Qantas became the third airline to take delivery of the Airbus A380 aircraft last Friday, after Singapore Airlines and Emirates. Qantas has ordered 20 A380 planes from Airbus, the first of which will enter service from October 20, initially flying between Sydney/Melbourne and Los Angeles but in January next year expanding to the Sydney-Singapore and Sydney-London routes. But the fanfare and buzz is nothing close to that generated by Singapore Airlines’ first A380 flight to Sydney or Emirates’ A380 flight to New York City.

Given the significance of being one of the first few airlines to operate the Airbus A380, and since it will once be the 2nd largest operator of the A380, it’s a mystery why Qantas has not capitalized on this event to build its brand further. Moreover, given the recent negative press generated by the string of Qantas safety lapses, there is an urgent need to repair the damage done.

How did Qantas miss this golden opportunity?

  1. Lack of radical product innovation: The four classes Qantas product for the A380 are not a radical improvement from its existing fleet of wide body planes. Moreover, the peculiar seat color choices make the cabin look dull. This, as opposed to the double-bed suites introduced by Singapore Airlines for First Class, and showers as well as a bar introduced by Emirates for First and Business Class, in their A380 planes. Both of these airlines took full advantage of these product innovations and marketed themselves well, rightly so.
  2. Retracting some service features: Qantas has shelved plans to offer live internet access on its A380 planes from next month as American Airlines comes under fire from customers and flight attendants for allowing passengers to surf porn websites. Last year Qantas general manager John Borghetti was talking up the inflight entertainment system on the A380s, saying “there has never been anything like this on board a commercial aircraft”.But the lack of a full internet service will most likely disappoint many passengers who will have to make do with a limited selection of “cached internet content”. This will be a turn off for some passengers, who were probably looking forward to being connected while they cross the Pacific. Moreover, there is little official explanation given to why the service was retracted.
  3. Lack of customer engagement and buzz at launch. Singapore Airlines created an eBay auction for its first A380 flight. Emirates treated an exclusive group of VIPs and media folks to a joy-ride once they landed the big bird in the US. Qantas, ironically, is keeping the event pretty low-key. In an official response from Qantas, this blog was told that, “Much of our media related activity around the delivery and entry into service will take place in Australia, with a very small contingent to be in the first flight on 20 October”. But why? Why not leverage this special event to build the brand further and engage the customers? We wonder.

What can Qantas do now to leverage on the A380 launch?

It’s probably too difficult and expensive to overhaul the product right away. So, it’s got to be marketing what they’ve got well. May be Qantas can play up the fact that they will be the 2nd largest operator of the largest commercial plane in the world. May be they can highlight their in-flight service and the new uniforms. May be, they can come up with better advertisements showcasing their A380 product features,and not just the plane from the outside.

What do you think? How can Qantas lift up their brand image with the first A380 take off in Kangaroo colors? Let’s discuss.

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  • Remy CHEVARIN

    ” Why talking when you have nothing to tell ?” …

    Maybe Qantas choosed a low-profile option with its A380′ communication (compared with operators/competitors such (SG or EK) simply because Qantas A380 doesn’t features anything exceptional to talk about…
    No more buzzing around the plane features etc… this has already done plenty of times and indeed who really care about that ? …exception if you are an airliner enthusiast.
    Of course, they could have better showcasing the aircraft arrival, but this would have spotlight on something with no particularism, no value added to talk about ? so what the use of spending money ?….

    Maybe Qantas did not have enough time to react appropriatly in updating (radically ?) their cabin interiors programs and various design features. This was decided long ago and it is a costly burden for airlines to manage believe me. I supposed they knew they could not successfully match others operators offer, but calendar was not there anymore and budget was probably closed.

    Finally, maybe the marketing department of the airline was not “trends” updated and visionary enough, for being able to predict the degree of design (r)evolution, and luxury level would generate this new travel environment (the plane) and how the competition would copte with this challenge. Anyway, there is plenty of others aircrafts to come in the future, so Qantas will do its product and service design (r)evolution” (if they’re inspiring to) later in time. we hope for them !
    They fly the longest routes, so those specific flights need more than any others, new design features in terms of comfort and service, and not solely devoted to the luxury first class section…there would be plenty of opportunity for the airline to emphasize their offer and passengers concern if they want to. Its all about positionning, business culture and talent.

    … It’s sad to say but defintively a “rendez vous manqué * ” with the world travellers audience ….

    Remy CHEVARIN

  • http://simpliflying.com Shashank Nigam

    @Remy:

    You bring out some interesting observations about the Qantas A380 product. You’re right that it is probably too late for Qantas to refresh their product once they had decided on it. But the fact remains that with the introduction of A380, they missed a golden opportunity they could capitalize on to increase their brand awareness.

    Qantas is one of the better airlines in the world, certainly way ahead of their American counterparts and most European airlines. If they do not re-emphasize this fact to the flying public, it will be their own loss. With the A380, they had a good chance to introduce some novelty in their marketing to woo the customers. The fact that it’s will be soon the 2nd largest A380 operator in the world could have been capitalized upon. If nothing else, just having a new plane added to the fleet calls for a bigger celebration. As I wrote previously on this blog, airlines need to beat the drum if they are doing something new (http://simpliflying.com/2008/doing-something-new-beat-the-drum-about-it/).

    I’m still optimistic that Qantas will leverage on this chance and make hay while the sun shines.

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  • Huan

    I would disagree that Qantas has missed a branding opportunity and in would argue in fact that has pursued a rather innovative strategy to focus on design as a product differentiator. For anyone who has been on any or all of the Emirates, Qantas and Singapore A380s, there is no doubt that the Qantas aircraft has a superior overall interior ambience – even if the product tends to be less gimmicky. From what I understand from their marketing during this launch phase, this is to be a focus for Qantas (and the brand) into the future.

    It is important also to remember that Qantas is playing to a subtly different market to Emirates and Singapore. These latter two are unmistakebly luxury airlines, while Qantas, it must be remembered, is also Australia’s largest domestic carrier and must always have an eye to the mass market – but still provided a stylish and desirable premium product. In addition, a huge proportion of Qantas passengers are from its home country (i.e. Australia) as compared to those for Emirates and Singapore which wil always mean Qantas marketing will be far more geared towards Australia rather than the international market.

    A further point to make is that airlines are in business to make money and making the biggest/widest seat etc is not always the best way of doing that. The best way to make money is in fact, to keep ‘per passenger’ space to a minimum but be able to command the same fare as your competitors. Qantas’ A380 business class I believe will prove to be brilliant in this regard – the Qantas flat-bed is smaller than its competitor’s flat beds, amazingly however, the business class cabin, thanks to the curved capsule seat design seems to provide a far greater overall sense of space in the cabin. Both the Emirates and Singapore business class feels cluttered and cramped with boxy shapes and dividers around the seats. I expect howls of disagreement about this, because I, like all of you, think the Emirates and Singapore product feels far superior in pictures, however inside the cabin is a different story – I’d be interested to hear if others fee lthis way.

  • David

    Shashank, what do you think of this aircraft interior concept?

    http://www.dubaichronicle.com/?p=735

    • http://simpliflying.com Shashank Nigam

      This is fascinating David! It can do wonders for passenger comfort. Though, I wonder what the economic feasibility of such a design for airlines will be like. Any ideas?

  • David

    Hi, Shashank!

    I’m very happy that someone as knowledgeable, experienced and passionate as you are regarding air travel finds our concept promising. I agree with you that the economic feasibility of this concept is an obstacle—one of many—to overcome; but, we believe these obstacles are indeed surmountable, and that the end result of the concept’s application will be worth it.

    By the way, I apologize for only now answering to your response; the past few weeks were incredibly busy as we were preparing our mock-up for shipment to Hamburg for the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2009. Will you be attending the expo? We would be delighted to see you there and would be very interested in your opinion about the concept after having been able to experience it first-hand.

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