Taiwan, the last major market in Asia to not have a local low-cost carrier (LCC), will soon be seeing two LCCs taking to the skies. While Tigerair Taiwan has already received certificates to launch operations, V Air is also close to getting permission to takeoff. In this post, >talkairlines will be introducing what these two carrier have to offer and analysing whether LCCs in Taiwan will meet success or not.
TIGERAIR TAIWAN: Singaporean Model With A Taiwanese Touch
Tigerair Taiwan (IT/TTW) was founded by Singaporean budget airlines group, Tigerair Holdings, and Taiwanese flag carrier, China Airlines. It will be launching operations on 26 September 2014, with the first flight being IT511 from Taipei to Singapore, and will then become the first Taiwan-based LCC. In early September, Tigerair Taiwan offered 10,000 tickets with a price of 888 NTD to promote its launch. The tickets were sold out within 3.5 hours, proving how hot of a topic LCC is in Taiwan.
As a Taiwanese carrier, Tigerair Taiwan will be offering a variety of Taiwanese cuisine for the passengers’ enjoyment. Traditional dishes including Pumpkin Fried Rice Vermicelli (金瓜米粉) and Minced Pork Rice (滷肉飯) will all be available for purchase. The set menu choices are priced at around 10 USD, a number that is typical on the menus of other Tigerair affiliates.
The Airbus A320 aircraft Tigerair Taiwan will be operating will have a total of 180 B/E Aerospace Spectrum seats. To distinguish itself from other Tigerair sub-brands, Tigerair Taiwan has all its planes, besides the normal Tigerair livery, painted with the words ‘TAIWAN’, with a map of Taiwan within the T letter. This will make the carrier the first international airline ever to include ‘Taiwan’ in its corporate livery. The carrier will be launching more destinations, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and other destinations in Southeast and Northeast Asia, and will operate a fleet of up to 12 A320s by the end of 2018.
V AIR: The Flying Formosan Black Bear
V Air was founded by Transasia Airways, the oldest airline in Taiwan, back in 2013. The Chinese name of the airline, “威航”, means “mighty airline”. The English name, on the other hand, was created for consumers to interpret in their own ways. As the first fully-Taiwanese LCC in history, V Air has been putting a lot of effort in its branding and marketing to highlight its uniqueness and Taiwanese identities. The ‘V Bear’, a Formosan Black Bear (台灣黑熊, endemic to Taiwan), was chosen to represent V Air.
V Air’s crew uniforms were designed by two Taiwanese brands. Outdoor clothing brand HAKERS was in charge of the clothes while Travel Fox was in charge of the shoes. Different from the dress-style uniforms of other airlines, the V Air uniforms feature sports t-shirts and close-fitting pants (violet colour). While there is only one choice of pants, there are various different kinds of t-shirts, including one that is fully black and one that is covered with “vair” wordings. A final touch to the crew uniform is a pair of white flat shoes. The outfits are stylish yet comfortable and convenient, allowing cabin crew to work in ease while creating a relaxing and fun atmosphere.
In the air, V Air will be offering a variety of well-known Taiwanese cuisine. Choices of popular night market food, traditional cuisine, and western snacks will be served onboard. Examples include Taiwanese Fried Chicken (鹹酥雞), Ba-Wan (肉圓), and Small Sausage In Big Sausage (大腸包小腸). Set menus, including main dishes, drinks, and deserts, will also be available.
Fleet-wise, V Air is rather different from most LCCs worldwide. The carrier will, after receiving its first A321, B-22608, on 13 October 2014, become one of the handful of budget carriers that deploy the Airbus A321. The company’s A321 will be configured with 194 Geven Piuma seats and decorated with a livery featuring the V Bear.
V Air will launch operations in late-October, with the first flight from Taipei to Bangkok. The airline will later expand its network by adding destinations in Northeast and Southeast Asia.
LCCs IN TAIWAN: Will They Succeed?
V Air and Tigerair Taiwan taking to the skies will mark a new chapter in Taiwanese civil aviation history as the country will finally see homegrown LCC activities. However, at this moment, it is still rather unclear whether the carriers will meet successes or not, and here are the reasons why:
First of all, the Taiwanese business environment is not necessarily friendly towards LCCs. Local consumers have a rather protective government, resulting in many businesses being forced to offer extremely consumer-friendly policies. For example, the Apple App Store was forced by Taiwan to offer a 7-day refund policy, never been heard of worldwide.This may result in many typical LCC policies, including the no-refund policies, being overturned in Taiwan, thus making operations harsh for budget carriers. As a matter of fact, the Taiwanese Consumer Protection Committee has already launched investigations on whether LCCs have the right to forbid passengers from bringing and eating their own food.
Also, the definition of LCC is unclear to many Taiwanese people. Local media translate the term into ‘cheap carriers’, thus causing misunderstandings among consumers. People tend to question budget carrier’s safety, as well as why almost everything is priced. People complain about how they are trying to save money through flying with LCCs but have to pay a lot for meals. Frequent media reports on LCC delays and consumer disputes further deepens the bad impression people have on budget carriers.
Finally, the Taiwanese culture may lead to passengers having bad experiences on LCCs. Taiwanese people have long enjoyed numerous socialist policies, including the famous health insurance system and free Wi-Fi by city governments. This results in locals being used to the illusion of ‘everything is free’, while the reality is that the ‘free’ items have already been covered through earlier payments. Therefore, experiences on LCCs may turn out to be horrible for many Taiwanese as they are used to paying for once and enjoying everything ‘for free’ afterwards.
Yet, there are still reasons why low-cost carriers should feel optimistic about the Taiwanese market. The Taiwanese people are famous for being cost-conscious. Proving the statement, Taiwan has long had extremely low electricity and water prices, mainly due to the government fearing that raising the prices may anger the people. Also, according to Hotels.com, Taiwan is second to last on the list of top spenders according to money spent on hotels. The tightfisted Taiwanese people may thus be attracted to the ticket prices LCCs offer and tend to favour flying with LCCs instead of full-service carriers.
As a conclusion, LCCs have a huge growth potential in Taiwan, yet the potential can be seen only if the local consumers have a better understanding in the business model. LCCs should be more active in promoting their policies and ways of operations. Inviting bloggers to share their LCC experiences or having close relations with local media are all ways to promote flying budget carriers and should be done more frequently. >talkairlines can foresee the eventual success of LCCs in Taiwan and hopes for LCCs being major contributors to Taiwan becoming a primary tourist destination.