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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.

(more…)

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Are you really doing social media? February 17, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Marketing, Social Media.
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Blogging. Microblogging. Social Networking. Location-based services. Social Bookmarking. Social Media Optimization. Gamification. Social Media Analytics. Social Communities. Content Strategy. Content Curation. ROI. Social Business. Brand Monitoring. Influencer Outreach. Sentiment Analysis. Buzz Monitoring. Share of Voice. User-Generated Content. Crowdsourcing. Viral Marketing. Engagement. Storytelling. It goes on.

Sometimes, it’s good to take a step back from all that and ask a simple question: why do people use social media?

Social media helps PEOPLE connect and build relationships with other PEOPLE*.

Are your social media efforts doing the same? If not, you are not doing social media.

*Or brands who can be human. 

Pic credit: Flickr

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.

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 airliners of the future from Airbus, Boeing & Comac November 20, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Marketing.
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In a previous post comparing Airbus airliners versus Boeing airplanes, I said we would talk more about airplanes that have been recently launched or currently under development. All of us have heard about the Airbus A380, the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, airliners that are currently generating a lot of media buzz.
Here’s a quick primer into these airliners of the future that you will spot in airports around the world in the years to come.

Airbus A380

The world’s largest passenger airliner, the wide-body, four-engined Airbus A380 is also the world’s first truly double-decker airplane. TheA380 made its first commercial flight on 25 October 2007 from Singapore to Sydney with Singapore Airlines.

The A380 seats 525 people in a typical three-class configuration or up to 853 people in all-economy class configurations. The A380-800 can fly up to 15,200km, sufficient to fly from New York to Hong Kong at a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (about 900 km/h or 560 mph at cruising altitude).

The Airbus A380 was developed as an alternative to rival the Boeing 747, the historic leader in the ultra-large commercial aircraft sector dominated by Boeing.

There are currently 39 A380-800s flying in the world; operated by 5 major airlines – Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Lufthansa and Air France. Emirates is currently the largest operator of the A380 with 14 in service out of its total of 90 on order, the largest amount of any carrier. There are a total of 234 orders for the A380-800. Airbus is expected to start producing an enhanced version A380-900 and a freighter version in the future.

The A380 is one of the most talked-about airplanes in the history of aviation. As the largest passenger carrier, the A380 is expected to be the mainstay of the fleet of hub and spoke airlines such as Emirates who are in the race to be the leading global carrier. The A380 is known for bringing new standards of comfort and luxury to travelers on airlines such as Emirates who offer onboard spas and private suites. The A380 has also brought new operating efficiencies. Airbus promotes the A380 as using 2.9 litres of fuel per passenger per 100 kilometres, against the current airline fleet average of 5 litres, but these figures are argued by rival manufacturers.

By July 2010, the 31 A380s then in service had flown 156,000 hours with passengers in 17,000 flights, transporting 6 million passengers between 20 international destinations. The list price of an Airbus A380 is $346.3 million.

A380s belonging to Singapore Airlines (11), Qantas (6) and Lufthansa (4) are fitted with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines while those belonging to Emirates (14) and Air France (4) are fitted with Engine Alliance (a joint venture between GE and Pratt & Whitney) GP7000 engines.

The Qantas Saga



On 4 November 2010, Qantas Flight 32 operated by an A380-800 suffered an uncontained engine failure en route from Singapore Changi Airport to Sydney Airport and was forced to return to Singapore for an emergency landing. The engine blowout and fire was blamed on an oil leak resulting from a faulty engine component, leading to wing damage and scattering of engine debris on an Indonesian island. The entire fleet of Qantas A380s was grounded after the incident and the airline has said that over 40 Rolls-Royce engines in the fleet need to be replaced. Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa (with newer versions of Rolls-Royce engines) grounded their fleets for checks and replaced a couple of engines before taking back to the skies.

Airbus is planning to claim financial compensation from Rolls-Royce after revealing that A380 deliveries may suffer next year.

This incident is the first major hiccup in the Airbus A380 success story leading to major publicity woes for Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Qantas.  However, the A380 is expected to continue its reign as the superjumbo of the skies for a long time to come.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner



The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a long range, mid-sized, wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner is Boeing’s most fuel-efficient airliner and the world’s first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction.

The 787 is Boeing’s answer to the A330 family of aircraft produced by Airbus and is designed to replace Boeing’s 767 family of aircraft.

By September 2010, 847 Boeing 787s had been ordered by 56 customers.  The 787, which has been plagued by problems since the program launched in 2004, is currently more than three years behind schedule. Boeing’s plans to deliver the first 787 to Japan’s All Nippon Airways by the end of 2010 has been thrown out of gear following an electrical fire on a test flight on 9 November 2010. A Bloomberg report recently said that “Boeing may not be able to deliver the first plane until 2012.”

The Dreamliner has been touted by Boeing as the most fuel-efficient and eco-friendly aircraft to date. It is also packed with features that aim to give the passenger a more comfortable flight.

In a major shift away from traditional aluminum and titanium, nearly all of the aircraft’s fuselage and wings are made of composites. That allows the wide-body jet to use 20 percent less fuel than similar planes and make less noise. Other features include more room, cleaner cabin air, wider windows with automatic dimming and LED mood lighting. The 787s will come with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 or General Electric GEnx engines.

The 787, which has a list price of around $161 million for a basic model, is configured in two versions — a 787-8 carrying 210 passengers and a 787-9 carrying almost 300 people. They will carry passengers non-stop on routes between 6,500km and 16,000km at speeds up to Mach 0.85.

The Airbus A350



The Airbus A350 has not received the kind of buzz the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has enjoyed, but has emerged as a serious contender to the Dreamliner.

The A350 will be the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer. The A350 is designed to compete with the Boeing 777 and the Boeing 787.

There are many similarities between the A350 and the B787. The A350 will be made from 53 per cent carbon fiber; the 787 is 50 per cent carbon fiber. However a key difference is that the A350 heavily borrows from the A380 family in terms of technology and will also seat more passengers than the B787. In terms of list prices, the A350 is more expensive than the B787. The A350 costs $225-$285 million; while the Boeing 787 comes at $150-$205 million.

Airbus claims that it will be more fuel-efficient, with up to 8% lower operating cost than the Boeing 787. It is scheduled to enter into airline service during the second half of 2013. The launch customer for the Airbus A350 is Qatar Airways, which ordered 80 of them.

The A350 will be launched in 3 variants (A350-800, -900 and -1000), with a seating capacity of 270, 314 and 350 passengers respectively. As of now, all A350 jets on order will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent engines.

As of October 2010, 35 customers have placed 573 firm orders for the A350 family of airliners.

The Boeing 747-8

The Boeing 747-8 is the fourth-generation Boeing 747 version, with lengthened fuselage, redesigned wings and improved efficiency. The 747-8 is the largest 747 version and will overtake the A340-600 as the longest passenger aircraft in the world.

The 747-8 first flew on February 8, 2010. Delivery of the first 747-8 freighter has been postponed multiple times and is now expected in mid-2011 with the passenger model delivery to follow.

As of June 2010, 109 Boeing 747-8s were on order, 76 of the freighter version, 32 of the passenger version, and one VIP version. The passenger version of the 747-8, called the Intercontinental has not enjoyed much success in terms of orders, with airlines preferring the larger A380.

Boeing claims that the 747-8 is more than 10 percent lighter per seat and will consume 11 percent less fuel per passenger than the A380, translating into a trip-cost reduction of 21 percent and a seat-mile cost reduction of over 6 percent.

The 747-8 Intercontinental costs between $293 and $308 million while the 747-8F costs between $301.5 and 304.5 million.

A key feature of the 747-8 will be the presence of raked wingtips that are found on the B777 and 787 models that will eliminate the winglets commonly found on the 747-400.


The Comac C919


The Comac C919, China’s first commercial passenger aircraft is vying to be a serious contender to Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, the current world market leaders in narrow body aircraft.

Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd (Comac) recently received 100 orders for the single-aisle C919 at the Zuhai Airshow. Slated for production in 2016, the C919 can seat up to 168 passengers. Many crucial systems in the jet are being developed in partnership with big names in Western aviation such as Honeywell.

China is the world’s fastest-growing aviation market. By one estimate, air passenger traffic in China is projected to expand by nearly 8% annually for the next 20 years. The country plans to build 70 airports by 2020.

To meet demand, China’s domestic airlines will need to buy an estimated 4,330 new aircraft valued at $480 billion over the next two decades. Currently Boeing and Airbus each control about half the Chinese market for big planes. China is hoping to use the C919 to capture a good share of the domestic market. Check out more buzz on the C919 on Flightblogger.

Hope this was useful & till next time, happy flying!

25 fast facts on the 25th anniversary of Emirates October 25, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Marketing, UAE.
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Emirates, the national airline of Dubai, United Arab Emirates celebrates its 25th anniversary today. With a capital of $10 million (AED 36.7 million) and 2 used Boeing 727-200 aircraft in 1985, Emirates has come a long way to be one of the world’s leading airlines.

Here are 25 fast facts on Emirates.

  1. Emirates operates over 2,400 passenger flights per week from Dubai International Airport Terminal 3, to 105 cities in 62 countries across 6 continents.
  2. Emirates is one of the only nine airlines in the world to operate an all wide-body aircraft fleet. They don’t do small, baby!
  3. Emirates has 151 aircraft in its fleet including 7 freighters and is among the youngest in the skies, with an average age of 69 months.
  4. Emirates is the world’s largest operator of Boeing 777s with 86 aircraft in fleet & 55 on order.
  5. Emirates is the world’s largest operator of Airbus A380s with 13 aircraft in fleet & a whopping 77 on order.
  6. Emirates generates 36.5% of its revenue from Europe & Americas & spends 35.1% of its revenue on fuel.
  7. Emirates operates three of the ten world’s longest non-stop commercial flights from Dubai to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.
  8. Emirates is the largest airline in the Middle East in terms of revenue, fleet size, and passengers carried.
  9. In 2010, Emirates was the sixth-largest airline in the world in terms of international passengers carried and largest  in the world in terms of scheduled international passenger-kilometres flown.
  10. In 2010, Emirates was voted the eighth best airline in the world by Skytrax.
  11. On 8 June 2010, at the Berlin Air show, Emirates ordered 32 A380s worth $11.5 billion. The deal was the biggest single order for the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
  12. Emirates currently flies A380s to 11 cities around the world and resumes its A380 service to New York JFK on 31 October 2010.
  13. Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3 was built exclusively for the use of Emirates at a cost of $4.5 billion and officially opened 14 October 2008. Terminal 3 is the largest building in the world by floor space, with over 1,500,000 sq. m. (370 acres) of space.
  14. Emirates ranks as the largest airline in the world by international seating capacity, according to the latest annual report by IATA.
  15. Emirates plans to have over 320 aircraft by 2018.
  16. In 2009, Emirates was voted the second best First Class by Skytrax.
  17. Emirates became the first airline in the world to introduce a personal entertainment system on a commercial aircraft after introducing the world’s first seat-back screens in 1992.
  18. ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) is the in-flight entertainment system operated by Emirates, and features between 600 and 1000 channels, the largest offering in the world.
  19. Skywards, the frequent flyer programme of Emirates has 5.72 million members.
  20. Emirates has been involved in two of the largest football sponsorship deals ever seen. Its 2004 agreement with Arsenal, which included stadium naming rights, was worth around US $170 million. Its seven year deal with FIFA, signed in 2007, cost a reported US $195 million.
  21. Emirates has only had 3 incidents in its 25 years of history and has never had a casualty. Hope the exemplary record remains.
  22. Emirates employs 10,785 cabin crew from over 120 countries speaking over 80 languages. Their uniforms are designed by Simon Jersey plc.
  23. You can buy an Emirates A380 1:50 Scale Solid Aircraft Model from the official Emirates Online Store for $3300 here.
  24. According to a Wharton article, Maurice Flanagan, the current Executive Vice-Chairman of Emirates so hates the word “marketing” that he essentially banned the use of the term at Emirates. One time when he found that 11 of the firm’s 20,000 employees had the word “marketing” in their job title, he moved them to other positions.
  25. In the year of its 25th anniversary, Emirates announced revenues of US$11.8 billion and net profit up a massive 416% to $964 million.

Blog Action Day & Age of Conversation 3 – Two great online causes for the win! October 15, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Books, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Marketing, Social Media.
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Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event where thousands of bloggers around the world unite to talk about a common issue that impacts the lives of people around the world. This collective buzz sparks online discussion, awareness and action. This year, Blog Action Day is all about WATER.

Why Water?

“Almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s one in eight of us.

Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. The UN predicts that one tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply and sanitation.

But, water moves beyond just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue, an animal welfare issue, a sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, deserving a global conversation.”

[VIMEO 15336764]

Here are some WATER facts that I picked up from the Blog Action Day website:

  • 40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info »
  • 38,000 Children a Week: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info »
  • Wars Over Water: Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info »
  • Cell Phones vs. Toilets: Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets, but many more have access to a cell phone. More Info »
  • Food Footprint: It takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion liters of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe. More Info »
  • Technology Footprint: The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that’s 40 million liters to charge those alone. More Info »
  • Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters. More Info »
  • Bottled Water Footprint: The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. More Info »
  • Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. More Info »
  • Building Wells: Organizations like Water.org and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world. More Info »
  • Conservation Starts at Home: The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. Find out how much you use and challenge your readers to do that same. More Info »

Living in Oman for a better part of my life and now based in the UAE, I have been lucky to enjoy access to clean, safe water. However, I am also aware that water is a scarce commodity in many parts of the world. Hence, it is my personal commitment to reduce as much wastage of water as possible.

That personal commitment apart, one of the ways I’m contributing this year is by joining the Age of Conversation Bum Rush.

THE AGE OF CONVERSATION 3 for the WIN!


Considering the fact that social media has gone all mainstream now, Age of Conversation is a global initiative started by Drew McLellan in Iowa and Gavin Heaton in Australia, two marketing whizzes who were savvy enough to see the emerging possibilities of social media-driven online collaboration, crowdsourcing, creativity and online publishing to create the world’s first marketing ‘blook’ ‘The Age of Conversation’, 3 years ago!

Every year, AOC brings together the world’s sharpest marketing and creative minds who publish a chapter each, promote the book and the co-authors in their online community and use proceeds of book sales to benefit a charity. This is my 3rd year in the AOC adventure and being a part of this rockstar community has only benefited me, personally and professionally.

This year, Age of Conversation 3:  It’s Time To Get Busy! brings about 171 leading marketing bloggers from around the world who capture the distinct shift from social media as a hypothetical consumer loyalty tool, as it was considered only a little more than a year ago, to its current state as a staple in the modern marketing toolbox.

Although the book covers more than just social media, the topic is ubiquitous among the book’s 10 sections: At the Coalface; Identities, Friends and Trusted Strangers; Conversational Branding; Measurement; Corporate Conversations; In the Boardroom; Innovation and Execution; Influence; Getting to Work; and Pitching Social Media.

THE AGE OF CONVERSATION 3 – Official Charity – charity: water

The first Age of Conversation raised nearly $15,000 for Variety, the international children’s charity, and the Age of Conversation 2 raised a further $10,000 for Variety.

This year, all benefits from AOC 3 sales will go to charity: water. charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects.

Age of Conversation 3:  It’s Time To Get Busy! is available on Amazon in Kindle, Paperback and Hardcover versions. So don’t forget to get your copy today. The book is great mind fodder if you are passionate about communications, marketing, digital strategy, branding, PR and social media, plus they make great gifts for your agency, partners and clients, and you also do your bit for charity!

And do remember to read my chapter: Who is the real social media influencer – my take on identifying the real stars in the social media space.

Amazingly, just $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. An average water project costs $5,000 and can serve 250 people with clean, safe water – so purchasing a copy of the Age of Conversation 3 really can make a difference to someone’s life!

Happy reading AOC3 & happy Blog Action Day!

40 out of 40 for Oman Air September 2, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Marketing, Oman, Travel.
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Launches 40th destination ahead of 40th National Day of Oman.

Pic credit: Christophe Selzere, JetPhotos.Net

Congratulations to Oman Air, the national airline of the Sultanate of Oman, who launched Kathmandu, its 40th destination today. 2010 is of great significance for the Sultanate as it marks the 40th National Day of Oman (the birthday of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said is on 18 November). Every corporate in the country is involved in a marketing activity to do with the #40, so it is great to see Oman Air celebrate in a unique manner by launching their 40th route.

Oman Air commenced operations in 1993. It achieved modest growth as a privately owned regional player till 2007, when the Government of Oman pulled out of Gulf Air, designated Oman Air as national carrier, recapitalized it and focused on developing it as an international airline. In 2007, Oman Air went long-haul by launching Bangkok and London. From then on, there has been no looking backwards for Oman Air, with a penchant of doing business differently from its bigger cousins in the region.

Pic credit: Smit ZhiFei, JetPhotos.Net

Oman Air - Flying High

2008 saw a slew of changes at Oman Air. In February 2008, Oman Air unveiled its new branding and aircraft livery as a part of its plans to go international. The characteristic Red, White and Green national colors and traditional Khanjar gave way to Turquoise Blue, Silver and Gold along with a Frankincense smoke plume in an effort to project Oman Air as the new wings of Oman and the ambassador of a nation known for its timeless traditions, vibrant heritage and legendary hospitality.

The year also saw the launch of new routes to the Indian Sub-Continent and the unveiling of a new fleet and long-haul route expansion program. In July 2008, industry veteran and former chief executive of Srilankan Airlines, Mr. Peter Hill took over as the new CEO of Oman Air following the untimely demise of CEO Ziad bin Karim Al Haremi, who played a stellar role in initiating the redevelopment and change of image of Oman Air.

2009 was truly a bellwether year for Oman Air. Under the leadership of Mr. Peter Hill and a revitalized management team, Oman Air went all out to dazzle the industry in a year of superlative achievements. The year witnessed in rapid succession the arrival of the first of Oman Air’s brand new A330s, the launch of Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Male and Colombo, the unveiling of new Balenciaga designed uniforms, the launch of industry-leading First, Business and Economy Class cabins on the A330 fleet. A $10 million destination marketing campaign in association with Ministry of Tourism saw both Oman and Oman Air make great inroads into European markets. During the 2009 Dubai Air Show, Oman Air finalized an order for 5 Embraer 175 aircraft with another 5 options.

Oman Air First Class Cabin

Oman Air Business Class - 1st in world to offer 4-abreast seating in cabin

In 2010, Oman Air became the first airline in the world to offer in-flight mobile and WiFi connectivity through OnAir onboard its long-haul Airbus A330 fleet. It is interesting to note that Oman Air covered impressive strides during a period when the airline industry was weathering a downturn.

Having made significant investments in infrastructure and improving its products and services over the last few years, the future looks robust for Oman Air. The airline has a strategic vision of differentiating itself from its regional competitors by being a niche boutique airline that is focused on driving point-to-point traffic rather than being a hub-and-spoke carrier.

The results of ‘Change is on its way’ and ‘Discover the future of air travel’ are promising. During the first half of 2010, Oman Air saw a 40% increase in available seat-kilometres, a 73% rise in revenue passenger-kilometres and a 14 point improvement in seat factor, over the same period last year with passenger numbers up by 46% and cargo by 44%.

Along with the ongoing development of Muscat International Airport, Oman Air is playing a key role in the development of 4 domestic airports coming up in Sohar, Ras Al Hadd, Adam and Duqm. In October 2010, Oman Air will launch Milan as its 41st route. The airline will take delivery of its 7th A330 in 2011along with the first of Embraer jets that will ply on domestic routes. Plans are on to refurbish the existing B737 fleet to the same standards as the luxurious A330 fleet. Oman Air will take delivery of its first B787 Dreamliner in 2014 (the airline will be acquiring them from ALAFCO). The first of 6 737s on order are expected to arrive in 2014 as well.

The fortunes of Oman Air will be tied to the successful joint promotion of Oman as a must-visit luxury destination by both Oman Air and Oman’s Ministry of Tourism (a point Mr. Hill emphasizes often to fill the birds), development of ancillary services related to hospitality, tourism, ground services etc., and a continual improvement of travel services in a region that offers unparalleled choice to the flying public and intense competition between regional legacy carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways who are truly global in their reach and cut-throat Low Cost Carriers such as Flydubai and Air Arabia.


Mabrook, Oman Air. More power to your wings. Fly higher for Oman!

Great value Eid holiday airfares from Muscat to 15 cities around the world August 26, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Marketing, Oman, Travel.
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The Eid holidays are upon us and there is very much a chance that those in Oman will get a week off from Thursday, 9th of September 2010 to Wednesday, 15th of September 2010(?).

If that happens, happy long week holidays to all you.

And just in case, if you are planning to fly out of town, here’s a quick look at airfares in Muscat.

Understandably, most of you must have already booked your tickets, especially to India. If not, you can use this guide to snap up the last remaining deals.

From my research, Bangkok looks like the cheapest value long-haul destination to fly to. And towards India, Air India Express continues its reign as the best great value airline to fly to that part of the world. Flying out on Thursday, Wednesday, 15th of September 2010 will prove to be more expensive that any other day, as most people would want to start their holiday at the break of the weekend. If you can fly out on Friday, 10th of September or Saturday, 11th of September, you can save a couple of Rials. Lastly, flying on a low-cost airline such as Flydubai, Air India Express or Air Arabia can get you a better value than a full-service airline. And it goes without saying that the fares will rise as we get closer to Eid.

These airfares apply on a single adult, return journey from Muscat and are inclusive of all taxes and surcharges. They are valid as of 26 August 2010, 1pm – Oman time.

Journey dates: outbound – Thursday, 9th of September 2010 and inbound – Wednesday, 15th of September 2010, unless mentioned next to the itinerary. All journeys are non-stop, unless indicated.

Let’s roll with the fares.

1.    Cochin: MCT-COK-MCT: 194 Rials on Jet Airways.

2.    Mumbai: MCT-MUM-MCT: 131 Rials on Air India.

3.    Trivandrum: MCT-TRV-MCT: 196 Rials on Jet Airways. 176 Rials on Air India Express if outbound: Friday, 10th of September 2010 and inbound: Thursday, 16th of September 2010.

4.    Calicut/Kozhikode: MCT-CCJ-MCT: 142 Rials on Air India Express.

5.   Delhi: MCT-DEL-MCT: 140 Rials on Air India Express. 134 Rials on Gulf Air with layover and change of aircraft at Bahrain.

6.    Mangalore: MCY-IXE-MCT: 184.5 Rials on Air India Express, if outbound: Friday, 10th of September 2010 and inbound: Thursday, 16th of September 2010.

7.    Dubai: MCT-DXB-MCT: 38 Rials on Flydubai.

8.    Bangkok: MCT-BKK-MCT: 153 Rials on Qatar Airways with a layover in Doha & change of aircraft in Doha.

9.   Kuala Lumpur: MCT-KUL-MCT: 241 Rials on Qatar Airways with a layover & change of aircraft in Doha.

10.   London Heathrow: MCT-LHR-MCT: 259 Rials on British Airways with stopover at Abu Dhabi, no aircraft change.

11.    Amman: MCT-AMM-MCT: 209.860 Rials on Flydubai with layover and change of aircraft at Dubai.

12.    Cairo: MCT-CAI-MCT: 232 Rials on Emirates with layover and change of aircraft at Dubai.

13.    Frankfurt: MCT-FRA-MCT: 225 Rials on Gulf Air with layover and change of aircraft at Bahrain.

14.    Colombo: MCT-CMB-MCT: 192 Rials on Emirates with layover and change of aircraft at Dubai.

15.    Kathmandu: MCT-KTM-MCT: 123.700 Rials on Oman Air, if outbound: Thursday, 9th of September 2010 and inbound: Thursday, 16th of September 2010.

To get these offers, visit the respective airline website, check with your travel agent or head to Expedia.  Please note that air fares of Oman Air, Air India Express &  Flydubai are not listed on Expedia.

The best cabin crew uniform in Indian skies August 17, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Travel.
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Close on the heels of JetLite unveiling their new cabin crew uniforms, IndiGo has decided to go for the PanAm designer look and shake up the skies.

Let’s have a fun contest today to find out the best cabin crew uniform in the Indian skies.

Who looks the sizzling best? Feel free to vote for your favorite airline uniform in the poll that follows the pictures. I pick Jet Airways.

* (Apologies for the ‘poor’ GoAir pic! Do share if you find a better one!)

Air India / Air India Express / Indian

Jet Airways

Jet Airways

Kingfisher / Kingfisher Red

JetLite

IndiGo

SpiceJet

GoAir

Paramount Airways