up and away
Posted by Abe Sauer on August 29, 2012 01:37 PM
Long known as one of the world's preeminent luxury carriers, Singapore Air has recently come to a crossroads. As low-cost carriers and increased competition flood its market, the brand is faced with doubling down on its luxury position, or diluting a decades-old brand strength in a battle with new competitors. So what will the brand and its Singapore Girls do?
Pour $16 million into upgrading its airport lounges and form a new partnership wherein BMW will redesign its cabins. Yes, BMW.
Budget carriers? Pfffffft.
Singapore Air has always been extremely brand conscious, even by airline standards, from its now iconic "Singapore Girl" spokeswomen to the way its current Twitter account actively responds -- personally -- to every compliant aimed at the brand. So it's no surprise that the brand would be proactive, and aggressive, in its positioning.
The first on the list of SilverKris Lounges to receive an upgrade will be Singapore Air's Sydney Airport lounge. The overhaul will take five years and include the airline's 15 global lounges and the airline plans to spend Sg$20 million ($15.9 million) on the program.
In a statement, the airline's senior VP of product and services said, "Many of our customers tell us that the moment they step on board a Singapore Airlines aircraft, they feel an immediate sense of 'home.' We hope to replicate that 'home away from home' experience in our lounges, along with the warm Asian hospitality that Singapore Airlines is renowned for."
Other luxury brands have responded to competition by turning to "affordable luxury" positioning. But, allowing its Scoot and SilkAir brands to pick up the economy class growth, Singapore Air is instead deciding to become more luxurious.
Just before the SilverKris lounge upgrade news, Singapore Air announced that it had struck a deal with BMW to design its "next generation of inflight cabin products." The airline's cabins have long been rated amongst the world's best, and the brand has partnered with luxury designers before; its Singapore Airlines Suite was designed by Jean-Jacques Coste, better known for his work on yacht interiors.
Singapore's agency told Brandchannel that "there are no additional details at this time" about the BMW partnership. But dollars to donuts, the BMW livery will be very visible.
Singapore Air's moves come on the heels of criticism from analysts. Shukor Yusof, Singapore-based aviation analyst for Standard & Poor's, told Reuters in June, "SIA has stubbornly clung to a (luxury) concept that is becoming more and more outdated. [CEO] Goh will not be the one to force changes, but the market will."
It's unclear, but by a better "sense of home," it would not be surprising to learn that Singapore Air means "more Chinese." The brand is starting in Australia, which now counts China as its largest trading and tourism partner.
Meanwhile, the BMW partnership will go especially far with the China market. BMW is one of the most revered and admired brands in China. Evidencing the brand's importance is a now infamous statement from 2010 by a Chinese woman on a dating show: "I'd rather be crying in the backseat of a BMW than smiling on the back of a bicycle."
The positioning announcements come as the airlines has had the nausea-inducing year of turbulent profits. In February, the airline announced that its new profit had nosedived 53 percent at the end of 2011. Then, six months later, it announced that 2012 first quarter net profit was up 73 percent. Maybe the brand can have its air sickness bags designed by Longchamp.