Maybe Qantas did not read about the Natural Environment Research Council’s “Boaty McBoatface” farce. How else could the airline have arrived at the decision to ask to the internet to name its new jets?
In a marketing ploy to raise awareness for its new 787-9 Dreamliner planes, Qantas has asked web users to come up with eight names that reflect “the true Spirit of Australia”.
Just a week after CEO Alan Joyce copped a pie in the face over the airline’s stance on gay marriage, could the business cop a virtual pie in the face for its new passenger jets?
While it might be a clever way of informing passengers that you have some new airliners on the tarmac, it also comes with dangers. Just ask the National Environment Research Council (NERC) in the UK.
In October 2016, NERC’s #NameOurShip campaign offered people the opportunity to brand its latest polar research vessel in an online poll, calling for a “catchy” alias.
It came down to four finalists: RRS Henry Worsley, RRS David Attenborough, RRS Pillar of Autumn and RRS Boaty McBoatface, with the latter receiving a resounding 124,109 votes.
The hilarious name became worldwide news, before the company made the embarrassing call to go back on its word and select RRS David Attenborough as the eventual winner. But not before the internet howled with laughter at the fiasco.
The good sports at NERC later announced that the Boaty McBoatface tag would be used for the submersibles aboard Sir David Attenborough instead.
Now, Qantas has asked for the public’s help in naming its new fleet, with names that would “reflect the importance of the Dreamliner to the national carrier”, Mr Joyce said on Sunday.
“They can be people, places or things, so long as they reflect the true Spirit of Australia,” he said.
“Whether it’s a notable person, a group-breaking invention, a saying or a landmark, we want eight icons that together, reflect the depth and breadth of this place we all call home.”
The Qantas staff offered suggestions including Hills hoist, Uluru, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Kakadu, Great Barrier Reef, lamington, and Vegemite.
However, the favourite names floating on social media weren’t all specific to Qantas’ guidelines, with different variations of ‘Planey McPlaneface’ dominating its Facebook post – as well as a colloquial Bunnings reference.
Meanwhile, others provided much more constructive responses with Aboriginal icons, forgotten heroes and important landmarks.
Steve Irwin, Cathy Freeman, the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru Dreaming were also suggested.
Other aircraft types have been subject to similar naming conventions, with Qantas A380s named after Australian aviation pioneers; 737-800s after Australian towns; and 737-400s after native birds.
Qantas did not respond to The New Daily’s call to outline the steps it has taken – or not – to prevent a Boaty McBoatface incident.
Entries will close on Friday May 26, after which a shortlist of 24 will be released for public voting, before the final eight are revealed in June.