A review of airline boarding music
This is an article from the October / November issue of Airline Marketing Monthly, which included a special supplement on audio branding for airlines, produced in partnership with sonic branding specialists DLMDD. To read the whole issue, click here.
More and more airlines now have signature songs or tracks that greet you when you board the aircraft. But what makes for a good boarding song? DLMDD’s Max De Lucia reviewed a selection from a variety of airlines for us. (Max’s reviews are denoted as MDL)
Qatar Airways’ boarding music was created by Dana Alfardan, Qatar’s only female contemporary composer.
As well as being the official composer for Qatar Airways, she has also composed the official song for the Lusail Stadium, which will host the opening and closing matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
MDL – It’s great to see (and hear!) Qatar working with one of the few female composers from the region. The provenance of music is so intrinsic to its authenticity and thus, this gives the brand’s sound strong foundations.
This is a very lyrical and nicely recorded brand theme. But I do believe great boarding music should take us into the places, cultures and soundscapes of the carriers’ nations.
If I shut my eyes, I’m not necessarily transported to Qatar. Thus perhaps there is an opportunity here for the brand to pepper their sonic experience with unique music qualities from the country itself.
On some frequent flier forums, passengers claimed they were greeted by silence when boarding Lufthansa flights within Europe. However, this is the airline’s most recent boarding theme song.
MDL – Lufthansa is such an iconic brand in the sky. But this music does little to live true to its famous visual identity and recently updated livery.
You can imagine the conversations in the marketing department for their choice of sound – contemporary with a hint of the Miami beach bar.
However, the result is a bland loop that does nothing to ingratiate passengers into the magic of air travel. You only have to look at the YouTube comments to see customers would like a change of sonic scenery!
Saudia has developed a boarding film, which the airline says ‘presents a soothing combination of Oud and modern music while displaying all SAUDIA’s worldwide destinations.’
With Saudi Arabia having recently liberalised its tourist visa regime, more passengers may be hearing this soon.
MDL – There is a great deal of repetition within Saudia’s boarding music. However, the brand and their composer have done a good job of striking a balance between music that is interesting enough to enhance passenger experience, but not so complex that it becomes a nuisance and detracts from what should be a relaxing experience.
They also achieve a pleasant combination of Eastern and Western flavours. The oud is a nice touch and takes the listener straight into an enchanting and magical place. This is music that you can hear time and time again – you can listen actively or simply sit back, relax and enjoy the journey…
Air France’s boarding song, used in a past ad campaign, is The World Can be Yours by Telepopmusik.
While The World Can be Yours is still used on board, the airline’s more recent‘ France is in the Air’ advertising and safety video used a customised version of Glass Candy’s Warm in the Winter.
Air France uses the music played on board as a promotional and brand tool, to the extent of having its own Air France Music Facebook page.
MDL – A different but altogether powerful approach from Air France with their use of The World Can Be Yours by French electronic duo Telepopmusik. Most airlines tend to adopt instrumental music but this choice of commercial music is inspired. There are a few reasons for this…
- It’s a good brand and artist fit. It wouldn’t be quite as authentic if it were a German pop band!
- There is cultural value in song already – Air France are able to capitalise on this.
- The lyrics are so on point – “Look how it’s bright, open your door to see. The world can be yours, something to keep in mind”
- It gives passengers a route into an authentic artist that they might never have heard of – and an opportunity to venture deeper into their catalogue of works.
The above video, complete with boarding announcements about three minutes in, was recorded on a Qantas flight earlier this year to Noumea, New Caledonia. The Qantas boarding song comes from Australian composer Haydn Walker.
MDL – This is a lovely piece of boarding music – cinematic stuff from Qantas. This is a track that will inspire passengers who are jetting off on their next adventure, and provide the soundtrack for those reminiscing on their memorable moments as they return home.
As listeners, we are immersed in intricate acoustic patterns that provide a sense of comfort and security whilst sweeping string lines evoke emotional and inspirational qualities.
There’s a great line by Brian Eno from this body of work, Music for Airports – he says great ambient music should be “as ignorable as it is interesting”. Qantas smash this out the park.
Finally, we’ve included UK leisure airline Jet2, which made headlines last year when passengers complained about hearing Jess Gylnne’s Hold My Hand over and over on loop when flights were being held on the ground, waiting to depart. Hold my hand also features in Jet2’s advertising campaigns.
MDL – The most controversial of them all, Jet2. They have famously driven audiences mad with their non-stop use of the Jess Glynne’s Hold My Hand. Brands normally struggle with consistency and so from this point of view, Jet2 buck the trend. But you’ve got to listen to your audiences – one passenger comments:
I was stuck on a flight for three hours and they played this non-stop
Who knows how long they’ll continue to hammer this down the cabins. But there’s no such thing as bad publicity and let’s face it, we’re all talking about it!