Airlines’ in-flight catalogues are often filled with bizarre items, but China’s low-cost carrier Spring Airlines will take in-flight shopping to new heights next month when it opens up a mid-air car dealership.
Alongside the whiskey, cosmetics, jewelry and inflatable travel pillows, China’s largest private airline will sell Chinese-branded cars starting about 100,000 yuan ($16,000).
“We’ve been in talks with a wide range of mainland car makers for a long period of time,” Spring Airlines spokesman Zhang Wuan told the South China Morning Post, though he did not disclose any specific brands. “Many technical issues needed to be implemented before we roll out car sales on board.”
One of those issues is training the fleet’s 500-plus cabin crew on the art of car sales at 38,000 feet and familiarizing them with different models.
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“More than 90 percent of our passengers are white-collar workers aged 45 or below,” Zhang said, and some are frequent travelers who don’t have time to visit showrooms on the ground. Information provided on the flights, he said, would allow passengers time to study the details of the models available, while special discounts would motivate travelers wary of buying before seeing.
Zhang said the Shanghai-based carrier would offer credit card payments on flights through point-of-sale technology beginning in April. For passengers whose eyes are bigger than their wallets, the airline plans a grace period whereby shopaholics could withdraw unwise purchases back on the ground.
Founded in 2005, Spring Airlines flies to more than two dozen cities in mainland China, as well as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo and Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s known for its unusual marketing schemes, but selling cars is easily the airline’s most daring move yet.
There is reason to be optimistic. China’s new car sales increased 19.5 percent to 2.8 million units during the first two months of 2013. Whether or not people will actually purchase a car in the sky without kicking the tires and taking it for a spin remains to be seen.
If the mid-air car dealership succeeds, however, Spring Airlines Chairman Wang Zheng-hua has another big idea in the works: mid-air real estate.