The new airline’s main competitors will vary depending on market and route served, and the category of passenger. For the most part, competition can be expected as follows:
Business and Government/IO segments to and from Southeastern Europe
For SE European Regional and Diaspora Personal and Leisure Travelers
For Western European Personal and Leisure Travelers, as well as Business and Government/IO Travelers between Western European destinations
Air France/Air Inter
Deutsche Air BA
TurkishJATKLM/KLM Cityhopper/KLM UK
For seasonal Holiday Travelers to Southeastern Europe and Turkey
The larger, more established carriers often suffer from a lack of flexibility, and a focus on feeding their main intra-European and trans-Atlantic routes. The smaller regional carriers often are focused almost exclusively on their own core regional service. The Southeastern European airlines often suffer from poor service and poor reputations. And the larger, more established charter operators are focused on the holiday charter and package market.
Again, the extent of competition (and what is listed here is not comprehensive) dictates the importance of the new airline’s three-prong strategy to seek out unserved and under-served routes and city pairs, key niche markets where it can effectively compete or create its own market, and meeting peak travel demands on key regional, seasonal, and intermittent routes. It also points out the importance of standing out from the crowd through offering a higher level of service and convenience, and utilizing technology and a service-oriented staff to achieve recognition and passenger preference right from the outset.
In comparing the proposed new airline to its competitors, there are at least two levels of comparison that must be considered; the usually lower-standard airlines, both scheduled and charter, flying out of the Southeastern European region, and the higher-standard, more highly regarded airlines operating out of Western Europe.
Beating the former source of competition is both a reasonable and an essential goal. But comparing favorably, and even standing notably above, the latter also is an important objective since these airlines will represent direct competition to the new airline on many of its projected key routes, despite efforts to avoid such competition to the extent feasible.
Fortunately, several of the key distinguishing characteristics planned for the new carrier not only will enable it to fare extremely well in both levels of competitive comparison, but will actually be achievable at a savings in cost and resources. In other words, by being smart, the new airline can be significantly better than its competition while at the same time accruing lower overall costs, a remarkably good combination.
In comparing the proposed new carrier to both its Southeastern European and its Western European competition, it is important to look at those factors that determine how most travelers choose an airline. They include the following (and the order of importance is different for each traveler and each situation, but the most important factors are listed):
- Safety, actual and perceived;
- Cost, and range of fares offered;
- Destinations served;
- Availability of seats;
- Availability of fares;
- Convenience of flight schedules, times of arrivals and departures;
- Frequency of flights;
- Connections, including reliability and convenience of connections;
- Nature of flights: non-stop, direct, number of stops, aircraft changes;
- Availability of different classes of service;
- Onboard comfort, service, meals, and amenities;
- Type of aircraft, including jet or non-jet, size, and speed;
- Age and condition of aircraft;
- Ease and efficiency of reservations and ticketing;
- Reliability and on-time departures and arrivals;
- Ground service;
- Reliability and quality of baggage handling;
- Friendly, competent service in reservations, check-in, and in the air;
- Overall reputation of airline;
- Nationality of carrier;
- Factors of personal preference.
While no airline probably can excel in every one of these areas, the closer an airline comes to "excellent," or at least "good," ratings in each of these key areas, the better it will fare in its competitive standing.
Both in the overall design of the airline and its basic operational features, as well as in its management, quality control, and day-to-day operations, the proposed airline is expected to stand out positively in almost every regard.
Competition with Southeastern European carriers
While not all Southeastern European carriers fit the stereotype presented here, and several are in the process of privatization and ostensible upgrading, most do operate at a lower level of service than is customary in Western Europe.
It is not uncommon for carriers in the region to operate older Soviet-built equipment (perceived to be less comfortable, less safe, and less reliable than its Western competition – perceptions that often are accurate).
For instance, such competing airlines as Avioimpex of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albanian Airlines (Albania’s Kuwaiti-owned private carrier), ADA Air (a smaller private carrier in Albania with which BalkConsort has been partnered for certain purposes), Hemus Air and Bulgarian Airlines, both of Bulgaria, Tarom, Romania’s state carrier, and even Malev, the Hungarian airline, still operate Soviet-era aircraft in their fleets. In some cases, these aircraft are turbo-prop powered, and not pure jet.
While often it is relatively inexpensive to lease such aircraft, their operating costs tend to be significantly higher than newer, more fuel-efficient Western-built aircraft, and their safety, reliability, and noise factors are often poor, in some cases limiting their ability to operate in some markets.
Service levels are poor in general, among both scheduled and charter carriers, which represent a significant part of the market, particularly in service to Kosovo and Turkey, the two niche markets identified for the new carrier.
By utilizing modern, safe, reliable, and cost-effective Western-built regional jet aircraft, the proposed new airline will offer a far more attractive alternative to the traveler both from within and outside Southeast Europe, and will be able to operate with far lower fuel and maintenance costs than the competition.
The comfort, reliability, speed, and safety of the new airline’s aircraft all will enable it to be the airline of preference for virtually all business, government, and organizational travelers from both within and outside the target region when traveling to or within the region, and it also will be preferred by most leisure and personal travelers, including those from with the target region, as well.
Greater reliability and punctuality of the aircraft, augmented by state-of-the-art navigational devices that permit operation under a wider range of weather and visibility conditions, will enable the airline to compete most favorably on those bases also, and will ensure the least likelihood of flight cancellations, postponements, and missed or late connections.
On the basis of fares, the new airline will offer highly competitive fares which, in many cases, should be below those offered by its Southeastern European competition. Higher load factors, combined with greater efficiency both in operational costs as well as in reservations, ticketing, and check-in, will enable the new airline to be highly competitive from both a cost and a quality perspective, and will also enable it to retain a higher percentage of its revenues.
In short, the local competition, except in a few cases (such as Aegean/Cronus Airlines, and to a lesser extent Olympic Airways, from Greece; Adria from Slovenia; in some cases Malev, from Hungary; and the Turkish carriers) will not represent very strong competition to the new airline, and particularly in attracting the primary market groups at which the new carrier will be aimed.
Finally, the new carrier will be seeking out, as part of its business and marketing strategies, routes and city pairs that offer unserved or under-served demand. That strategy also will help reduce the threat from competition, and will enable the carrier to further establish itself as the carrier of choice in Southeast Europe.
Competition with Western European carriers
The competitive picture is somewhat different when Western European carriers represent the competition. Many of the new airline’s competitive advantages relative to Southeastern European carriers are erased or at least minimized.
In most cases, the new airline will be competing with other carriers operating aircraft of a similar nature. Safety, comfort, convenience, and reliability, as well as in many cases cost, all are on a similar footing. To stand out from the crowd, the airline must do things either differently or better, or both, than its competitors, and it is here that both the design and the management of the new airline must be at their sharpest.
The competition in this region will include such well-established carriers as Swiss International, Austrian, Tyrolean, Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways, Air France, Alitalia, Sabena, and others of that nature. More recent, lower-cost, and "hipper" start-ups such as EasyJet, Go Fly, Bluebird, Virgin Express, and others like them will represent even more challenging competition in some cases.
But unlike any of its competitors, which may employ one or two or several elements of the proposed new airline’s marketing strategies, informational and electronic technologies, and management techniques, none of them – none – employ the full range of those elements that the proposed new airline will employ.
Consequently, the proposed new airline will be the real equivalent of a whole new generation of airline (regional or beyond), and will represent the kind of revolution in the aviation world that Pan Am, Icelandic, Laker Air, PEOPLExpress, Virgin Air Atlantic, EasyJet, and Air Blue represented in their day (and in some cases, their "day" is still today).
In that regard, the new airline might well be known as "TechnoAir" given its extensive deployment of state-of-the-art marketing, reservations, ticketing, check-in, baggage- and cargo-tracking, and operational and safety technologies.
The advantages of these technologies include a net cost saving to the airline, greater convenience and ease for the passenger, and an image and reputation that will cause the new airline to stand out from the pack. Combined with a staff and management that will be carefully recruited, selected, trained, and motivated to be the best of the best, and to be the most customer-oriented in the business, the new airline also will soon become known by its motto: "I’ve got a job to do, and I do it every day – for you!"
In other key areas – routes, schedules, and fares – the new airline also will be carefully designed to either compete highly effectively or, alternatively, to go where the competition is limited or non-existent.
Requirements for interline arrangements
In order for the new airline to be able to obtain the interline arrangements such as code-shares, interline fare agreements, frequent-flyer mileage sharing, and so forth, that will be so important to its competitive posture and overall success, it must:
- Fly Western-built aircraft, preferably pure jet.
- Meet the standards to have a two-letter airline code.
- Meet the highest standards for safety, reliability, and service.
- Be accessible through normal reservations and ticketing systems.
Meeting these requirements, and negotiating the desired agreements, will be priorities from the outset in setting up the new airline. Additionally, partnering and interline arrangements will be carefully identified and sought that will offer the new airline strategic partnerships that will help give it the "cover" of larger, more established carriers, and also the status and service and growth potentials it will need to grow beyond its initial stage and to become a true presence in the aviation world.
Keys to Success
Keys to Success
In descending order of importance, the five critical keys to success for the proposed new regional airline are:
- Employing an experienced, highly professional management teamthat combines vision; realism; financial ability; solid knowledge of the aviation business; familiarity with, and belief in, the utilization and benefits of the latest aviation, electronic, and informational technologies; on-the-ground knowledge of the region and markets to be served; realization of the crucial importance of an organization’s personnel to its success; and a total familiarity with, and commitment to, the overall mission and goals of the proposed new airline.
- Intelligent, progressive, and aggressive marketing that identifies the airline as a different kind of player, one that is sharper and smarter, and with a higher level of professionalism and operational standard than is the norm in the target region. Concentration on safety, with highly trained, dedicated, and professional personnel, caring for the passenger and the passenger’s needs and wants, the advantages offered by advanced technology, and straightforward, understandable, highly competitive tariffs and fare pricing, all will form key pillars of the marketing strategy.
- Identification, through careful market research, of unserved or under-served routes and city pairs in the target market area with sufficient passenger demand to enable high load factors and profitable operations utilizing the category of aircraft envisaged.
- Use of an all-jet fleet of newer, modern, Western-built regional aircraft that offer a high level of comfort, safety, and fuel and operational efficiency and flexibility, which meet all normal aviation standards, and which offer sufficient, but not excessive, passenger and cargo capacity on the envisaged routes.
- Use of advanced electronic and information technology to reduce staffing and other operational costs; expand the potential market base; readily capture sales opportunities; simplify and speed passenger, baggage, and cargo handling; and enhance customer convenience and satisfaction.
Additional important, though less critical, keys to assuring the airline’s success include the following:
- Identifying, negotiating, and entering into, in the pre-operational stage and early on, beneficial associations, cooperations, and partnerships with larger, more established, highly regarded carriers both within and beyond the target market region to offer interline arrangements, through fares, frequent-flyer mileage sharing, and convenient hubbing and long-distance onward connections to passengers. Successful execution of this element of the business plan is crucial to the overall success and growth of the airline, and must be kept in mind in the organizational plan and structuring of the airline.
- Establishing a high level of operational oversight and quality control that will ensure that the airline always lives up to its marketing commitments and fulfills the promise of a high level of service, customer satisfaction, convenience, and safety, at a reasonable, highly competitive fare.
- Avoiding the temptation to go head-to-head with established carriers on routes that already are well-served, unless solid evidence exists of additional, significant pent-up demand, or widespread customer dissatisfaction with existing services.
- Maintaining flexibility that enables the airline to always respond and adapt to changing market conditions and opportunities, without being erratic, and employing equipment, scheduling, and staffing on a basis that is sufficient to get the job done properly, efficiently, and at a high rate of return, without "overkill" or fielding costly excess capacity or, conversely, unduly cancelling scheduled flight operations.
- Identifying, developing, and quickly and cost-effectively exploiting opportunities for new markets, new market concepts, and expanded sales potential.
- Supplementing regularly scheduled passenger service with both regularly scheduled and also special cargo services when and where sufficient demand exists, and also with seasonal, peak-period, and other intermittent passenger services on certain key regional, seasonal, and variable routes where very high load factors can be predicted despite existing but lower-quality competition, or where competition cannot meet the demand. Larger, longer-range, or specialized aircraft may be employed on a charter or wet-lease basis to provide these supplemental, but potentially highly profitable, passenger and cargo services.
- Looking to combine the core aviation business with ancillary marketing concepts and activities and ground-based operations that support, supplement, and complement the aviation elements of the business, including such activities as package-, group-, and charter-travel program offerings; value-added sales and customer services, both land- and Internet-based; construction and operation of enhanced passenger-, baggage-, and cargo-handling facilities and services; and other logical business pursuits both within and outside the immediate aviation business.
- Avoiding growth for growth’s sake, and instead looking for solid niche-enlargement opportunities that will allow incremental, but always profitable, expansion.