Mother Air: the spoof airline providing free fares

Mother Air: the spoof airline providing free fares

(CNN) — Thought 2020 had run out of surprises? Do this contender for the least probably information to complete the 12 months in journey: a brand new airline.

Because the aviation trade struggles to stay afloat, with airways hemorrhaging cash left proper and middle, it got here as a shock to see the “launch” of Mother Air, a soon-to-be-skyward airline (or so the web site promised), connecting Iceland to either side of the Atlantic.

The routemap connecting Europe to North America — servicing main cities together with London, Paris, Berlin, Boston and Toronto — appeared wise sufficient.

But it surely was Mother Air’s different proposed insurance policies that raised eyebrows.

The airline seemed to be taking a leaf out of the Ryanair playbook, by charging not just for seat assignments, in-flight Wi-Fi and cabin baggage — but in addition bathroom paper, cleaning soap and even lifejackets (which is illegitimate).

It even supplied “Covid flights,” for these testing constructive and those that had already had the illness. These, it claimed, could be staffed by staff who’d additionally already had it and developed antibodies.

It appeared like a hoax — however inspired by its extra passenger-friendly insurance policies like gifting away two free tickets per flight, not demanding cost till two days earlier than takeoff, free cancellation and low-cost standby seats, potential clients flocked to its web site.

Mother Air additionally appeared to tick socially right-on containers, by shining a light-weight on gender equality and vowing to make use of as many ladies as males; and promising to “defend nature to the perfect of our skill” by carbon offsetting, utilizing recycled supplies and going paperless.

The outcome? Slightly below 10,000 Instagram followers and 6,000 reserving enquiries, in keeping with the CEO, in simply two weeks — earlier than the airline had even introduced dates and costs.

The good reveal

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The “airline” issued free tickets to followers and influencers

Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson/Mother Air

There was only one catch. Mother Air CEO Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson, nicknamed Odee, is an artist. And the challenge, he instructed CNN, was to “present precisely how obscure our actuality is — that we’re talked to by way of advertising… and that simply by organising a web site and sending out press releases, it turned our world the wrong way up.”

Actually, he deliberate to hold on the challenge for greater than two weeks, however the consideration Mother Air obtained turned too annoying. Having been adamant that this was an actual airline, each to journalists and followers in a “launch press convention,” and to the attorneys representing WOW Air (which has plans to relaunch), after simply 15 days, he confirmed it was an artwork challenge.

“It was fairly demanding,” he says. “I bought 6,000 bookings, 200 complaints, two feedback per minute on social media” (CNN can not confirm these claims, though 10,000 individuals watched the airline’s 41-minute “launch” video on Fb).

“I used to be making an attempt to maintain up with every part and make it seem like there have been lots of people working on the firm.”

Some plans ‘make sense’

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“CEO” Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson recommended passengers ought to pay for their very own lifejackets

Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson/Mother Air

Mother Air’s proclamations definitely bought individuals excited. On the “launch press convention,” Friðriksson — the son of a advertising professional, and who as soon as designed WOW Air’s beer cans — mentioned that the 2 free seats on each flight have been a tool to lift model consciousness. The airline would not lose cash, he claimed within the guise of CEO, as a result of the recipients must purchase a return flight — plus they’d in all probability add extras.

Relating to placing every part on sale, proper right down to the bathroom paper, he mentioned that by charging for extras, Mother Air would “decrease the price of the precise seat.”

So, are his plans actually that outlandish — or is that this the place lowcost flying is headed?

Paul Simmons, government director at Blue Islands, a Channel Islands-based low price airline which has taken over a few of the defunct UK airline Flybe’s routes, thinks that a few of Mother Air’s “insurance policies” have been respectable.

Simmons — who has additionally labored as CCO for Flybe, Malaysia Airways, and Air Arabia, and was head of name advertising at EasyJet — says that the 2 free seats per flight had legs.

“That might make sense — I can see the good thing about model consciousness by way of the publicity,” he mentioned. “Most low price airways run at a 95% load issue, so there are spare seats. That is not silly.”

He was additionally intrigued by Mother Air’s declare that accommodations would part-pay for passengers’ flights — once more, Friðriksson mentioned, for publicity. As an alternative of paying fee to on-line journey company websites equivalent to Reserving.com, Mother Air’s thought was that the resort would contribute to the flight of the passengers who booked with them. “That is sensible, given the margin that the OTAs take,” says Simmons.

The place they half firm is with the concept of charging for lifejackets (“completely unlawful”) and bathroom roll (“there are specific belongings you simply cannot cost for. Statutory minimums [including a glass of water, soap and toiletries] are laid down within the guidelines and laws.”

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s notorious suggestion to cost passengers to make use of the bathroom was, in any case, a joke.

Simmons additionally says that bringing again the as soon as in style idea of standby seats would kill the enterprise. Low price airways work on dynamic pricing, the place fares begin low and rise the fuller the aircraft will get, and the nearer to departure.

“The entire gambit works by getting individuals to e book early,” he says. Promising late offers would tank the airline.

In brief, “A few of his concepts are cheap, however likely aren’t.”

Päivyt Tallqvist, Finnair’s senior vice chairman, company communications, can be intrigued by Friðriksson’s strategies, calling Mother Air an “attention-grabbing efficiency.”

“I feel the challenge and the eye it has gathered highlights how passionate individuals are about journey — particularly now that folks haven’t been in a position to journey usually,” she tells CNN.

“There may be all the time room for innovation in product design, gross sales and advertising, additionally in aviation. Having mentioned that, I feel security and reliability are additionally priorities for the long run, as they need to be.”

Slots, planes and employees on faucet

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The “airline” promised to concentrate on gender inequality, placing ladies in highly effective positions

Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson/Mother Air

The challenge definitely touched a nerve. Friðriksson says that he was contacted by an plane leasing firm, providing him “planes, employees and providers on the bottom.”

“A logistics firm supplied me airport slots. An organization that handles advertising for a significant European airline mentioned that they wished so as to add Mother Air to their portfolio.

“Somebody even mentioned they may assist me set up a base in Egypt.” He even says he was supplied a job by a rival airline. (CNN has not been in a position to confirm these claims.)

Icelandic press even reported that the lawyer for the defunct WOW Air known as him a “gifted man” and recommended he flip his consideration to serving to them get the airline again up and working.

However he additionally thinks individuals are determined for excellent news.

“Folks noticed the airline as a ray of sunshine,” he says. “All these individuals have been so bored with being caught at residence, desirous to journey overseas — it gave them a soothing feeling for a couple of days to allow them to dream about doing one thing else.”

In fact, he additionally made guarantees he had no intention of protecting. Mother Air did ticket giveaways on social media, going so far as to ship out bodily vouchers for a putative flight in 2021-2022.

However he would not really feel responsible.

“My predominant focus was to point out the obscurity of how one can simply put up a entrance and inform individuals you’ve got an organization, and folks will begin believing it and interacting with it,” he says.

“Would you ask different CEOs who claimed they have been beginning airways the identical query [if they feel guilty]? I really feel like as a result of I mentioned it was artwork, I’ve obtained extra powerful questions — questions that the others ought to have gotten.

“We have seen the ‘launch’ of a number of new airways in Iceland this 12 months, however none of them have but appeared. Numerous CEOs [planning airlines] get worldwide consideration however we do not really see something.

“They do not say the place they’re getting the cash from, the place the planes are from.”

WOW Air’s collapse hit Icelanders exhausting, he says. In that sense, the launch of the mysterious Mother Air was a political assertion.

And his nods to gender equality and the setting, have been, he mentioned, poking enjoyable at fashionable advertising strategies.

“It is attribute for corporations like this to ‘greenwash’ or ‘pinkwash’ their firm, so I used to be making an attempt to be in character,” he says.

The way forward for flying?

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Artist Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson on the “launch” of Mother Air

CNN

Mother Air might have completed its massive reveal, however Friðriksson says that some followers are usually not keen to simply accept the reality.

“Persons are nonetheless making an attempt to e book flights,” he says. “They’re emailing, saying, ‘I noticed that is an art work however is there nonetheless going to be an airline launched?’

“The challenge remains to be alive and I will preserve accumulating information until I am glad and might shut it.”

Within the meantime, he claims to not have obtained a single grievance about his hoax — with no phrase both from the influencers who plugged his pretend airline, and even individuals who “gained” free tickets.

And though he has no need to truly launch an airline, he thinks Mother Air may not be too removed from the reality of future low price flying.

“I undoubtedly tried to push it to the restrict of believability, nevertheless it’s like when ‘The Simpsons’ predict one thing.

“Reserving flexibility has already come to life [in the pandemic]. And I am predicting that airways will promote free seats sooner or later, and that native companies will contribute to the ticket, decreasing the price of journey.

“You might pay $15-20, simply to get a buyer. You do not have to low cost your resort room anymore — simply purchase your buyer.”

And as for the bathroom paper, he says, “I feel that will really be excellent.

“I feel individuals may be trusted to convey their very own bathroom paper. Airways could make them answerable for what they need to use.”

Mr O’Leary, over to you.

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