Guest Editor Joel Chusid
Hello Kitty Takes to the Skies
In 1974 the “Hello Kitty” character appeared in Japan on a vinyl change purse targeted to young girls, and it crossed the Pacific to the U.S. two years later. Today it is a multi-billion dollar phenomenon with over 50,000 products ranging from dolls and stickers to products aimed at more mature audiences such as debit cards, electric guitars and wines. But Taiwan-based EVA Air took it to a whole new level in 2005 when it premiered a “Hello Kitty” themed jetliner, used on domestic and intra-Asia flights. The experiment ended in 2009, but due to pressure from the public, EVA dedicated three new wide-body Airbus A330-300s with the theme. But even that wasn’t enough, and the plane took off more than anyone expected. Today EVA Air has no fewer than five Hello Kitties, specially-painted and appointed Airbus A330s, both -200s and the larger -300s, flying on its system, including trans-Pacific, to Los Angeles. The theme extends well beyond the livery. Flight attendants wear Hello Kitty aprons (even the male attendants?) and serve themed meals. The variety of Hello Kitty items aboard defies imagination, from boarding passes and baggage tags to headrest covers, pillows, soap dispensers; even toilet paper and air sickness bags bear the Hello Kitty emblem. Oh yes, the Business Class cabin also follows the theme, although instead of the bright pink and other colors used throughout, it’s more discreetly appointed in a neutral gray. See for yourself: http://evakitty.evaair.com/en/
Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. EVA Air Boeing 777-35E ER B-16703 (msn 32643) in the new Hello Kitty – Sanrio Family scheme lands in Los Angeles.
Ten, now Eleven?
The original Boeing 747 jumbos had eight seats across the economy class cabin. I recall a 2-4-2 configuration, much like many airlines have today on their slightly narrower, but still twin-aisle Airbus 330s and some Boeing 777s. But times have changed. Emirates was the first airline to install ten seats across on its Boeing 777s, and many other airlines followed. At this past November’s Dubai Air Show, Tim Clark, the President of Emirates, told the media he would favor an eleven seat across version, if it could be worked out. Emirates is by no means alone, since it’s understood that the more seats filled, the more revenue an airline brings in. Consider Russia’s Transaero, which has opted to put 652 seats on its new twin-deck Airbus A380s, which normally hold 470-520 passengers. Most of those seats, 616 to be exact, will be dedicated to economy class, to be used on long haul flights like Moscow to Bangkok or the Dominican Republic. Talk about a long, long ride with over 600 of your closest friends! Air Austral, a French airline that flies between Paris and Reunion in the Indian Ocean, announced plans in 2008 to buy two all-economy A380s with an astounding 840 seats, but they reversed that plan more recently, and it’s questionable if they will take the airplane at all.
Speaking of Russia, passengers tend to imbibe quite a bit more when flying. Over the years there have been many stories in the media about drunken passengers and even crews on some of the Russian airlines, yes, the ones in the cockpit, occasionally taking nips, or a bit more. A recent easyJet flight carrying enthusiastic football fans from Moscow to Manchester diverted to Copenhagen to offload not one, but seven drunken passengers. They probably got to enjoy Copenhagen, but I’m sure they’d rather have been at the game.
Inflight Entertainment, to Some
To the delight of, or dismay to some, passengers flying over the holidays will get to view some of the more creative inflight safety videos. As long as the required safety information is delivered, whether by flight attendants doing it personally over a PA, an audio recording or a video, the regulatory agencies are satisfied. Some airlines have been getting more and more creative and light-hearted in designing these. American uses a diverse group of actual employees. Delta has a new holiday-themed video, which features everything from Santa, elves, a yule log, an ugly Christmas sweater, mistletoe and even a dreydel in the aisle. Air New Zealand has had a tradition of creating some of the more unusual ones such as with Richard Simmons, a hobbit-themed video (“Welcome aboard Air Middle Earth”) and one that featured flight crew with clothing painted on their bodies (“The Bare Essentials of Safety”). The most recent additions, depending on the aircraft, can be found starring TV host and survival expert Bear Grylls or the ageless Betty White whose slow-paced version is aimed at seniors. But Virgin America has the glitziest with the “Safety Dance”, featuring a high tempo montage of music and dancing, clearly aimed at a hip, younger audience. They’re all available for your viewing, whether you’re flying or not, online. Look ‘em up and decide for yourself if you’d be entertained or turned off. I enjoyed them all… the first time.