Domestic Airlines Enjoy Star Marketing
Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung, maestro Chung Myung-whun, golfer Choi Kyung-ju and Korean pop star Rain _ what is common among them?
They are all given complimentary tickets by the national flag carriers.
Airlines are actively adopting ``star marketing'' in promotions, selecting entertainers or sports players who frequently take flights.
Asiana Airlines has recently signed a contract to support the footballer Park. The carrier will provide him with free first class tickets for all routes Asiana operates for one year, and Park will be the airline's publicity ambassador.
Park's parents will also be given first class seats, while his manager will get business class tickets.
Park is only one of dozens of entertainers and sports stars that Asiana supports. In April, the carrier decided to offer free business class seats to figure skater Kim Yu-na for one year, as well as her parents.
Other celebrities include maestro Chung, pianist Son Yeol-eum, Korean Major Leaguer Park Chan-ho and golfer Choi.
The contract period differs according to each star _ baseball player Park received first class seats for 10 years since 1998, his wife, too, while Chung has benefited from first class seats since 1993. Golfer Choi's contract, which includes his wife and children, is three years since 2006.
``We do not have specific criteria on such differences but make our decision after considering various factors including the celebrities' relative popularity and how often they go overseas,'' an Asiana official said.
In exchange for the favor, those publicity ambassadors take part in events organized by the airline.
Some of the celebrities are given privilege for limited routes _ for example, baseball player Lee takes first class seats but only on domestic flights and flights between Korea and Japan.
Through star marketing, airlines can take advantage of celebrities' popularity in promotion.
``When our publicity ambassadors leave or enter a country, news reports say, `on Asiana Airlines' planes.' It is a quite big advertisement,'' the Asiana official said.
In the case of Korean Air, which decorated one of its flights with Rain's image, Rain's world tour equals Korean Air's promotion.
``From the moment that Rain arrives in a country to hold a concert on the plane with his image on, local newspapers and broadcasters introduce the plane along with the pop star,'' a Korean Air official said.
Carriers do not need to spend large amount of money in offering privilege to the stars, as first and business class seats are not usually fully booked.
But not all stars enjoy the given privilege. In the case of skater Kim, who often visits Canada and Russia for competitions, Asiana does not operate direct flights to the countries. Korean Air provided first class seats to Guus Hiddink, former head coach of the Korean National Soccer Team, but he preferred a Dutch carrier KLM.