Prospects for the A380? A cool website, for now
There are few commercial aircraft that are easily recognizable by the general public or, at least, by those that live outside the #avgeek bubble - the Airbus A380 is one of them - the other clear winner is, of course, the iconic Boeing 747.
And people that have flown the A380 seem to like it a lot also. Well, at least this is the feedback that I have received from my own - non-scientific - sample.
Whether this popularity will translate into financial success for Airbus, though, is an entirely different matter. A point we already made on one of the earliest posts published in this blog, back in 2010.
Although the A380 is a bet on the long-term growth of air travel - a rather reasonable assumption to make - looks like airlines prefer the flexibility of smaller planes to cover this demand and the number of routes able to sustain the capacity of an A380 is possibly not that large. Only Emirates, the largest A380 operator by a wide margin, seems to have found the formula to operate profitably a large fleet of the type.
Net orders have remained stagnant for the last couple of years, with very little in the way of new clients and some prospective A380 operators, such as Transaero of Russia, Skymark of Japan or Kingfisher of India, having gone bankrupt in the meantime. What's more, the prospect of a re-engined A380neo seems rather uncertain at the moment. This situation has led Airbus to cut production to one aircraft per month in the near future.
Some in the industry have compared A380 production rates to the historical of orders and deliveries for the Boeing 747 to show how peaks and throughs are not unusual in a decades-long large aircraft programme.
In any case, this is the context in which Airbus has launched its latest A380 marketing initiative, the iflyA380 website.
Interestingly enough for an industrial concern selling hundred-million pieces of sophisticated machinery to other businesses, the target of this campaign are air travelers.
Airbus is, thus, appealing to the ultimate users of the aircraft, to become its public advocates.
The A380 website allows you to search for itineraries that can be completed with A380 aircraft (although it would also give you other choices when those are not available) and provides also information about the different airlines operating the type and the service classes they offer. It does not let you make a booking, though. For this you will need to visit the airlines' own websites.
The website itself provides a wealth of details of interest for aviation enthusiasts (and A380 fans in particular!) although I remain skeptical it will do much to change the A380's fortunes.
I find particularly noteworthy, though, as an exercise in B2C marketing. This is arecurring topic, in the last few weeks, and it has come up in my own conversations with senior Airbus staff: how aircraft manufacturers may become increasingly involved in marketing their products not only to airlines and leasing companies, but also to the final users, the passengers.