Starting the first week of July, Malaysia Airlines’ subsidiary FireFly will be starting routes from Malaysia to Singapore. Of course, to get to heart of the matter, I met up with their Head of Marketing, Angelina Fernandez, who sheds light into the makings of this new airline and what makes it special. They call themselves the community airline, and offer free snacks (cookies!!) on-board even flights that last as little as 20 mins (Singapore – Melaka).
What makes FireFly special?
FireFly is being positioned as a community airline, “connecting the ethnically-similar communities spread across South East Asia“, as Angelina explains. Targeted at the business traveler – due to quick turnarounds (they fly ATRs), and proximity to the city center in Kuala Lumpur, as they operate out of Subang Airport. The airline also intends to build on Malaysia Airlines’ schedule through flight timings that are complementary.
For the un-initiated, till recently, Singapore-Kuala Lumpur was one of the most heavily protected air routes in the world. Since liberalization, connectivity has increased multi-fold, with airlines like low-cost AirAsia, Tiger Airways, JetStar Asia and now FireFly sometimes offering prices even lower than the bus fares. Enjoy Angelina’s interview (just 3 mins) and then read on for my take on this new airline.
What should the FireFly brand do to survive in the long-haul?
Though it was inevitable that Malaysia Airlines was going to do something to grab a pie of the low-cost market that its competitors have tapped on so well, I personally feel calling FireFly a “community airline” is a bit confusing for the uninformed. Instead of making that as the mainstay of the brand, the airline should emphasize further other aspects that’re already part of its positioning.
- Play up the fact that they’re flying smaller aircraft (ATRs) and hence there’re no middle-seats. Also, due to smaller numbers, boarding and alighting should be faster – something businessmen would like.
- Play up Kuala Lumpur’s Subang Airport, since it cuts the travel time into the city by half, as compared to KLIA. And this would appeal to many business as well as leisure travelers.
Subang Airport – the double-edged parang (ok…sword)
The fact that FireFly flies to Subang and not KLIA is a double-edged sword. The downside is that it’s the only airline operating out of that airport, and hence it might lose out on passengers wanting to connect internationally and on to other airlines. That means it must drive a lot of o/d (origin-destination) point-to-point traffic to fill up its planes. For this, the airline must use innovative marketing techniques to create a groundswell and drive demand to its destinations.
For inspiration, it need not look too far. Just learn from its parent Malaysia Airlines, and close competitor AirAsia, both of whom have tapped on social media marketing to directly connect with their customers and get them to fly.
Running an airline is no easy feat, that too in a highly-competitive environment. FireFly must think innovatively and do things differently if it is to succeed in the long term. Having met most of the executives at the helm, I can say that the airline has got an intelligent management. Now, it’s a matter of applying their energies in the right direction and making this venture a success.
What do you think? Will FireFly survive in the long haul? Or will they fizzle? What can they learn from others? Let’s discuss in the comments below or take the discussion over to Twitter.