EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空), the nation's second-largest carrier, yesterday unveiled its second aircraft painted with the popular Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty, in hopes of boosting business on its Japan routes.
The Airbus 330-200 Hello Kitty jet will serve passengers on the Taipei to Nagoya, Osaka and Sendai routes. The jet is making its maiden voyage to Nagoya today.
Like the first Hello Kitty jet, the second one features paintings of the popular character all around the plane. Boarding passes, tableware, lotion bottles, tissues, food and special-edition duty free merchandise all sport the Hello Kitty look.
"The Hello Kitty jets are fantasy lands for the massive number of Hello Kitty fans," Peter Chen (陳欣德), president of EVA Airways, said during the launching ceremony at the hangar of Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corp (長榮航太).
"This is a crucial marketing strategy to differentiate us from competing airlines operating on the same routes," Chen said.
EVA Airways introduced the first Hello Kitty jet on the same day a year ago, serving travelers on the Taipei-Tokyo and Taipei-Fukuoka routes. Its business, which is calculated in terms of revenue passenger-kilometers (the total number of paying passengers multiplied by the kilometers they have flown), on the two routes has increased by 10 percent on average, EVA Airways' spokesman Nieh Kuo-wei (聶國維) said.
The passenger load factor on the Tokyo and Fukuoka flights is 90 percent to 95 percent in the high season and remains over 80 percent during the low season, Nieh said.
Nieh refused to disclose the cost in making the Hello Kitty jet, such as the royalty paid to Sanrio Co, copyright holder of Japan's most famous cat.
Owing to high fuel costs, EVA Airways posted a loss of NT$845.02 million (US$25.45 million), or NT$0.24 per share, for the first half of the year.
EVA Airways hasn't released its third-quarter financial results.
While oil prices have dropped to around US$60 per barrel, Chen said the recent price fall would hardly cover the loss this year.
EVA Airway's jet fuel prices are calculated by the average oil prices in Singapore a month earlier. Given comparatively high fuel costs and lower surcharges, the carrier has no plan of matching other airlines in lowering the fuel surcharge, he said.
Singapore Airlines announced last week that it was cutting the fuel surcharge for flights booked after last Saturday. The surcharge on Southeast Asian routes was reduced from US$20 to US$18 per sector, routes to North America from US$90 to US$82 and others from US$60 to US$54.
The nation's carriers, however, charge passengers US$15 for short-haul flights and US$39 for long-haul flights, still lower than Singapore Airlines' adjusted rates.
China Airlines Ltd (華航), the nation's largest carrier, said it would follow government regulations in adjusting fuel surcharges, company spokesman Johnson Sun (孫鴻文) said.
According to a fuel surcharge mechanism established by the Civil Aeronautics Administration in September last year, the surcharge can be lowered to US$10 on short-haul flights and US$26 on long-haul flights should the average fuel price go down to US$60 to US$70 per barrel for two consecutive months.
If the average oil price declines to US$50 to US$60 per barrel for two straight months, the surcharge will be cut to US$7.50 and US$19.50, respectively.