22 January 2009

A look into the psychology of Sarah's industry

Somehow, I recently came across a new online Web-based multiplayer game, in which I get to start and run an airline for a number of years, and see how well I do against the competition (or whether I even survive at all).


I signed up, if only to get to know the workings of the airline industry better, and get a better feel for the economic environment that keeps Sarah employed. I need to ensure that my flight attendants (and many other employees, both visible and invisible) are ample in number and well-paid, so that they can do the best they can. I also need to make sure that I get good (read: newer and efficient) airplanes and keep them flying as much as possible. I need to pamper my customers so that the customers will continue to fly my planes and give me income.

With this enhanced understanding of the industry, I can get a more critical look at what made Sarah's employer, United Airlines, rise to prominence in the 20th century, and get clobbered with financial difficulties in more recent years. I make sure to remember United's mistakes and not repeat them in my own game. In the game world, I can only fly passengers, but passenger demand stays healthy and fuel prices stay reasonable, so it all comes down to my own management style.

The game has other limitations, including the ability to have only one hub. It needs to be a large city/airport (lots of demand) but not too large (too much competition); my airline is based at Seoul Incheon, where I have only one badly run competitor and I also have access to many short and lucrative Chinese and Japanese routes. I'm still only 4 months of game time (one day in game time is 25 minutes of real life) into my airline, so my network isn't all that extensive (my longest run only goes to Manila), and my emphasis now is having a reputation and a network that give me solid income. Then I can worry about flying 777s across the oceans. Too many long-hauls (read: high-maintenance jumbo jets) early on, without stable income from regional routes, can kill me very early; even the venerable Pan Am died that way.

Of course, I am keeping the spirit of my (and Sarah's) transgender matron saint in the game. My username is Gwaneum, the Korean pronunciation of Kwan Yin, and my airline is named Mercy Airlines. Looking forward to having Mercy aircraft blanket the world with the spirit of Kwan Yin.

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