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Marketing & Sales
The proposed new airline intends to cut out new territory as it goes about marketing itself. While it will clearly serve the target markets of Southeastern Europe and Turkey, it will just as clearly be a different kind of player on the field, and will seek to be known not only as a Western airline, but at the cutting edge of the aviation business in Europe.
The airline’s emphasis on the latest information and electronic technology, and its stress on comfort, convenience, safety and customer service, will be cornerstones on which the marketing strategy will be built.
The airline will utilize a combination of methods to achieve the recognition that it both desires and needs. A fairly large advertising budget is planned to buy the space and time to get its name and message in front of the largest possible group of potential customers that it can. Given the crowded field of European regional airlines, it is better to come on like a lion than a lamb, or you may be lost in the herd.
The airline will also utilize public relations to good advantage to extend and supplement its advertising budget.
There are a number of "hooks," aside simply from its newness, that the airline can utilize to get the media’s attention. The airline is opening up new markets, and it also is transcending the technological barrier with the latest technology in the business in Europe, or anywhere. It has big ambitions, but knows that it needs to serve the customer first to realize them. And it wants to know and serve its markets better than anyone else.
Everything about this airline, from its name to its colors, from the look of its planes to its airport kiosks, from its smart but informal crew uniforms to its advertisements and literature should set it apart. And it costs little more to do things freshly and smartly than the more ordinary way of doing things. An organization is new only once in its life, so the airline should grab that opportunity and get all the attention it can at the outset. And it needs to have both an adequate budget, as well as an outwardly directed management, to achieve that end.
The new airline will become known as one where all the staff practice the motto, "We have a job to do, and we do it every day – for you!""
The airline’s sales strategy will flow from its overall concept and marketing approach. Mass marketing, but with a personal touch utilizing airline employees as spokesmen and women to explain that "I have a job to do, and I do it everyday – for you!", will aim to steer as many people as possible either to the airline’s website, or to its telephone-based customer-service representatives. While clients are free to utilize their own travel agents, and the airline may also want to be accessible through general travel sites such as Travelocity, the more customers that can be encouraged to use the airline’s own reservations and ticketing services, the less revenue will have to be shared in the form of expensive commissions.
E-reservations and e-ticketing, combined with e-check-in, make the most sense for any customers who have online access, and also for the airline itself. But nonetheless, the airline must not lose sight of the fact that many people do not have access to the Internet, or do not care to use it to arrange their travel, or perhaps just prefer a more personal touch, and so other means of access must always be readily available.
The regional and specialized sales and marketing managers, as explained in the section on Personnel, will concentrate their effort on targeting specific clients that have the potential to offer corporate or group travel (including contract arrangements), or who are potential air-cargo customers. The airline will not have the resources to field a large sales team, and so these regional managers must target their efforts, and the airline must effectively utilize its mass marketing methods as well as the Internet to attract individual travelers who, once they experience the new airline, hopefully will feel a close affinity toward it and will become loyal and happy customers.
Locations & Facilities
Financial, traffic, and other studies currently are underway to determine the optimal prime basing location for the proposed new airline. Among the locations under study are the following eight:
- Luxembourg, Luxembourg;
- Berlin, Germany;
- London City Airport, London, United Kingdom;
- Stanstead Airport, London, United Kingdom;
- EuroAirport, Basel/Mulhouse, Switzerland/France;
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands;
- Cologne/Bonn, Germany;
- Munich, Germany.
In selecting a location to base the new airline, the following 11 major considerations are being evaluated, in roughly descending order of relative weight:
- The tax and business regime in place in the selected locale. A low profit tax rate and a regulatory and political climate supportive of business, and particularly foreign investment, are key considerations.
- The availability of relatively low-cost facilities suitable for basing both the business and aircraft-support operations, as well as the aircraft, is another key consideration.
- The availability of sufficient landing and parking slots and gate facilities to permit the desired level of service at the base airport.
- The ability to interconnect with one or more major carriers for onward interline arrangements both within Europe as well as to trans-Atlantic and global destinations.
- A location that, given the maximum range of the selected aircraft, will enable non-stop flights to the most important destinations within the new airline’s service area in Southeastern Europe and Turkey and, at most, one-stop service to more distant or secondary destinations.
- The existence of relatively high-traffic volume between the base location and one or more key interchange points to provide sufficiently high load factors between the base location and onward destinations and points of origin.
- The existence of a reasonably high level of cargo traffic, including opportunities for interline trans-shipment of both inbound and outbound cargo.
- The support of a larger airline with which the proposed new airline can establish a particularly close working relationship.
- The support of local airport and aviation authorities to facilitate establishment, certification, and ongoing operation of the airline and its aircraft.
- A location outside of the U.K. to facilitate British trade finance on acquisition of the new aircraft, should decisions be made to acquire British-built Avro aircraft as previously noted, as well as to purchase, rather than lease, the aircraft.
- A range of other factors, including the availability and cost of local skilled workers, the growth potential of the market selected, year-round climatic and weather conditions as they may affect flight operations, the "cache" of the locale for marketing purposes, the cost and convenience or difficulty involved in command and control of the airline involving key personnel, some of whom may be based at various other locations, and so forth.
It is anticipated that most routine maintenance will be performed at the base location, with some more minor maintenance and repairs relegated to other locations in the route network. In both cases, most of this routine maintenance and repair work will be contracted out to established and experienced service providers, reducing the need for the new airline to maintain its own extensive maintenance and repair teams and facilities.
The airline will, however, perform its own normal line maintenance at home base and will utilize locally available services away from home. Aircraft also may be based at key airline hub locations away from the home business base as well.
With acquisition of British-built aircraft, major overhauls and heavy maintenance may be performed at British Aerospace’s Woodford facility in the U.K. on a selective basis. In addition, it is anticipated that separate fixed-cost maintenance agreements will be entered into for both the airframes and the engines, or these elements will be included in any dry-leasing arrangements entered into.
Estimates for total labor and spare parts costs have been calculated as a fixed per-hour cost and included in the portion of this business plan dealing with anticipated operating costs.
Sufficient apron and hangar space for staging, parking, and storing, as needed on a short-term basis, up to the entire initial five-aircraft fleet will be required at the base location and any other hub locations selected.
As the fleet expands over time, additional parking and storage space will be needed either at the main base location or at regional hubs in the airline route network. Additionally, sufficient office space, preferably in one central location at or near the base airport, will be required to house the airline’s main administrative offices and its central reservations system.
While the airline may consider establishing its own sales offices in key market locations, in general sales will be handled through a combination of Internet marketing utilizing the airline’s own website as well as other Internet travel websites, designated general sales agents in given locales, and regular travel agencies everywhere.
Flight may be based on aerodynamics, but the proposed airline will be based on technology, and lots of it. Efficiency and convenience through use of the most up-to-date informational and electronic technologies, in addition to modern aviation and navigational technologies, are guiding principals of the proposed new airline. Technology will also be a cornerstone of the new airline’s marketing strategy.
Among the technological features the new airline will offer are:
- Internet marketing and online reservations (e-reservations) and sales (e-sales) that will provide quick and easy access to airline schedules, flight availability, reservations, and ticketing to a wide range of customers worldwide. This eliminates payment of agency commissions and keeps costs low – savings that can be passed on to the customer.
- Electronic ticketing (e-ticketing) which will enable passengers to obtain their tickets online and avoid the need to obtain paper tickets from airline offices, travel agencies, or at the airport. It also frees the airline from having to stock, track, and issue tickets and maintain paper trails of them. Again, more savings for both the airline and the customer.
- Electronic check-in (e-check-in) that will virtually eliminate waiting in line to check-in for e-ticketed passengers, enabling them to confirm their identities, obtain their boarding passes, and check-in their baggage (and even purchase tickets upon check-in) utilizing a user-friendly kiosk that eliminates those last-minute frustrating waits to get to the counter. And it also greatly reduces the airline’s needs to staff check-in desks, control long lines, employ local contract ground staff, and expend money and resources on an antiquated system that only adds to the traveler’s inconvenience and frustration. Another win-win situation for both airline and passenger.
- Electronic baggage tracking (e-baggage tracking) which will enable the airline to track any piece of baggage from check-in to final pick-up and claim. If courier services can track parcels as they move around the world, and enable customers to track their parcels using tracking numbers and online tracking systems, then why can’t the same system be used to assure that no passenger will ever again have to wonder where his or her baggage might be? There may still be contingencies (such as late check-in, lack of space, security restrictions, late connections, and so forth) that cause baggage not to be placed on a given aircraft, but at least both the airline and the customer can be assured that they both know exactly where the given item of baggage is at any moment, and when it might be expected to arrive at the destination. This could well be an exclusive feature of the proposed new airline since no other airline appears to be utilizing it at present.
- Electronic cargo tracking (e-cargo tracking) is the same basic idea as e-baggage tracking, and will use the same basic system, only for tracking cargo and parcels.
- Electronic quality control (e-QC) is another innovation that will enable technology to create a far better flying experience for the customer, give airline management and staff greater control over airline operations and performance, and save time, effort, money, and staff resources in the process. What is envisaged is a central electronic matrix that controls and monitors scheduling of aircraft, equipment, personnel, supplies, and support materiel, and responds to problems, excesses, and deficiencies.
It also will track all elements of a given passenger’s or customer’s transactions and interactions with the airline, from initial flight inquiry through reservations, ticketing, check-in, flight, connections, and final baggage pick-up, claim, and check-out, as well as any standing preferences, follow-up comments, inquiries, or problems. It also will monitor things like weather conditions, flight delays or projected delays, gate jam-ups, and other contingencies, and will automatically notify both appropriate airline personnel as well as passengers and customers of any advisories, warnings, or changes.
- Electronic financial control (e-finance) will enable complete electronic financial control and monitoring of the airline’s finances, clear advantages.
- Additional technological features will be incorporated on-board the aircraft to provide flight crews with the latest navigational and communication technologies to assure the highest level of passenger safety and also airline reliability and punctuality. Included in this technology, in the case of the Avro aircraft, is all-digital ARINC 700 avionics with advanced Cat IIIb low weather-minimal landing capability to permit landings under the poorest permissible approach and visibility conditions
Equipment & Tools
Another issue still being evaluated and which will be decided is the question of how to acquire the aircraft. For a variety of reasons, including the ease with which the leases can be cancelled by the lessor and the lack of "ownership" of the aircraft, wet leasing has been ruled out except for short-term acquisition of aircraft that would be employed in meeting peak demand-type services as outlined elsewhere in this business plan.
The two remaining options both need to be examined from cost, flexibility, and finance points of view: Dry leasing the aircraft (generally on a five-year lease), or outright purchase. Both provide long-term control over the aircraft, and while both options tend to restrict changes in the fleet that might be preferred after the initial years of operation, market conditions and high demand for aircraft indicate that it would be relatively easy to be released from the leases, or to sell or lease the aircraft to new owners or operators, or to return them to their sources.
A number of leasing sources are available for the BAe Avro aircraft being considered, and some used aircraft also are available from time-to-time on the market from various sources. In addition, new aircraft can be acquired directly from the manufacturer on a variety of different plans and options, as well as used aircraft on occasion.
Cost factors employed assume dry leasing of new Avro RJ100 aircraft in 99-seat configurations, with a comparison for purchasing. It is anticipated that finance guarantees up to 85 percent of the acquisition cost of the aircraft could be obtained from the Export Credit Guarantee Department of the United Kingdom (ECGD) for purchasing British-built aircraft exported from the UK.