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Cartoon figures help attract Chinese customers in airline market

Reporter: Li Jingjing, Li Sien 丨 CCTV.com

10-12-2016 16:59 BJT

More than six million Chinese went overseas on vacation during this year's long National Day holiday. That was twice as many as last year. Airlines are competing with each other to gain more customers, and one increasingly used strategy is to provided themed flights. Mi Jiayi has more.

Themed flights have become more and more common in China's airline market, with the latest example being Japan Airlines. It started a Doraemon themed flight between Shanghai and Tokyo just before the National Day holiday. In order to attract customers, the company painted its plane with the famous cartoon character, and threw several promotional events giving people the chance to meet the cat-like robot in person. The strategy seems to be working with some enthusiastic fans.

Japan is a very popular travel destination for Chinese tourists. In 2015, five million Chinese visited Japan. Japan Airlines says it hopes the themed flight will give it an edge.

"The competition for flights between China and Japan is very heated. So apart from providing better services, we've also considered working with cartoon figures. Doraemon is a very well-known figure in China, so we hope this cooperation will let more Chinese know about us," said senior officer of Japan Airlines' China sales group, Wang Jieli.

The company is not alone in using cartoon figures' charm to attract customers. Eastern Airlines arranged two Disney themed flights in China after the Shanghai Disneyland opened in June. Hainan Airlines teamed up with Kung Fu Panda recently during the National Day holiday. Capital Airlines paired with the cartoon monkey Paul Frank for one of its domestic flights in September. But are these characters on the planes really paying off?

Senior research analyst of Mintel China, Alina Ma, said, "It definitely creates a buzz and brings in a certain level of excitement, which leads to consumer interest and likes. It's also cost effective when comparing to other promotions like changing the seat arrangements. For the new airlines that are trying to enter the Chinese market, this is a good way for them to create a buzz and make the Chinese consumers know about them quickly. But for domestic airlines, they will benefit less from this."

Ma says that themed flights are just a short-term strategy that could attract a certain type of customer as each cartoon figure has a different fan base.

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