We had some April Fool’s Day fun last Friday with well-received stories on Jetstar's Project Sirius seats and cabin layout for the Boeing 787, Qantas returning to a full service airline and of course Virgin Blue’s new Virgin Pacific brand with celebrity spokesman Justin Bieber.
But we weren’t the only ones entering into the spirit of April Fool’s Day – here’s a roundup of other airline pranks.
Air New Zealand kicked things off with the announcement of its new ‘Pay What You Weigh’ scheme, where passengers would be charged according to their weight.
“The bean counters tell us more weight = more fuel = more cost, so we are introducing a new pay what you weigh fare” the airline said, observing that the system would let health-conscious passengers “decrease your airfare and your waistline at the same time”.
Passengers would enter their weight during online bookings and charged up to NZ$1 per kg depending on their age and sex, with ‘weigh-in’ stations at the airport to catch would-be cheats. “We'll collect any additional fare due at that time so make sure you lay off the pies and Tim Tams before you travel!” the airline warned.
Virgin Blue followed up with its' 'No Chair Fare' – an offer for passengers to buy standing-room only tickets on domestic flights at half the price of a seat, with a complimentary calf massage thrown in for flights longer than two hours. The prank was promoted in newspapers and on radio, resulting in over 1,000 people trying to book the fares.
Virgin Atlantic got in on the act with news of a trial to grow fresh vegetables and herbs in a special on-board garden patch in the galley of its aircraft.
These would let Upper Class passengers enjoy fresh vegetables with their meals while the herbs would also be used in cocktails such as fresh mint for Mojitos, Pimms and tea.
For his part, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson announced he would buy Pluto and return it to planetary status. A special harness would “collect asteroids and space debris, which it will drag into Pluto’s gravitational field, increasing the planet’s mass” so it would no longer be rated as a mere ‘massive dwarf planet’.
Word also came that Swiss would hand out different grades of chocolates to passengers based on their frequent flyer status.
Aviation site FlightGlobal broke the news that British Airways would celebrate the forthcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton by painting portraits of different members of the British Royal Family on the tails of its aircraft.
Budget carrier Ryanair announced it would introduce child-free flights “after a Europe-wide survey of 1,000 passengers showed that half would pay higher fares to avoid other people’s children.”
The potential revenue stream wasn’t lost on the airline, with a spokesman observing that “when it comes to children we all love our own but would clearly prefer to avoid other people’s little monsters when travelling… with clear demand for ‘child free’ flights Ryanair will introduce child free flights on high frequency routes from the start of our winter schedule in October.”
Not to be outdone in the money-making stakes, aviation news site Aero-News.net revealed that several major airlines would carry advertisements on their in-flight PA announcements.
“Nothing is more American than advertising,” said American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey. “It only makes sense that, with 50-400 captive sets of ears in the back that we’d be able to make a significant impact on the buying public.”
“Pilots are known for their smooth delivery in their “this is your captain speaking” announcements,” added Jeff Smisek, president and CEO of United Continental Holdings.
“The smooth, usually baritone, measured delivery telling the passengers that “we’re about to experience a little turbulence” is a natural for selling shampoo or floor wax. To return the airline to profitability, we had to think outside the box. There are only so many fees with which you can gouge … er … ask your customers to pay.”
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.