June 19, 2015 – From the terminal at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental airport, a number of people watched EVA Air’s Boeing 777 as it taxied from the landing strip. The plane, piloted by Eva Air Chairman, KW Chang, had just completed its inaugural flight from Taipei, linking the two cities with a direct route for the first time. However, it’s doubtful that many of the onlookers considered the broad implications of this. More likely they were distracted by the giant 20 ft. tall cartoon figures emblazoned on the plane’s side.
That’s right – Hello Kitty has come to Houston, and she’s come in a big way.
From Hello Kitty printed toilet paper, to Hello Kitty pillows and Hello Kitty shaped in-flight meals, EVA Air makes sure that her theme persists throughout. This isn’t just some empty gimmick, though. Glenn Chai, EVA Air’s executive vice president of corporate planning, says that EVA’s small fleet of seven Hello Kitty-themed planes sells more seats on average than their regular airplanes. That, plus $3 million dollars’ worth of annual merchandise sales, makes these themed crafts smart marketing.
Smart marketing played a large role in the decision to add the new direct Taipei to Houston flight as well.
“We keep monitoring the Houston market,” Chai said, “For the past 10 years we realized that Houston is a big potential market for us.”
With over 450 Houston-based companies reporting business or trade ties with Taiwan, trade between Houston and Taiwan is certainly on the rise, showing a 10.8% growth from 2013 to 2014. This 15-hour flight will not only give passengers (and potential business partners) a faster and more comfortable way to fly to Taipei, but will also serve to open up the region. With flights into Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippians, as well as over 30 destinations in mainland China, EVA Air’s Taipei location is set to be a new central hub for Asia travel.
Currently, EVA Air flies its Houston-Taipei route four times a week. For those who aren’t as much fans of Hello Kitty, one of these flights will be on a regular, non-themed plane. For everyone else, just sit back, relax on your Hello Kitty pillow and let the popular Japanese icon guide you into Asia.