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Strategy guide for Airline Manager on Facebook

February 9, 2015. An update to this guide is appended at the end of this guide

Original article July 10, 2010

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.

Planes
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. The developers now allow 600 routes and you can purchase an additional 100 routes with pax points.

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 401 600 routes (an extension to 700 routes can be purchased) the end goal is to end up with a long distance fleet of 701 Airbus A380-900s. You can buy and sell a Boeing 747 and a Concorde for the achievement badges once you reach the top.

Income
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. Note: There may be some changes in the calculation recently.

Fuel
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 1,000,000,000 pounds but you can buy 1,000,000 pound increments with pax points. Not needed till late in the game. You have better uses for your pax points as detailed in the latest update below.

Advertising
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. Keep a lookout for low priced advertising (max $9,000) and then purchase for all your routes and for seven days.

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.

Base Hub
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. You can search by country or by city or a partial name too.

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.

Catering
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.

Maintenance
As you operate flights you will have incidents. Soon after launching all your flights, go to the maintenance tab and perform 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 400 routes and this will become just another chore in the game.

Do not miss your C-Checks. If you have a crash, your airline will be set back to zero.

Staff
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”. Essentially from green to orange to red. Do not let the staff stay “unhappy” you will have a strike, and your reputation will start suffering. You can increase by adding staff (+3% each step) or increasing salary (+6%). Use the add staff option. Do not use the salary increase option till you are at a full fleet. Let the levels fall to around 74% and then increase it to around 86%.

Airline Value and Pax Points
The best way to increase airline value and earn pax points is to add aircraft to your fleet. You can increase your chances of getting pax points by adding Wi-Fi to your aircraft. (Read the new update at the end for revised strategy). Unless absolutely necessary do not spend your pax points.

Business Jet
There are many business jets available for purchase via pax points. Not worth it in my humble opinion, till you complete all the other achievements.

Conclusion
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.

Update February 9, 2015

After taking a hiatus from the game for over four years, I went back to playing Airline Manager on October 24, 2014. After re-setting my airline, now called BangAv Air. I began from scratch. Within three months my stock value crossed $1,000 and my fleet is already at 600.

I did spend $20 as my contribution to support the game developers, which also gave me 2,000 passenger points and $50,000,000. I urge readers to contribute this amount to the game developers as a way of saying our thanks to them. It is what we spend on coffee in a week or two.

Airbus A350-900 and Sukhoi KR860

In the interim two passenger aircraft of substance have been added to the game. The Airbus A380-900 and the Sukhoi KR860. I have updated the spreadsheet and worked out the new payback factors. There are some increase in procurement costs, so if you want the payback period in flying hours, please increase the final number by 1.75 times approximately. When I get some time, I will work out the accurate version. Download the new sheet in PDF format.

Revised strategy

While much of the game remains unchanged, you now have an option of a revised strategy by spending the $20. If you do not want to spend money, you can still continue on the old strategy.

Use the Wi-Fi option

Equip your DMs (Dassault Mercures) with Wi-Fi to boost pax points. Get your game going, and use your cash sparingly. Earn an additional 400 pax points. Then along with the 2,000 pax points you bought for $20, spend 2,400 points to buy the 2 x A350-900 aircraft option. Do not spend money to equip your A380-900s with Wi-Fi. Spare your cash.

An all Business class airline

Once you get going with the A350-900s, earn another 500 pax point points to purchase the seat configuration option. By this time you should have about 100~150 DMs and can move to DC-10-10s. Use the seat option to configure all your new aircraft purchases in an all business class. Business class demand remains consistently high and this should give you a good revenue continuity.

Buy your DC-10-10s equipped with both IFE and Wi-Fi. IFE will increase demand by up to five per cent and Wi-Fi will help you earn passenger points.

The Tupolev, Boeing and Airbus achievements

For obtaining the Tupolev achievement, you can proceed with two options. At 400 aircraft buy 200 of the cheapest Tupolev, the Tu-104, which costs $447,378. For this you will need about $90 million. Wait for a good time to resell (see the aircraft sale value percentage on the overview tab). Look for 82% to 88% and dispose all 200 aircraft. Alternately before moving to DC-10s, you can consider using the Tu-154M which has a payback factor of 68, but this is a more expensive route overall, as you will have to cancel the routes and sell the aircraft in a phased manner once you obtain the achievement.

Similarly for the Boeing achievement you can buy and sell the cheapest Boeing, the 737-100 at $2,440,902. For this you will need about $500 million and if you get 85% re-sale value you lose about $75 million. Another alternate is at 400 planes fleet when you are full with IL96-400, buying 200 Boeing 787-8 and then as you build cash, swapping the planes that come up for C checks with Sukhoi KR860s, a natural progression since the two aircraft have similar range capabilities.

The Airbus achievement can be obtained by introducing A380-800s as you phase out the IL96-400s. Remember the A380-800 has a payback of 750 compared to the 1,007 of the A350-900.

Once again, I trust you find this guide useful and thanks for your support. Do support us by sharing this article on Facebook with your friends, and by clicking the “Like” button below.

As usual comments are always welcome, though I do request you please read the guide fully, before asking questions.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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