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A business model refers to a structure, which depicts commercial activities, mission and visions of an organisation. To be precise, a business model reflects about the customers, products and the trends of earning revenues as well as incurring costs. A business model can also be regarded as a plan, which supports an organisation to attain long-term success by ensuring optimum execution of available resources and/or assets (Rouse, 2013). Business model plays a crucial role in the airline industry. The model adopted for this particular industry can be of low or high cost type. In low cost model, the airline companies offer services at reduced prices to the customers. Correspondingly, under high cost model, the customers generally have to pay higher prices for the services rendered to them by the respective airline companies. It is vital for any airline business to follow the correct business model in order to attain superior competitive advantage as compared to others. Thus, it can be stated that business models must be selected after evaluating the present market situations, thereby facilitating the organisations to adopt effective decisions on the factors concerning pricing, service type and customer relations (Kanta & Ahlan, 2015).
In this globalisation and technology driven era, it has been apparent that the business model of the global airline industry at present solely focuses on adopting a low cost approach. According to this model, the entrepreneurs focus on lowering the cost of production and thereby earn maximum revenues. The present business model also emphasises reducing unnecessary complexities that crop up during the conduct of operations by adopting appropriate strategies of marketing and human resource management (Flouris & Walker, 2005). The business models that are adopted in the global airline industry reflect about the notion of strategic planning, which leads towards accomplishing predetermined targets, if properly applied. A business model highlights the purposes for which an organisation exists in this complex financial world. Selection of the best strategies to attain desired business goals often helps in attaining higher level of competitive advantage (Štefan & Branislav, 2016). The rapid developments that took place in the airline industry over the years gained momentum due to globalisation. At present, introduction of various innovative services such as e-booking by the airline companies eventually attracted huge figures of customers from distinct regions throughout the globe. Moreover, utilisation of advanced software models and upgraded telecommunication channels has certainly made it possible for the airline companies to easily communicate with the patrons. Rapid advancements in the field of technology have created an opportunity for the different airline companies to attain their predetermined objectives within a definite timeframe. Despite such innovations, rising cost of fuels has become one of the critical concerns for the worldwide airline companies. Intense level of competition is observed to reduce the prices of the tickets by the airline companies. Thus, these companies tend to apply financial models that focus on earning profits by increasing the number of tickets sold to the parties (Ros, 2016; Button, 2008).
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Geopolitical issues such as terrorism impose adverse impacts on the global airlines market. For instance, the period after 9/11 attack in the United States of America (USA) had reduced the demand of airlines, as the passengers were agitated and feared about those impacts (Graham, 2012). Correspondingly, political issues such as Brexit also have an impact on the global airline industry, as changes in the routes of commercial aviations were evident. Support from the government such as imposition of favourable taxes can also be regarded as an important variable towards the development of airline industry (Boström et.al., 2017; Button, 2008; Logan, n.d.). Emphasising the issue, the essay aimed at analysing the business models of Swiss International Airlines, Emirates and Icleand Air and determining their success within the respective markets wherein they operates.
Swiss International Airlines
Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is headquartered in Switzerland, which performs its operations in various nations on a global basis. At present, SWISS is operating as a part of Lufthansa Group. The distinguished feature of SWISS is its membership with Star Alliance (Kleymann & Seristö, 2017). SWISS was formed during the year 2002 when Swissair became bankrupt. After the formation of SWISS, business restructuring was made during 2008 with the introduction of modern flights that offer exclusive comfort to the passengers. Currently, there are around 7,400 employees in SWISS, which reflects its enormous operational size (Swiss International Air Lines, n.d; Sea Maestro, n.d.).
Niche marketing refers to the strategy of targeting only a specific group of customers with a particular product and/or service. Some parameters of niche marketing include income level, lifestyle and demographic status of the individuals (Rouse, 2017a). The airline is observed to focus on niche market pertaining to movement of cargo. Swiss World Cargo is responsible for movement of cargo, making it possible to earn high amount of revenues. In 2004, the airline is observed to transport 567,663 tonne-kilometres of cargo, but focus was mainly provided to perform operations in the niche markets (Swiss, 2014). Evidence suggests that SWISS uses niche marketing strategy for passenger travel, as the airline company is noticed to target the customers of premium level. For instance, investments were made to upgrade the comfort of travelling and longue facilities for the top level customers. Moreover, developments were also made in the internet connectivity so that the high end customers do not face any issue concerning flight connectivity. During the year 2016, SWISS made an investment of CHF 100 million in upgrading the quality of its services. It can thus be stated that the strategies of innovation being followed in SWISS were unique, which facilitated the airline company to earn a total profit of CHF 429 million in 2016. The strategies adopted by SWISS relating to fleet upgradation were highly cost effective, which contributed into managing the entire business successfully. These strategies or measures clearly reflect that SWISS has adopted a high cost business model, focusing on the customers of high income group (SWISS, 2017; Booz & Company, 2003).
Ways to Gain Customer Loyalty/Attract People
Customer loyalty is viewed as the preferences that patrons have towards a specific product and/or service. In case of service industry such as airline, customer loyalty enhances when the satisfaction level of the customers goes extreme. The various parameters of customer loyalty can be determined as behavioural attitudes of the frontline employee and quality of comfort among others (Lexicon, n.d.). As a part of strategic change, SWISS is able to raise customer loyalty and attract people by introducing effective operational systems. In this regard, the airline company installed a system, which enables the customers to rebook their seats within 2-3 minutes of ticket cancellation. This kind of initiative is often regarded as a part of disruptive management. Customer loyalty or attracting people in case of SWISS has improved due to the presence of a rapid response team, which caters to the need of the patrons during any fatal situation (Amadeus, n.d.). Frequent flyer programme can be considered as an initiative undertaken by the airline companies to enhance customer loyalty. It involves accumulation of points for every customer on the basis of miles travelled or usage of credit and debit cards during travelling. The customers later on receive discounts while travelling further based on the accumulated points (Shaw, 2016).
SWISS has frequent flyer program, which helps to increase customer loyalty and job satisfaction by a considerable level. It is observed that the customers can avail bonus points on affording travel at any of the airlines, which is registered under Star Alliance. To receive discounts, a customer has to complete a travel of 35,000 miles in a given year. The amount of discounts earn by the customers tend to be generally higher on use of SWISS Miles & More credit card. The entire initiative of frequent flyer programme, which undertaken by SWISS, is better termed as ‘Miles & More Programme.’ Apart from prices of the tickets, this particular program also provides baggage allowance to the customers, signifying that the patrons can receive discounts on the baggage carry by them (Swiss International Air Lines, n.d.a).
Ratings, Success and Expansion
Ratings are recognised as the other parameter, which is important to consider for determining the preferences of the customers towards a specific product and/or service of an organisation. The patrons are supposed to provide higher star ratings in the forms of positive sentiment and satisfaction to the companies that deliver quality products and/or services to them and came up with their own expectations (Meyer & Schwager, 2007). SWISS is observed to have high ratings for the meals that are served to the passengers in the flight while travelling. Moreover, the lounges that are operated by the airline company at Zurich Airport are rated as the second best. High ratings are also provided by the customers to the airline companies based on the deliverance of high quality of inflight products to them. One such inflight product of SWISS is the ‘SWISS Taste of Switzerland’, which was introduced during the year 2002. It is an extraordinary quality of food served to the passengers. Among all the transatlantic airlines, SWISS obtained a second position due to extreme comfort and hospitality services being offered to the passengers (Swiss International Air Lines, 2005).
The success of SWISS is evitable since the year 2003. Though at present, SWISS charges premium ticket prices to the travellers, initially, the costs of the tickets were low that enabled the airlines to attract huge figures of the passengers and thereby earned huge profits. The low rate of fare curtailed down the revenue earnings of per seat based on kilometre, but the total increase in passenger bookings was effective in setting back the loss. It can be stated the airline company experienced tremendous rise in revenue earnings since 2003 due to online bookings. To be precise, the success of SWISS in 2003 was more as compared to the planned level both in terms of financial earnings and goodwill in the market. The total revenue earned was observed to cross the threshold limit of CHF 100million pertaining to SWISS in the European market (Swiss International Air Lines, 2003).
Based on the present situation, the success of SWISS can be determined from the figure of earnings before interest and tax, which amounted to CHF 429 million during the year 2016. Though the financial performance of the airline company improved in 2016 since the year2003, it deteriorated during the year 2015. This is owing to the reason that the figure of earnings before tax and interest for SWISS stood at CHF 453million in 2015. It can be stated that factors including constant innovation and investments being made on improving service quality facilitated the airline company to gain long-term success. It is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SWISS who mainly focuses on undertaking strategies to bring and promote further innovations in the future (SWISS, 2017). The huge operational size of SWISS can be determined from its operations being performed in 84 regions and the extent to which tailor made services are offered to the worldwide passengers. In order to manage the grievances of the customers, the management of SWISS has introduced a procedure of complaints handling. The airline is able to make necessary changes in its quality of services, which is mostly preferred by the passengers. In this way, SWISS obtained a leading position in the global airline market. One of the most important factors, which contributed towards the success of the airline company, is effective flow of communication (Rodl & Partner, 2013).
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In 2013, SWISS made a record by launching the CS100 jetliner, which that has been manufactured by the aerospace manufacturer named Bombardier. The airline company attained success due to the offering of modern aircraft services to the worldwide customers. For instance, the aircraft uses less fuel and creates low air as well as sound pollution (Swiss International Air Lines, 2013). The future expansion plans of SWISS are focused on extending its services to nations such as India. It is reported that the airline company has used Airbus A330 to establish a broad connection between Mumbai and Zurich (IBEF, n.d.). Moreover, SWISS has also partnered with the other airline organisations of India such as Jet Airways to perform successful operations (Jet Airways (India) Ltd, n.d.). Partnership with other airlines has been a fundamental strategy for SWISS. This strategic move adopted by the company certainly enables the passengers to book flights, but the travel takes place in the carrier of another flight. This kind of strategic move is witnessed to offer higher flexibility to the passengers as well as SWISSs. The most renowned partners of SWISS include Air France, Air Malta, Air China, Air Canada, Brussel Airlines, Thai Airways and South African Airways. In addition, the other partners comprise Germanwings, LOT Polish Airlines, Egypt Air, Avianca Brasil, Adria Airways, United Airlines, TAP Portugal and Singapore Airlines (Swiss International Air Lines, n.d.b.).
Emirates is an airline company, which is headquartered in Dubai (UAE). It came into existence during the year 1985 and the first two flights were taken at lease from Airbus and Boeing. The airline is observed to focus more on quality rather than quantity, which resulted into obtaining a leading position in the market. In terms of global presence, Emirates performs operations in excess of 80 nations throughout the globe. The airline company holds more than 200 flights that operate on a regular basis from Dubai. In the 1990s, modernisation of the flights was made to sustain in the competitive market in a better way. Progressing in an innovative manner, Emirates is observed to receive the World’s Best Airline award in 2016, that too for the 12th consecutive time (The Emirates Group, n.d.). With regard to Emirates, founding strategy can be regarded as the initiative undertaken by the airline company to expand its operations in a unique manner. This particular strategy of Emirates focused on establishing a wide connection amid the Eastern nations of the globe with the Western ones. For instance, the international flights of Emirates help the passengers to travel various nations such as Europe, India, Asia-Pacific and Middle East through the Dubai International Airport. The airline company obtained a leading position in the respective industry by establishing links between Dubai and other western nations such as the UK and Australia. Such business or operation performance helped Emirates to gain superior degree of competitive advantage over other major competing firms such as Qantas. In the year 2007, Emirates purchased huge figures of aircrafts that created a smooth connection between the Middle East and the USA (The Emirates Group Annual Report, 2017; Aviation Economics, 2006).
While playing alone in the airline industry and connecting East with West, the revenue of Emirates during the period 2015-2016 stood at 28.5% of the total earnings from the European nations. As of now (in 2017), the total earnings of Emirates from European nations stood at AED 23,878 million. However, geopolitical issues such as terror attacks in London, Berlin, Nice and Brussels have created problems for the airline company to attain maximum revenues (The Emirates Group, 2017; Aviation Economics, 2006).
Procedures to Raise Customer Loyalty/Attract People
The customer loyalty initiatives adopted by Emirates can be considered as one of the sole reasons behind this airline company to obtain a leading position in the UAE and the global aviation market. Emirates Skywards is one such initiative of Emirates, which facilitated the passengers to obtain discounts. Similar to ‘Miles & More Programme’, ‘Emirates Skywards’ is also viewed as a frequent flyer programme for Emirates. The customers can avail huge discounts on travelling longer distances. Moreover, the passengers can also collect points by using debit and credit cards for purchasing tickets. Other than discounts, the customers can earn awards after collecting bonus points. For example, the customers can avail the opportunity of staying at luxury hotels of Emirates with their family members. Skywards Miles also enables the customers to win awards when the airline company undertakes promotional campaigns. Additionally, Emirates offers discounts to the customers based on fare type, class, route and tier (The Emirates Group, n.d.a; The Emirates Group, n.d.b). The Skywards reward program is offered to the customers of economy, first and business class (The Emirates Group, n.d.c).
The airline company i.e. Emirates offer services to both the categories of the passengers belonging to premium and economy levels. With regard to the premium class passengers, the airline company took the initiative of opening an exclusive lounge at Cape Town (South Africa). Moreover, measures have been taken by the airline to create a provision of additional 25 seats for the passengers of the economy class of A380 aircraft. Other initiatives taken by the management of Emirates include introduction of an amenity kit for the passengers and as a part of eco-friendly programme, it provides blankets to them in the economy class that are completely made from recycled plastics (The Emirates Group, 2017). Emirates offer the facility of having seat back screens in the economy class (Doganis, 2002). Thus, based on these notions, it can be inferred that both low and high cost business models are followed in Emirates. The business strategy of the airline to serve the premium end customers in an exclusive manner by charging higher prices is an example of high cost business model. Correspondingly, offering discount and the pattern of care delivered to the patrons of economy and business class is an example of low cost business model (Booz & Company, 2003).
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The business model of Emirates cannot be regarded as a low-fleet cost type. This is because the airline company use more than one type of aircraft carrier to conduct operations (Shaw, 2016). Evidence suggests that one of the partners of Emirates namely easyJet uses low cost carriers to conduct operations for profit motive. This signifies that to a certain extent, Emirates adopts a true low cost strategy in its business. In areas such as Australia, the airline is not being able to maintain low cost especially due to higher expenses incurred on labours (The Emirates Group, 2017; The Emirates Group, n.d.d).
Expansion in the Past Twenty Years
The strategies of expansion that adopted by Emirates can be traced back to the late 1990s. After gathering a strong momentum of growth since its establishment, Emirates made a remarkable expansion strategy in the year 1997 by taking the decision to purchase 16 airbuses of worth $2 billion. In the same year, the airline purchased six Boeing 777-200s to increase its capacity of handling huge figures of the passengers. Large influx of the passengers in the similar year enabled Emirates to cope up with the issue of growing fuel prices in the international market. In addition, the airline company was also able to increase its capacity to handle cargo to 200, 000 tonnes during 1998. For entering into the Asian market, Emirates owned stake in Air Lanka in the same year. Moreover, at Dubai International Airport, the airline company opened second terminal of worth $540 million (The Emirates Group, 2017; The Emirates Group, n.d.d). In 1998, Emirates started to cover the destinations of Perth, Brisbane and Sydney so as to increase its customer base. It seems that the airline has focused on gaining competitive advantage in the international market. Another remarkable decision was adopted by Emirates in the year 2000 i.e. purchasing more Boeing 777-300s and subsequently signing a deal to purchase Airbus A380. During the year 2001, the airlines purchased Airbus A330-200 and ordered more airbus. These strategies of expansion adopted by Emirates eventually made it the leading operator of A330 in the global market. A330 is a dual engine passenger carrier, which is manufactured by Airbus. However, the level of competition was becoming more intense in the same year. To cope up with this increased competition, Emirates planned an order of worth $15 billion for purchase of new aircrafts (The Emirates Group, 2017; The Emirates Group, n.d.d).
The enormous operational size of Emirates is reflected from its operations being performed in 124 nations. In the following years, Emirates started to operate in the cargo business. Progressing at a fast momentum, in the year 2009, the airline began to start the operations of its Airbus A380 in regions of Toronto, Auckland, Bangkok, Sydney and Seoul routes. Thereafter, in 2011, the expansion strategies of Emirates focused on increasing its airlines services to Munich, Rome, Johannesburg and Shanghai. In 2012, other areas of Europe, Africa and Asia were added to the route of Emirates. Emirates introduced A380 in Boston and India during the year 2014. The management of Emirates launched transport of pharmaceutical products from Dubai International Airport under the brand name of SkyPharma. During the period 2016-17, Emirates made further investments in the markets of the USA for the acquisition of airports and stakes within the US based aviation organisations. The largest service provider in the travel industry of Dubai i.e. dnata Travel is observed to make an investment of AED 1billion to extend the capabilities of Emirates in terms of portfolio and wide range of business operations (The Emirates Group, 2017; The Emirates Group, n.d.d.)
Incredible Brand Image
It is evident that Emirates has gained huge market and business reputation due to the deliverance of outstanding hospitality services being provided to the customers. Moreover, improved brand image of the airline company has certainly increased its popularity in the global market by being a co-sponsor of sports such as horse racing, polo, cricket, football, tennis, formula 1 race and horse racing. In 2017, Emirates launched an advertisement hosted by the Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston. The campaign is observed to have more than 30million viewers, which rose brand popularity by an extensive level (The Emirates Group, 2017). Emirates attained higher level of business or operational growth due to the popularity of Dubai as a hub for tourists. It is projected that by the year 2020, the tourism industry in Dubai will reach a threshold of $53.1 billion after the renovation of airports present within the region (Tradors, n.d.).
Alliance and Support from the Government
Emirates have made an alliance with Qantas to expand its operations more effectively in the markets of the UK and Asia. It can be stated that after the alliance, there has been rise in the share price of the airline company (YouTube, 2012). Plans have also been made to partner with South African Airways in future and enter into more alliances with Qantas (Capa, 2016). The airline receives support from the Dubai government pertaining to the use of basic facilities in the airports. Moreover, the government provides support on different other dimensions such as taxes. The UAE government provides subsidies to Emirates, which that serves a major part of its growth (The Emirates Group, 2017; PR Newswire Association LLC, 2017).
Icelandair has it’s headquarter in the European nation of Iceland and was established during 1937. Initially, the airline had two subsidiaries or wings namely Loftleidir and Flugfélag Íslands. Flugfélag Íslands started to operate its business under the name of Icelandair in 1940s. Correspondingly, Loftleidir started to operate commercially in 1944 under the name of Icelandic Airlines. Thereafter, in 1979, the two subsidiaries merged under the parent name of Icelandair. From the late 1980s and early 1990s, Boeing jets were introduced so that it is possible to operate more effectively in the international aviation market. During 2005, Icelandair had its first flight at San Francisco (USA) through the Boeing 767 aircraft. Thereafter, in 2006, the airline was listed on the Iceland Stock Exchange, by the name of ICEAIR (Icelandair, 2017).
Icelandair remains a part of aviation associations such as FSF (Flight Safety Foundation), IATA (International Air Transport Association) and AEA (Association of European Airlines). To be precise, it can be stated that Icelandair is a subsidiary of Icelandair Group, which operates in the areas of hotels and cargo. The main flights that are used by Icelandair include Boeing 757-300 and Boeing 757-200. Icelandair exclusively focuses on providing hospitality to the passengers and recruits the most talented pilots and cabin crew members (Icelandair, 2017).
Means to Gain Customer Loyalty/Attract People
Icelandair is observed to attract more number of passengers so that it is possible to enlarge the customer base. This certainly facilitated the airline company to effectively maintain its brand equity and image as per the expectation level. The management of Icelandair constantly makes huge investments in undertaking quality training initiatives so that the cabin crew members are able to interact with the customers in a better manner. Timely investments are made in aircraft maintenance and developments, which is required to provide high comfort to the passengers (Icelandair, 2017). The frequent flyer program of Icelandair is better termed as Saga Club. It can be affirmed that individuals aged above 12 years are only eligible to access the frequent flyer program. In order to ensure increased customer loyalty, Iceland facilitates the customers to earn discounts and rewards based on collected points. However, it is important for the customers to get themselves listed with the Icelandair Saga Club for earning points. The schedule of travel must be within 12 months after getting enlisted with Saga Club. Apart from discounts, the customers can also have merchandise and food after collecting Saga Points (Icelandair, 2017a).
Jet Blue Airways and Icelandair have jointly taken the initiative to offer frequent flyer initiatives. Under this joint initiative, passengers who are registered with Saga Club membership can earn bonus points when they travel on flights of Jet Blue. Both the airlines are observed to focus extremely on providing extreme quality of care towards the passengers. Moreover, the passengers are also entitled to get access to free Wi-Fi during their travels. The joint initiative is observed to create ample opportunities for the travellers of North America and Europe to earn sufficient credit points. Thus, the flights of joint initiatives are mostly between Europe and North America. In total, there are 28 Boeings of Icelandair that fly between North America and Europe. These aircrafts are larger in size than the ordinary planes and provide better comfort to the passengers. The Boeings are observed to travel in 40 destinations in the North American and the European regions (Icelandair, 2017c; Icelandair, 2017d).
Icelandair provides services to business and economy class. Other than international services, the airline company also provides services at domestic destinations such as Scotland, Greenland and Iceland. Moreover, services of high quality are provided to the tourists who visit Iceland. It does not necessarily indicate the Icelandair do not have any premium customer segment. On the other hand, the prevalence frequent flyer program indicates the objective of the management to offer services at cheapest price and thereby obtain competitive advantage (Icelandair, 2017d; Icelandair Group, 2017). The business model, which is applicable for Icelandair, can be regarded as low cost type. This is because the customer loyalty initiative of Icelandair emphasises providing bonus points and discounts to the economy class (Kanta & Ahlan, 2015).
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Evidence suggests that Icelandair focuses on connecting passengers. It has earned considerable amount of profits by means of seasonal services from Europe to Portland (USA). The services are non-stop and have connected Europe with the Pacific Northwest area. On the other hand, the connecting strategy reflects that Icelandair charges high rates from the premium customers of economy class. It indicates that the business model of Icelandair is of high cost type to some extent. The connecting strategy of Icelandair intended to provide flight services to various parts of Continental Europe and the UK (Francis, 2014; Quincy, 2014).
The ratings that are provided by the customers reflect their positive sentiments about the products and/or services offered to them. On an overall basis, the airline i.e. Icelandair has obtained 3.5 ratings as mentioned in Tripadvisor. It is observed that the passengers of the economy class highly prefer the hospitality services of this airline that are offered to them. The Saga club membership is another source of customer loyalty for Icelandair. Online reviews suggest that since there is an absence of first class, the passengers of business and economy class are provided with the best hospitality services. The behaviour of the frontline staff and food quality are reviewed exclusive by the passengers of Icelandair (TripAdvisor LLC, 2017).
Plan for the Future
The business model and the strategic decisions of Icelandair solely concentrate on increasing market share and revenue earnings (YouTube, 2016). In 2018, the airline is supposed to purchase sixteen aircrafts that fall under the categories of 737 MAX9 and 737 MAX8. Apart from this, orders of eight additional aircrafts have been placed. The new aircrafts have seating capacity of above 150 and the level of fuel consumption is lower as compared to Boeing 757-200. However, the crafts of Boeing 757-200 will be used in the North American to Europe route. The engines of Boeing 757 will be upgraded, which is expected to bring about flexibility in the operations. Furthermore, initiatives are also taken to raise the size of fleet so that frequency of flights between Northern America and Europe rises especially during winter season (Icelandair, n.d.).
Business models indicate the purposes for which an organisation exists. The mission, vision, goals and objectives clearly specify about the business model, which is followed by an organisation. The model must be selected only after thorough analysis of the existing market conditions so that the factors such as level of competition and preferences of the customers are taken into concern. Business strategies, on the other hand, portray the initiatives that are taken to address the set goals and objectives. With regard to the airline business, it is observed that business models can be mainly of two types namely, low and high cost. In cost model, the airline companies resort to offer discounts and thereby attract large number of passengers to increase their earnings. On the contrary, in case of high cost model, the prices for services are high and thus targeted to the premium segment.
SWISS is observed to operate in the global market with quality services. The airline gives stress on the premium segment of the customers by charging higher prices for the services offered to them. Thus, SWISS can be said to follow a high cost model. On the other hand, the Dubai based airline Emirates has adopted both high and low cost type models. This is because premium charges are taken for the high end services provided to the customers. In the same manner, services such as frequent flyer programmes are introduced for the economy and the business class customers along with discounts. However, in contrast, in case of Icelandair, a low cost business model is used. The common aspect, which can be noticed to prevail among all the three airline companies, is the urge to provide quality hospitality services to the global passengers.
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