Six ways Estonian Air can beat RyanAir
RyanAir, the low-cost Irish airline whose airplanes double as garbage trucks, released a press release on May 11th apologizing to Estonian Air for taking all of its customers. The press release was issued two days after Estonian Air’s president resigned, ostensibly because the state-owned airline is facing difficulties attracting customers.
As the hunt for Estonian Air’s new CEO begins, I thought I’d offer up some ideas to the candidates beyond the obvious. Anyone can throw around business-school jargon like “reduce prices from borderline abusive to merely astronomical” or “tell your stewardesses to stop looking at me like they’re about to commit a hate crime.” When CEO candidates sit down with Estonian Air’s board, they’ll need to pitch the kind of extraordinary ideas that can turn around a failing airline. Here are some of those ideas.
Treat Estonian Air like the Tallinn public transportation system
Buying tickets is boring. I love Tallinn’s public transportation system because each trip is a suspenseful gamble: I sneak on and prepare myself to sprint if I see the Municipal Police. And since the €1.60 price tag on a single-journey Tallinn transport ticket is as absurdly high as Estonian Air’s ticket prices in relative terms, the public won’t feel bad about bringing jänest sõitma to the skies.
Stop checking tickets for Estonian Air flights at the gate and let people board the plane on a “good faith” basis. Then perform ticket checks at random: if a passenger doesn’t have a ticket, slap him with a €1000 fine. Averaged out, the revenue per passenger will probably remain the same, but thrill-seekers will get the satisfaction of trying to beat the system. This will also create an opportunity for an entirely new revenue stream: put parachutes on the on-board menu next to €5 bags of peanuts and €8 beers.
Start advertising in British prisons
If Estonian Air wants to beat RyanAir, it needs to reach RyanAir’s demographic. Why not reach out to those people first, before they’re released from prison? A giant Estonian Air poster, adorned with a smiling blonde woman standing next to Viru Gate, will sell far more tickets than the promise of a discount, especially if it’s placed strategically (eg, the shower room).
While prisoners may not have the expendable cash or the permission from society to fly when they see the advertisement, they’ll certainly be thinking of Estonian Air the second the iron gates close behind them and they’re considered free men.
Release a diss track about the CEO of RyanAir
When a rapper sees his album sales dropping, he releases a “diss track” – a song insulting another rapper – to reinvigorate interest in his music. The same thing could work for CEOs: release a diss track about a rival CEO’s company and watch the honies and the loot roll in.
Because an old white guy, far removed from the game, may have trouble coming up with potent diss track lyrics, I’ve outlined a sample song below:
Who’s the punk CEO of RyanAir?
I’ll send him to intensive care
Talking trash about Estonian Air, but I don’t even care
Yeah, my ticket prices are high
And my airplane seats don’t recline
But who cares, I look at my Rolex when I need to know the time
Add a new route from Lennart Meri airport to the Swissotel
Estonian Air’s justification for its Tartu-Tallinn route – which, on average, is only 30% full – is that business travelers need a fast connection between the two cities. So why not roll out the red carpet to business travelers (which I interpret to mean rich people) even further and offer them a direct connection to the Swissotel? A cab ride from the airport to downtown can take up to 15 minutes in rush hour. Who has that kind of time?
If someone is trying to save time on the 2.5 hour Tartu-Tallinn trip by getting to the airport an hour early, checking their bags, passing through security, and then boarding an airplane, they’d probably also be willing to do the same for the 15 minute journey to their hotel. Charge them €50, call the flight a premium service, and Estonian Air has a massive new revenue stream on its hands.
Non-stop on-board happy hour
Whenever I have an extra €500 to burn and fly Estonian Air, I always find myself thinking: “the people on this plane might start convulsing if they don’t get a drink soon.” Why not pour cheap booze down their gullets and turn the flight into a party? Everyone loves a good happy hour, especially when surrounded by strangers and headed to or from a stag party.
To further capitalize on the party atmosphere approach, Estonian Air can install a jukebox stocked with 70s and 80s hair-band classics in all of its planes. If an English stag-partier has the opportunity to hear Boston’s More than a Feeling on repeat, he’ll pay any cost to make that happen. Which presents a second revenue stream: offer post-flight lobotomies so that passengers can have Boston’s More than a Feeling permanently removed from their neuro-psychological core.
Teach passengers rude and vulgar Estonian phrases on flights
Most travelers hate the feeling of being in a foreign country and not being able to communicate in the local language. Estonian Air should convert its plane cabins into classrooms and teach passengers horrendously offensive phrases in Estonian during flights.
Not only will Estonian Air customers delight in their ability to communicate with Estonians upon landing, but residents of Tallinn will find the massive surge in foreigner beatings a welcome source of entertainment.