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?
- 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.
- 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 Moreover, there is little official explanation given to why the service was retracted.
- 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.