Over the last two weeks I discovered a nifty little airline simulator game called Airline Manager on Facebook. My airline is called Develish Airlines.
Coming across a variety of questions on the discussion boards, I have written this strategy guide that may help you get ahead in the game.
First and most importantly -- Forget conventional wisdom.
To make the game simpler and appealing to a wider audience the developers have taken a lot of liberties with the models of planes available, the airports, and timings.
- You can operate any plane from any airport. For example an Airbus A380 on a runway only 3,000 feet long is no problem in the world of Airline Manager (or AM for short).
- The size of the cities do not matter. AM only calculates the total number of flights operated by all players in the game to adjust demand. So you can operate multiple A380's in to the smallest town with the same demand effect as the largest metropolis.
- Planes destined for delivery five years from today, such as the A350XWB are already available now.
- Do not pay attention to brands. A Boeing aircraft has the same reliability as an Ilyushin or Antonov or Tupolev or Dassault or any of the other manufacturers.
- Fuel consumption is meaningless.
Probably the most asked question in the game is "which is the best plane for use in Airline Manager?".
To answer this, I have prepared an Excel file which computes the ROI (return on investment) for various models of planes which I recommend you download from here.
Update - July 10, 2010.
The developers of Airline Manager have increased the maximum number of routes from 401 to 501, and you can purchase additional capacity using pax points to 601.
Update - March 29, 2010.
The developers of Airline Manager have changed some of the pricing for the aircraft. The spreadsheet can be modified. Just enter the new figures and the ROI figures will get calculated for you.
Airline Manager Facebook Aircraft ROI Strategy
When you first start the game you will get a Boeing 737-800. Sell this immediately. You need to start generating a good cash flow.
In the spreadsheet I have highlighted the aircraft which deliver high returns on investment. For this the best aircraft is the Dassault Mercure which will pay back your investment within 15 hours of operations.
Use the money generated by the sale of the 737-800 and buy multiple Mercures. The only drawback of this strategy is the short 1,700km range of the Mercure. To earn money quickly, you will need to play the game frequently, may be every 2 hours or so. Who said gamers need sleep?
As you progress in the game, you can induct the British Aerospace BAC-111-500 which has higher range (translate in to longer breaks between playing the game), and the McDonnell Douglas MD-81.
Once you reach about 100 Mercures, I recommend moving up to the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10. It will give you a 250 passenger capacity and a range of 6,436km. Once you reach 200 aircraft, I recommend you start withdrawing the Mercures from your fleet and adding more DC-10-10's. The longer range of the DC-10-10's will allow you a 6 hour break from the game.
The IL-86 for short range (3,800km) high passenger count (350 pax) and IL-96-400 for medium range (10,000km) high passenger count (436 pax) can also be considered for select routes.
AM places an inordinate premium for high passenger capacity airplanes. It is better to put two aircraft on a route rather than one big passenger plane.
Since you are limited to 401 routes (an extension to 451 routes can be purchased) the end goal is to end up with a long distance fleet of 401 Airbus A380s. You can buy and sell a Boeing 747 and a Concorde for the achievement badges once you reach the top.
In AM, the revenue calculation is simple. Gross income is $0.5 per passenger per km. i.e. the number of passengers x the route distance. From this subtract airport taxes which are 15.99% up to a maximum of $200,000. As you go up in the game and start inducting Boeing 787-8 (range 15,200km, 250 pax) and Airbus A380 (range 20,000km, 644pax) the tax element cap will add to your profit.
Unlike the real world, the cost of fuel is actually very low in the overall scheme of things. In the spreadsheet you can change the numbers and do your own "what-if" analysis.
The cost of fuel varies on days of the week, and at times of the day. The lowest price of fuel is $400 per 1,000 pounds. At present the lowest priced day is Monday and the best time to purchase is right after 01:00GMT till about 04:00GMT. The developers of AM have recently tweaked the schedule and previously Thursdays were also a low cost day for fuel. Now it appears to have shifted to Wednesday and occasionally Fridays.
It is good to slowly start developing a reserve of fuel worth 4~5 days of consumption. At present I am at about 200 million pounds of consumption per day. So I typically stock up about 800~950 million pounds of fuel. The maximum you can store is 999,999,999 pounds.
Simple rule -- always advertise, and always select billboards. With no advertising you will loose about 15%~20% of passengers. On a 250 seat DC-10-10 it translates to a loss of $75,000 per 6 hour flight.
Advertising costs vary from $5,000 per day to $40,000 per day, so you can see, that even on the most expensive day, your passenger losses far outstrip your advertising expenses.
The lowest priced day for advertising is Mondays and Thursdays, so I recommend taking a 3 day package on Mondays and a 4 day package on Thursdays.
Use the Profile button on the main overview page to select your hub city. Apart from getting an achievement, your hub will automatically show as the originating city.
Finding good routes
AM does not require connections for your flights; i.e. you can have a flight between any two cities. (Remember I told you to leave common airline wisdom at the front door of the game).
Use the "find route" on the flights tab to obtain a demand profile across the world. Click on the Demand column heading for a reverse sorting. Use high demand cities in your planning, but do keep in mind, other players are doing the same.
This website is great for finding routes. Just appreciate the fact that it is a labour of love and has no connection with the developers of AM (just like this guide). Drop him a note of thanks for his effort.
This has a very minor impact on your reputation and I recommend it purely as an option if you have the money. You do not loose by not catering, and as you go forward the income relevance drops even further. I transport some 150,000 passengers every day and have a daily cash flow of $500 million. Earning about $500,000 on catering does not hold much charm.
As you operate flights you will have incidents. I recommend opening a 2nd tab and performing repairs reasonably quickly, otherwise your reputation will suffer.
As your planes reach 400 flying hours, you will require them to undergo a C-Check. C-Checks can get expensive (up to $2 million) and will take your aircraft out of commission for anywhere from 6 to 16 hours depending on the aircraft. However, by this time you should be up to 401 routes and this will become just another chore in the game.
Do not miss your C-Checks. You can have a crash and nothing will impact your reputation and airline more.
Every once in a day or more frequently, visit the staff tab. Every so often the staff will move from "happy" to "talking" to "unhappy". Do not let the staff stay "unhappy" you will have a strike, and your reputation will start suffering. I normally let the staff be "talking" for a few hours and then give them a raise.
Airline Value and Pax Points
The best way to increase airline value and earn pax points is to add aircraft to your fleet. Unless absolutely necessary do not spend your pax points.
The Airbus A318 Elite is available for 3,000 Pax Points. Not worth it in my humble opinion.
I hope you find this guide useful and helpful, it is by no way full and complete. I request you to please add your own pearls of wisdom. If you find it helpful, feel free to drop in a thank you comment. If you find anything wrong, please feel free to add a correction via a comment.
Enjoy the game.