AVIATION FESTIVAL ASIA: Spring Airlines claims success in business class move

Chinese low-fare airline Spring Airlines has become a better airline through the introduction of a business class product, with its Spring Plus contributing significantly to strong profit growth and allowing it to optimise its product for all travellers, says Jonathan Hutt, the airline’s social marketing director.

Hutt told delegates at the Aviation Festival Asia conference in Singapore that Spring will extend Spring Plus to 171 routes – 85% of its network – by the end of this year. The business class product was launched in 2012 on 17 major business routes, primarily from Shanghai. By 2014 the product was offered on 63 routes, increasing to 106 routes by the end of 2015.

The product, which was launched in response to demand from its frequent flyers and a growing business travel community in the country, features an economy class fare with a business-style product, including extra luggage allowance, ticket flexibility, VIP check-in, seating at the front of the cabin, 20%-40% more legroom, an inflight meal and priority boarding.

The business travel market in China grew at 14.2% in 2015 and is expected to rise a further 12.1% this year, Hutt said. Launching such a product made sense, with the airline based in the financial capitals of China, he added. The airline sold 20,000 tickets in its first year of service, with sales of 500,000 forecast this year. The top routes for the product are between Shanghai and Xiamen, Guangzhou and Osaka.

Spring Plus contributed to a 50% increase in sales last year and a 65% increase in revenues. “By targeting the business traveller we’ve also been able to optimise the product for all travellers,” Hutt emphasised, pointing to an improved catering product which resulted in a 500% increase in onboard meal sales in 2015.

“By targeting the business traveller we have become a better LCC,” he continued, adding that Spring is looking to draw more passengers from the back of the aircraft to the front this year, as well as launching a premium product on its charter flights.

“There are no rights or wrongs in targeting the business passenger. We’ve had to create a market and be flexible to adapt it without losing sight of our main customer base,” Hutt explained.

Emma Kelly, Asia-Pacific correspondent, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net

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