Skift Take

The pandemic has been devastating for the world's airlines, forcing some to think outside the box to stay afloat. Is this a gimmick for coping with the times, or the renaissance of a more diversified airline industry?

From an aircraft housing a restaurant on the tarmac and Hello Kitty flights to nowhere, to home delivery of chef-prepared meals in a box and sightseeing flights over the Australian Outback and Antarctica, or an airline CEO delivering your food order, some global airlines are getting creative and thinking outside the box in order to generate revenue lost to a monumental decrease in flying due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The industry as a whole continues looking for ways to stay afloat until demand returns, ever since the pandemic brought the airline industry to a standstill a year ago,

In the early days of the pandemic, some airlines inspired by frequent flyers yearning to be free of quarantine, started finding alternative ways to serve the flying public.

Of course, airlines diversifying their businesses is nothing new and the strategy was around well before the pandemic. Remember Allegiant Air’s foray as a hotelier with Sunseeker?

But the brand extensions in the past year have accelerated as airlines dependent on ticket revenue look for new money streams. Ancillary revenues in the airline industry used to mean money made within an aircraft, fees for extra baggage, or more leg room. It’s taken on new meanings now.

In Australia, Qantas started out by offering scenic flights to nowhere that sold out within minutes, before transitioning to working with tour operators for scenic flights to somewhere once restrictions eased.

Qantas flight to nowhere passed over Coolum Beach in Queensland, Australia.

And now, the Sydney-based airline is going retro this spring with its ’90s version of mystery flights, which also sold out in minutes, a Qantas spokesperson said. The three all-inclusive Qantas Mystery Flight Experiences maintain the destination a secret from passengers and includes food, drinks, a curated experience on the ground and round trip air fare with a sole departures each from Brisbane in March, Sydney in April and Melbourne in May.

Singapore Airlines (SIA), which has been delving into creative ways to generate revenue after the grounding of most of its fleet last spring, is officially launching a training academy for businesses and organizations outside of the airline industry, said a Singapore Airlines spokesperson.

The move comes after collaborating in September, on a customized three day training program with Singapore-based Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for its patient care officers covering topics including effective interpersonal communication, customer handling, and learning how to exemplify values such as empathy, warmth and care, the spokesman said. 

“Our focus on people development and investment in training has been key to achieving these world-class standards. We are happy to share our competencies by offering specialised training programmes to external organisations,” said Vanessa Ng, SIA’s senior vice president for human resources. “This would also allow us to contribute to Singapore’s national goal of re-skilling and up-skilling the country’s workforce.”

The SIA Academy will offer training courses in the broad areas of service excellence, operational excellence, organizational innovation, and digital transformation. 

Additionally, companies are able to customize packages to meet their organizations training needs from a selection of courses including “Service Excellence and Leadership,” “Handling Challenging Customers,” and “Innovation Programme and Playbook,” taught by certified SIA instructors and experienced frontline facilitators, a SIA spokesperson said.

SIA previously offered home delivery of business class meals, including a selection of caviar, roasted lamb or lobster with all the premium service fillings including wine or champagne prepared by its team of chefs. For an additional rate, clients could choose to have a chef come to their home to reheat and serve the meals.

“The Singapore Airlines Academy is also a strategic move for the SIA Group, and has the potential to add a new source of revenue in the coming years,” said Ng.

Singaporeans can now order food through the food delivery platform of AirAsia super app called AirAsia Food and have it delivered to their door, an AirAsia spokesperson said.

The super app which launched during the pandemic, is one way the Malaysian-based airline is diversifying into other business endeavors. AirAsia Food first launched in its own country offering a variety of deliveries including fresh food.

“Our expansion into Singapore is a key milestone for AirAsia super app that has been Asean’s fastest growing e-commerce platform since it was launched last year. We are proud that despite the tough times we are facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, AirAsia super app and AirAsia Food in particular, are making even strong headway by expanding into other countries and regions,” said CEO Tony Fernandes.

And If your dream is to be the next virtual idol, AirAsia has you covered with its new streaming service Project Kavvaii, a program aiming to discover and develop the next big virtual idol — a content creator who uses a digital avatar, launching in the second quarter.

“We have transformed from an airline to a lifestyle brand with the AirAsia super app and now, we continue to innovate and be a game-changer as a virtual talent producer,” said Rudy Khaw, AirAsia Group’s chief brand officer.

“Virtual idol is not a new phenomenon across the globe, but the community in Asean is still expanding, and as a digital company we believe this is an opportune time to fast-track their growth leveraging on our digital capabilities such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition,” he added.

Last October, Fernandes spoke exclusively with Skift about his company’s future plans.


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Tags: airasia, airline branding, airlines, coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, qantas, singapore airlines, tony fernandes

Photo credit: Passengers arriving at the airport wearing a little bit of everything in preparation for their Qantas mystery flight in Australia during the pandemic Qantas Airways / Skift

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