Scoot by Singapore Airlines: What’s in a name?

WHAT came to mind when Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced the name of its new budget carrier: Scoot?

For me, it was the two-wheel scooter that was ubiquitous on many urban roads in large cities after World War II. More notably, I think of the Italian brand Vespa, and Audrey Hepburn side-saddling Gregory Peck on a ride through Rome in the 1952 movie ‘Roman Holiday’ – a scene that evoked an aura of romanticism and resulting in a sale of more than 100,000 units for manufacturer Piaggio & Co. The Vespa soon became a symbol of freedom and imagination.

Will Scoot be able to similarly revive the romance of air travel, providing that badly needed spark in an embattled industry?

You bet, if you believe what SIA said that Scoot “won’t be your usual airline.” For starters, CEO Campbell Wilson took pains to explain the deliberateness of not using the descriptive “airline” (or its variations) moniker in the conventional nomenclature, to suggest that the new upstart is different and trendy. But what SIA has done is merely following in the tradition of United Airlines and others of naming budget offshoots short and sweet, names such as TED, Go, Song and Zip that have already dotted the skies.

However, SIA’s hope is that Scoot, promoted as “an airline with attitude”, will distinguish itself from the rest by its “scootitude” – cleverly coined, whatever that entails or embraces. Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson said of the name: “It conveys spontaneity, movement, informality and a touch of quirkiness.”

That too has a familiar ring if you remember another SIA subsidiary by the name of Tradewinds which commenced scheduled services in 1989 before it changed its name to SilkAir in 1992.

Tradewinds was marketed as a regional airline for leisure travel, operating to largely vacation destinations such as Pattaya, Phuket and Hat Yai in Thailand. The service was supposed to be themed on the informality that Mr Wilson would want for Scoot, suggesting casualness and fun from the atmosphere to even the crew uniform. But, to be excused by the inhibitions of its Asian culture, Tradewinds might not have been quirky enough. Here, SIA may be looking to Southwest Airlines of the Untied States for some tips.

All said, it appears that SIA may be looking to replicate in Scoot a budget carrier ambition that for Tradewinds arrived ahead of its time.

Interestingly, SIA may not have known of a motor dealer – marketing, but of course, scooters – in Canada whose advertisement encapsulates the Scoot spirit: “Scooter King can show a way to travel fast and light, keep your money in your pocket, and join the other countries around the world that have been enjoying this pleasurable way of life and stress-free motoring for many, many years.”

What’s in a name, anyway? The real test of the pudding is in the eating.

From all that has been said, one begins to wonder if Scoot is meant to be a true budget carrier, the way that Ryanair continues to do away with conventional procedures such as airport counter check-in to reduce cost, and hopefully that the savings will be passed back to the customer. Several budget carriers are already not accepting checked baggage unless passengers are prepared to pay a premium for the carriage. While Scoot promises “great value airfares up to 40 per cent less than legacy carriers”, the consumer is far from being assured of its value until the numbers are published, and he or she would be more interested to know how Scoot compares with other notable budget carriers than the mainstream airlines.

Yet “value” is not something that can be easily measured in dollars and cents. Scoot may be able to offer an experience that so outclasses its rivals that consumers will be willing to pay more for the difference. Herein lies will a bit challenge for Scoot when the consumer can demand more than just a smile and friendly greetings and where the scope for differentiation in the low-cost sector may be restricted by costs. But SIA knows from its experience that “attitude” holds the key to success in the business, the way that it has excelled in customer service amongst other things. Scoot looks set to be the SIA of budget carriers.

The challenge for Scoot is building up a loyal clan of customers with “scootitude” for whatever price it charges the way that Ryanair relies on a market segment whose consumers will continue to fly between European ports for as low as US$20 even as they complain about the lack of service.

Scoot is expected to commence operations in 2012, beginning with destinations in China and Australasia. After the excitement of the much anticipated christening, analysts are probably now mulling over the fate of SIA’s other budget carrier, Tiger Airways, in which it has a 32.8-per-cent stake. It looks like Tiger’s days are numbered. Or is it part of the big plan?

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

6 Responses to Scoot by Singapore Airlines: What’s in a name?

  1. Chua Cheong Hock says:

    I am Singaporeean ,give me more information from Scoot

    • Dingzi says:

      Sorry about this late response. Scoot is a new budget carrier fully-owned by Singapore Airlines, scheduled to commence operations in 2012 – initially to Sydney as announced. You can probably get more information from SIA.

  2. arly faraamil says:

    Do they also hiring foreigner like Malaysian,Filipino,etc..

  3. Alex Lee says:

    What kind of an airline is ‘Scoot” especially when the TZ301 I boarded last night from Bangkok to Singapore was delayed for 3 hours. Flight supposed to take off at 2000 hr but can only depart at 2300 hr without giving reasons. No doubt its a budget airline but at least have the courteousy of explaining why the delay.

    • Dingzi says:

      Hi Alex, I understand your frustration. Unfortunately, budget carriers aren’t too up there with customer service, and I don’t think they think twice about customer loyalty. A friend of mine also told me about a not-too-good experience with Scoot – contrary to his expectations since it is driven by SIA! Ah well, it’s in a different kettle. You may wish to read my post “What you should know about flying budget” (Oct 1, 2012). Thanks for the feedback.

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