02 August 2010

On another hand...

While I am rediscovering the joy of reading, I still found time to return to simulated airline business, for another look at Sarah's industry. I had left it a year ago after my airline, Mercy Airlines (invoking the name of Kwan Yin), was targeted by an airline alliance made up of Thai kathoeys with too much time on their hands, and couldn't compete.

In fact, I am running two airlines in two different worlds. One is a rehash of Mercy, though it is now based in Shenzhen, China; I founded it in January 1969, now it's December 1969, and I'm keeping it low-key, hoping to last until the game end in 1983. The name was changed to Kwun Yam, the Cantonese pronunciation of Kwan Yin. I'm giving it a very conservative approach, running mostly readily available, slightly obsolete secondhand aircraft, but to keep commonality up and costs down, I am very particular about the aircraft I choose (I currently fly only two - Caravelle 10B, a mix of new and used, and Vickers Viscount 810, all used). Since international runs from Shenzhen are not very lucrative and the nicer Chinese markets (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou) are out of available flight slots, I am forced to be very creative to keep up. My key is to keep my staff morale up - I am slightly overhiring flight attendants to ensure superior service (Sarah will love the sound of that).

The second game, which had started in 1986 and runs through the end of 2009, was tougher; I had gone into Chicago in 1996, only to find no flight slots, and wasted time and money relocating to Vancouver, before going bankrupt. Soon afterwards, I re-founded the airline in Athens, a rehash of Air Athena, though I renamed the airline to Eresia, in honor of Sappho (yes, now I have a lesbian airline!). Eresia also had hiccups at the start, but cobbling together a fleet of Dash 8-300s helped, as they are quite profitable especially on the Greek domestic island hops. It's been around for a few months in 1997, and I'm slowly amassing money to acquire more Dash 8's as well as another fleet of readily available secondhand Fokker 100s for a bit more profit. I'll worry about long-haul planes only when I have enough profits to afford them.

In both games, I am not looking for a dominant airline that flies everywhere in the world, but rather, a sustainable modest airline that delivers the greatest possible experience for the passenger. Also, rule changes during my absence make the game more to my liking; predatory alliance attacks on other airlines, and deliberate oversupply of a route by over twice the demand, are now prohibited. Moreover, I can only fly direct to/from my hub, all intermediate stops being allowed only for refueling, and I can make secondary hubs but only in my own country (or only within the European Union in case of Eresia); that means I no longer have to worry about unfair sneak invasions from foreign airlines, an issue I constantly had had when operating Mercy out of Seoul as Chinese and Japanese airlines were dumping tons of capacity into my cash-cow routes to Europe and North America then. For Kwun Yam, I should soon be able to open a second hub that has a good mix of domestic and foreign demand - and hopefully once a major Beijing or Shanghai-based competitor falters, swoop right in.

Hopefully I will have some extra lessons from these new games.

On a more Sarah-related note, the Caravelle will be of significance to Sarah. An earlier Caravelle, the VI-R, was the first jet-powered aircraft in the world to come with features that are commonplace today - thrust reversers and wing spoilers. And the launch customer of the Caravelle VI-R was none other than Sarah's employer, United Airlines. That gave United yet one more in a long series of aircraft launches, while Caravelle became the first European airliner to see significant use in the US. One more thing for Sarah to take pride in!

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