CHALLENGE: Take a Chinese airline to a new level of growth by influencing stakeholders and building brand awareness.


  • Enhancing Corporate Reputation
  • Building Brand Awareness
  • Influencing Stakeholders

Since its launch in 1993, Hainan Airlines has logged more than 360 million hours of safe flight time over two decades. It has grown from a small local carrier to an international airline with 500 routes serving 90 destinations in 90 cities across Asia, Europe, North America and Africa.

Despite its outstanding record, expanding routes and strong domestic reputation, Hainan Airlines is relatively unknown globally.

A higher profile for the airline would help to promote growth in its prime target markets, and influence stakeholders in its on-going campaign to develop new routes. Crucially, Hainan Airlines also needed to encourage trial among FITs (Frequent International Travellers) in new destinations.

The airline knew that a global media partner could help it win higher recognition for its brand and achievements, and position it among premium global carriers.

How we did it

Hainan Airlines wanted to highlight two major milestones. Firstly, the carrier had achieved a prized SKYTRAX five-star rating, placing it on par with the world’s most premium airlines. It was also celebrating its twentieth anniversary.

Instead of launching a simple ad campaign burst with minimum longevity, the airline worked closely with The Economist Group to convey a deeper story that would attract the interest of key influencers.

The objective was to portray Hainan Airlines as an industry leader, and position it a major player in the historical context of the global airline industry and the economic rise of China.

The campaign centred on Flying High: The evolution of China’s economy and commercial flying, 1993 to 2013. Featuring original content and insights, this lavishly produced 36-page book, was published, promoted and distributed by the airline, in partnership with The Economist Group.

Achieving key objectives

Building awareness of brand’s global leadership – The campaign caught and held the attention of readers of The Economist, typically senior influencers who travel frequently and support free trade. This readership engages eagerly with well-written, well-presented business stories.

Reaching US-based frequent travellers – Hainan Airlines identified The Economist Group as the most effective media partner to reach valuable elite customers in the US and other target markets. The campaign reached people able to influence less-frequent travellers.

Leveraging campaign assets for long term value – Flying High: The evolution of China’s economy and commercial flying, 1993 to 2013 continues to be distributed among government officials, industry analysts and potential partners in the airline industry. The book places Hainan Airlines firmly in the spotlight and builds credibility for its achievements without appearing boastful.


The book was launched at a high-profile event and won the airline respect from the many key influencers who encountered it. The campaign was described as one of the most innovative global marketing efforts by a Chinese multinational.

The initiative earned widespread recognition for the brand’s achievements and helps position it among the world’s top airlines. Hainan Airlines continues to build stakeholder influence, and has won new direct routes to Boston, Seattle, Bali and Singapore.