As EVA Air maps its post-pandemic recovery one thing is clear: Flying will be a little less kawaii. The carrier will retire its “Hand in Hand” Hello Kitty livery on 15 May 2021, returning it to the standard EVA paint scheme.
The shift also dictates a change to the on-board product. The Kitty-fication of the interior and service will revert to normal on board, though most of those features have been suspended for over a year.
The Cost of Kitty?
Operating the Hello Kitty flights historically has been big business for EVA. The carrier reported in 2015 that sales for the Hello Kitty operations were ~3% stronger than for other flights. And that boost came even as the company charged higher fares for the on-board experience.
The higher revenue is offset somewhat by increased costs. Loading the 100+ Kitty-themed items on board adds to EVA’s overhead. Ditto the fact that more of the on-board bits tend to disappear at the end of a flight than without the themed details.
The licensing costs from Sanrio also factor in. But EVA sees a significant boost in merchandising sales from the themed experience, including limited edition products only available on-board.
Part of the consideration may simply be aircraft maintenance timing. Hand in Hand was the first 777 to join EVA’s Hello Kitty fleet, painted in 2013. Still, the move to repaint it in a standard livery is a choice that EVA must make.
Where Kitty makes sense
And while the company previously suggested that the Hello Kitty flights are “very profitable” in addition to providing a bit of whimsey in the skies, EVA also discovered that not every market loves Kitty. Regional routes within Asia remained relatively stable with the A330 version of the experience.
The longer-haul 777 markets have adjusted over the years. Los Angeles saw service in the first half of the last decade before that 777 shifted to Paris flights. Houston became a new US market for the Hello Kitty operation in 2015 before seeing the special livery shift to Chicago in 2017. Los Angeles came back for a bit before that aircraft swapped to San Francisco in late 2019.
On-board experience suspended
The in-flight Hello Kitty experience is special at nearly every level. But it has not truly flown for more than a year now. EVA suspended the Hello Kitty in-flight operations on 1 April 2020.
Retiring one aircraft from the sub-fleet does not necessarily mean the entire experience will disappear from EVA’s operations. But when it returns there will be fewer special flights on offer.
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