social media take off? April 11, 2011

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Conversations, India, Marketing, Social Media.
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Pic credit: Daniel Villa, Airliners.net

In the high-flying world where aviation meets social media, the impossible turned possible today. India’s government-owned national airline Air India announced it was stepping into social media with a clear mandate to generate at least 30% revenue as an ROI.

In a Financial Express news report by Shaheen Mansuri, Arvind Jadhav, AI’s chairman and managing director said, “Until now, we were unable to provide a flexible pricing and customised products to our customers. While other airlines have their presence on Facebook and Twitter, we were missing from that space.

Once brand AI is exposed to a larger audience, it can translate into more sales. Social networking sites have opened up a new distribution platform for the airline. The traditional travel agents and travel websites will co-exist with the new medium,” said Jadhav.

You can read the entire story here.

I had several interesting responses after I shared the story on Twitter which was first broken by the evergreen diva @TobyDiva.

Air India to join social media w/ an ROI goal of increasing sales by 30%. http://ht.ly/4xpDx via @TobyDiva

Few responses:

Jesus! They’re gonna get butchered! Via @DeveshM

WOW! Xcited Via @vishal1mehra

air india using social media would be a pretty stupid initiative in my way..n 30% sales from there sounds insane! Via @aseemrastogi2

This will probably end up like CCD when they entered the social media scene: a lot of unhappy customers who compained non stop. Via @Thor_

My view on #AirIndia & #socialmedia is that they can go two ways…but the #Airline had better do it right to be effective. #smtravel Via @flyingwithfish

If#AirIndia can’t breaks it’s habit of not effectively addressing passengers & protecting it’s brand, #socialmedia won’t succeed Via @flyingwithfish

AI is certainly a late bird after the social media worm; shud’ve emulated Jet & Kingfisher well ahead. Via @StoryMary

I Would say to everyone: “If you’re not in #SocMed yet you’re too late” Via @eezeer

No use without changing hostesses. Via @Askabuska

Here are a couple of my thoughts:

1.    Today Air India is strategically and operationally at a critical juncture. New aviation minister at the helm, overview of top management after the departure of COO Baldauf and his deputies, debt restructuring in process, the much awaited Dreamliners joining the fleet soon, the forthcoming entry into Star Alliance etc. Social media can now step in as a part of an image makeover – the journey to a new Air India. However, this image makeover will have to reflect in the way airline treats customers & offers them an experience that is no less compared to what the competition is offering them.

2.    Air India can be sure to get a lot of negative PR and feedback on their social media platforms. The airline has unfortunately had a legacy of poor service and this is going to show clearly when consumers engage with the airline on social media. How they manage the negative feedback and win over audiences is going to be very crucial.

3.    The best brands on social media are the best brands in business. There’s only so much social media can do to make you look good. If you do not deliver on your core customer promise or if you don’t do your job right, you should never be on social media. Period.

4.    The danger of using social media as a broadcast medium is that it will bite you in the back. Social cannot be a me-too approach as a response to your competition being on it. However, I appreciate the assertiveness shown by Mr Jadhav on utilizing the medium for generating revenues. Air India’s competitors such as Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines are doing a great job engaging with their customers on social media. Competition on the airline social media airwaves in India will be intense.

5.    Is Air India ready for the big step it is to take? Are they aware of the potential benefits and pitfalls of engaging in the medium? Do they have the resources in place to execute a social media strategy that will work for them? Lots more questions that time will answer.

Good luck, Air India and welcome aboard the social media bandwagon!

So is Air India going to make it or break it in social media? Would love to hear your thoughts.

The King of Good Times: A social media surprise from Kingfisher Airlines February 25, 2011

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Conversations, India, Social Media, Travel.
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As an aviation geek & a social media marketing professional, I keep a close eye out on airlines that are blitzing the social media trail.

On last count, there are over 180 airlines on Twitter. Every airline worth their salt is on Facebook building communities and rewarding loyalty via contests.


What I love most about airlines that are doing social media right is: those who are using social media to listen to their customers and offer them delightful surprises. Such a rare experience happened to me last month, via Kingfisher Airlines.

Kingfisher Airlines, based out of India is one of the world’s seven airlines to be ranked as a 5-star airline by Skytrax. They fly to 63 domestic destinations and 8 international destinations with an Airbus & ATR fleet. Headed by one of India’s most flamboyant tycoons Dr Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher has built a strong brand for itself in service and quality over the years. It wouldn’t be unfair to call Kingfisher the Virgin America of Indian skies.

I have watched Kingfisher’s meteoric rise and often lamented the fact that I have never flown them, primarily because they don’t fly out of Muscat. Anyhow, a great opportunity to try Kingfisher for the first time came up last month and I decided to fly them outbound on Dubai-Bengaluru-Cochin and Chennai-Bengaluru-Dubai on my inbound leg.

Kingfisher is active on Twitter and as always, I tweeted before my departure that I was flying them. I received a reply from them asking me to enjoy their service. Quite the appropriate thing to do on social media, yes?

I arrive at Dubai Airport on the date of my departure, stood in a snaking queue of flustered passengers waiting to check-in. When my turn came, I noticed the check-in agent spend a few extra seconds looking at her screen and then proceeded to consult with her supervisor before handing me a complimentary Lounge Access card. Now, how great is that?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t check out the Lounge as I was running late for my flight, so I boarded the all economy A321 and we were soon wheels up to Bengaluru. After reaching cruising altitude, the cabin crew started meal service. I noticed that they rolled up the cart straight to where I was sitting (somewhere in the middle of the plane) and asked me “Mr Rajagopal, what would you like to have for dinner?”

That was an absolute stunner for me. I know in premium classes it is a practice for crew to know beforehand who they are serving, but moi flying in Y class (or cattle class as one prominent Indian politician once described the back of the bus)? The crew knew my name and that was an absolutely delightful surprise for me. They served me well & I sure got a few envious looks from around the cabin.

The 2 cabin crew members who worked my section would come up to me once in a while and ensure that I was all comfy. Nothing artificial, but a genuine and warm desire to serve well, which is sadly missing from a lot of airlines this day. Believe you me, these are the little, personal touches that make flying such a lovely experience for me.

When I inquired how the crew knew me by name, I was told that they were informed beforehand that I would be flying with them and was asked to take special care of me. Social media at work, yes? 🙂

I felt like the ‘king of good times’ as I thoroughly enjoyed my flight and didn’t forget to compliment Kingfisher in my feedback form (I believe they should look at the paper quality of the form as ball point pens don’t write well on them – minor detail, I know).

I landed early morning at Bengaluru and almost missed my connecting flight to Cochin due to a security snafu. I literally missed my bus to the plane. However, the kind people at Kingfisher got me ferried to the waiting ATR in their car just in time. I hopped on the plane and we were off. Trust me on this; they could have left without me. Will never forget the sight of an ATR waiting on the ground on a misty morning, the crew peeping out of the door and me diving into it with my rucksack pulling me back. Reminded me of how we jump into moving trains. Another big star from me.

Landed in Cochin and I was happy to let Kingfisher know that my flights went well and they DMed back wishing me a great time in India. (Almost sounds like a love affair, hmmm?)

So I spent the next couple of days train hopping across India (I think I spent 7 out of my 9 days sleeping on overnight trains). A week later, I was ready to make the hop back to Dubai. I was flying from Chennai and on my local train ride to the airport, I was wondering if I would have any similar surprises in store.

I was met by this very helpful Kingfisher ground staff who helped me with my bags. And I did make a note of how Kingfisher staff are generally polite, professional and courteous. You begin to feel that these people, whether they are at the low end or the high end of the line, are carefully cherry-picked to live a certain brand vision that leads to delighting customers.

Proceeded to check-in and gladly got my fav seat on an A321 which gives you humongous amounts of legroom. There were no surprises waiting for me at the check-in desk. Must say, I was slightly disappointed after all the pampering a week ago. I traipsed across the terminal towards a Maggi noodle stall and went on to ravenously chomp down a noodle bowl.

As I gulp through my noodles, I spot 2 Kingfisher staff make a beeline for me and I’m like – Uh Oh! Crew: Mr. Rajagopal, we were looking for you… So again, Kingfisher decided to make my day. Minutes later, I was escorted into a lounge at Chennai Airport (at this point was beginning to feel like royalty) and the staff promised to fetch me before boarding. Spent a good 30 minutes in the lounge and then she was back.  Trust me, nothing beats the experience of being chaperoned by a Kingfisher crew on the ground. I did manage to count a few envious looks and did I say I didn’t have to stand in a line for my security check? The lovely crew member hopped with me on the bus and literally dropped me at the door of the plane. My mind was flying at 35k feet by then.

The flight to Bengaluru went without incident. Must say, I liked my seat on the ATR in front of the plane which is the only row facing the rest of the seats. They are comfortable and you get a feeling of flying in a biz jet. Landed at Bengaluru and was at met at the door of the plane by another Kingfisher staffer. I know that at this point this is all sounding like a giant ego-fueled fairy tale. But then this gorgeous staffer walks me from the plane, takes me through immigration and security, mind you, no standing in queues again, you are introduced everywhere as a ‘guest’ and then proceeds to comfortably ensconce me in a premium lounge at the International Terminal.

I tuck into some fine Sauvignon Blanc, Paneer rolls and rum cake as I wait for my ‘Bus to Dubai. My ‘handler’ appeared again before boarding and walked me on the airbridge till my jet, bidding bye and safe travels.

Wheels up to Dubai, great food, much better than on the inbound leg, caught some shuteye and a perfect landing – didn’t even know if we touched ground, just floated in and came to a stop at the airbridge. As we deplaned, the Captain came out to say hello. A great ending to an awesome Kingfisher tale.

So what’s the summary of this whole experience? Just a fluffy piece singing a lot of praise in favor of Kingfisher for making the day of a planegeek? Well, they earned it and yes, a big thank you to them for giving me one of the best flights in my life.

Will Kingfisher roll out the same red carpet treatment to everyone who tweets to them about their journeys? Perhaps not. But have they won a loyal customer and strong brand evangelist in me. Definitely, yes.

To sign off, brands engaging in social media take off to a new level when they are able to consistently and creatively offer value, engagement and delightful surprises to their audience.  It all starts from caring to listen and daring to surprise. Amen!

The top 10 aviation photos of 2010, starring snow December 21, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation.
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There’s something magical about snow and winter that gives a unique character to airplanes and aviation. The white bleary landscapes make us have a closer look at these elegant flying machines and remind us of their resilience when it comes to dealing with the rough elements of nature. We also think of the invisible people who work round the clock to keep them flying. So without much ado, here’s my favorite pick of aviation snaps of airplanes from around the world posing in front of snow, all clicked in December 2010.

1.    easyJet A319 flying in front of a snow-laden cliff in Innsbruck, Austria.

Pic Credit: Emanuel Linert

2.    A Southern Air Boing 747-400 Freighter takes off from Amsterdam, Schiphol, Netherlands leaving a plume of snow behind.

Pic Credit: Maarten-sr

3.    An Air Mauritius Airbus A340-300 lands at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport.

Pic Credit: Pascal Maillot

4.    A Lufthansa Airbus A321-231 gets deiced at Munich Franz Josef Strauss International Airport.

Pic credit: Manuel Recht

5.    A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-841 at Zurich Kloten Airport proves to the world that it is the world’s largest snowblower.

Pic Credit: Sandro Mederle

6.    A majestic China Airlines Cargo Boeing 747-409F wishes Merry Christmas to everyone at Prague Ruzyne Airport.

Pic Credit: Peter Volek

7.    An Egypt Air Cargo Airbus A300B4 is reverse snow plowing at Bruges Ostend Airport in Belgium.

Pic Credit: Luc Van Belleghem

8.    An Emirates 777-300 skims through some shallow fog before coming into land in Glasgow where it is -8C in the noon.

Pic Credit: Fred Seggie

9.    A LinxAir Embraer Legacy series corporate jet looks a bit flummoxed in the snow at Samedan, Switzerland.

Pic Credit: Danijel Jovanovic

10.    Snow covered cockpit of the famous Jumbo Hostel made out of a Boeing 747-212B at Stockholm, Sweden.

Pic Credit: Stefan Sjogren

The top 10 aviation snow photos of 2010

There’s something magical about snow and winter that gives a unique character to airplanes and aviation. The white bleary landscapes make us have a closer look at these elegant flying machines and remind us of their resilience when it comes to dealing with the rough elements of nature. We also think of the invisible people who work round the clock to keep them flying. So without much ado, here’s my favorite pick of aviation snaps of airplanes from around the world posing in front of snow, all clicked in December 2010.

1. easyJet A319 flying front of a snow-laden cliff in Innsbruck, Austria.
http://www.airplane-pictures.net/image113534.html

2. A Southern Air Boing 747-400 Freighter takes off from Amsterdam, Schiphol, Netherlands leaving a plume of snow behind.
http://www.airplane-pictures.net/image113276.html

3. An Air Mauritius Airbus A340-300 lands at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport.
http://www.airplane-pictures.net/image113014.html

4. A Lufthansa Airbus A321-231 gets deiced at Munich Franz Josef Strauss International Airport.
http://www.airliners.net/photo/Lufthansa/Airbus-A321 231/1834403/&sid=d8f7ac4ac83d2042284b40b756a5d226

5. A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-841 at Zurich Kloten Airport proves to the world that it is the world’s largest snowblower.
http://www.airliners.net/photo/Singapore-Airlines/Airbus-A380-841/1835075/&sid=5b5df9a8c51015953270c64515e0395d

6. A majestic China Airlines Cargo Boeing 747-409F wishes Merry Christmas to everyone at Prague Ruzyne Airport.http://www.airliners.net/photo/China-Airlines-Cargo/Boeing-747-409F SCD/1835056/&sid=13033267262dee4cedabb4bb96dc2c14 

 

7. An Egypt Air Cargo Airbus A300B4 is reverse snow plowing at Bruges Ostend Airport in Belgium. http://www.airliners.net/photo/EgyptAir-Cargo/Airbus-A300B4-622R%28F%29/1834471/&sid=d8f7ac4ac83d2042284b40b756a5d226

8. An Emirates 777-300 skims through some shallow fog before coming into land in Glasgow where it is -8C in the noon.
http://www.airliners.net/photo/Emirates/Boeing-777-31H-ER/1834180/&sid=d8f7ac4ac83d2042284b40b756a5d226

9. A LinxAir Embraer Legacy series corporate jet looks a bit flummoxed in the snow at Samedan, Switzerland.
http://www.airplane-pictures.net/image113145.html

10. Snow covered cockpit of the famous Jumbo Hostel made out of a Boeing 747-212B at Stockholm, Sweden.
http://www.airliners.net/photo/Jumbo-Hostel/Boeing-747-212B/1825224/&sid=9e903ff388bcb14c6098c9641504f816

Snow has disrupted air travel across Europe since the last couple of days with thousands of flight cancelations throwing holiday plans of thousands of travelers into disarray.

Particularly hard hit was London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport. One third of flights were canceled in Paris and Frankfurt. The UK, France and Germany were among the worst-hit areas, with forecasters warning of freezing weather all week. More snow is expected in UK in the days to come as the airlines and airports struggle to cope with the adverse weather, flight cancellations, delays and backlog of passengers stranded at airports.

As of 20 Dec,

UK: British Airways cancels all short-haul departures. Heathrow, Gatwick, Cardiff, Edinburgh and other airports suffering disruption or knock-on effects

France: Authorities ask airlines to cut 30% of flights from Paris’s two main airports Charles de Gaulle and Orly to ease congestion.

Germany: Some 300 of 1,340 flights cancelled at Frankfurt because of problems elsewhere in Europe, airport operator Fraport says.

Netherlands: The schedule at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam is suffering cancellations and delays.

Transport officials are struggling to cope with the current weather, compounded by the backlog caused by severe weather over the weekend.