Troubled Air Scotland Changes Name

Scotland's self-proclaimed 'flag-carrier' is getting an overhaul. Air Scotland, operated by other airlines based in Greece and the Netherlands, suffered from a bad image as a delay-prone airline with bad service. There's never been anything 'Scottish' about the airline, maybe except for the huge Scottish flag branded on the tails of their airplanes. Even the the logo banner at the top of the airline's website reads, 'Air Scotland - Operated by Greece Airways'. The company even went so far as to have its Iraqi-born founder dress up in a kilt to celebrate the beginning of service. But Air Scotland has been faced with bad public opinion. So, what does an airline with a bad public image do? Simple - change its name. Air Scotland will now be known as topjetair. (Read an additional viewpoint about this over at Strategic Name Development's blog.)

Like any name change at an airline, there are two sides to the story. One passenger explains why Air Scotland might have switched its name: "We were left high and dry at the airport in Spain with no information from Air Scotland. I am sure they have changed their name because of their reputation." However, the company denies this. Says its manager: "We now fly from other airports in the UK – not just Scottish ones – and we wanted to give the airline a more international flair."

The manager should get the Golden Shovel award - that's not really the reason why they're changing their name. They shouldn't need to have a more 'international flair' - after all, if you're a 'Scottish' airline with a Greek operator, isn't that international enough? I guess not.

But the new owners are understandably eager to shed its poor image. Airlines do this whenever they're faced with bad public opinion. Olympic announced its desire to rebrand itself (read here) a short while ago. And the most noteworthy example occured when ValuJet Airlines suffered a horrific crash in the Florida Everglades ten years ago. After shutting itself down and reopening up several months later, it found that many people were - quite understandably - afraid to fly them. So what did they do? They bought up AirTran, a bumbling little Florida carrier flying a couple of elderly Boeing 737s. ValuJet adopted this new name and became the airline that we all know of today. I wonder how many people really know that AirTran is really just ValuJet 'in disguise' - but if anything, it shows the immense power behind a simple name.