diamond geezer

 Monday, June 27, 2022

Today sees your very last chance to ride the Emirates Air Line, London's unique cable car experience. To be one of the very last people aboard, get yourself down to one of the terminals by ten o'clock this evening and enjoy your specially slowed-down night flight. I expect there'll be queues.

It's not closing altogether, that would be ridiculous. As London's only cable car it's become a firm tourist favourite, providing the only way to glide high above City Hall and the Silvertown Tunnel construction site. But never again will it fly under the Emirates name because the marketing money's run out, and as yet nobody's stepped in with a better offer.

We've known this day was coming since October 2011.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today announced that global airline Emirates will sponsor London's exciting new cable car river crossing, to be known as the Emirates Air Line, in a ten-year deal worth £36m. The Emirates Air Line will connect north and south London, travelling between two new stations set to be named Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docks.
The cablecar finally opened on 28th June 2012, indeed I was one of many who rushed down for an initial dangle. That makes tomorrow the cablecar's 10th birthday, which is plainly an achievement well worth celebrating. But it also means the ten-year deal expires tomorrow and all the Emirates brand collateral is going to have to come down. There is a heck of a lot of it.

The terminals are smothered. There's a big red Emirates sign on top, another underneath and the welcoming sight of a wallful of Emirates air hostesses as you approach the ticket barrier. Also the terminals are called Emirates North Greenwich and Emirates Royal Docks because this was one of the perks when Emirates stumped up their £36m, but after today will have to be known as North Greenwich and Royal Docks respectively. They've already switched names on the tube map and I expect they'll send staff with ladders round overnight to remove the surplus letters above the ticket window.

The roundel out front will need to change because this will no longer be an 'Air Line'. Then there are numerous signs on lampposts, signs on platforms, signs in bus stations and those free-standing signs designed to nudge aimless tourists cablecarward. Royal Victoria DLR station is liberally plastered with adverts for Emirates so those are all going to have to go, as is the branding at the abandoned information desk at the top of the North Greenwich escalator.

Not to mention the adverts at umpteen stations elsewhere across the network, notably Tower Gateway DLR where everything from the escalators to the platforms is smothered with all things Emirates. And don't forget the cabins themselves which all have vinyl wraps promoting different Emirates destinations plus the name of the airline in enormous letters on the underside. All this is going to have be removed now the money's run out because it would set a ghastly precedent if Emirates gained a smidgeon of additional publicity beyond their allocated ten-year span. I expect staff are going to be incredibly busy tonight removing and replacing the lot.

From tomorrow the Emirates Air Line will have a new name which is the London Cable Car.

It's a remarkably dull name but that's fine, it's perfectly descriptive of what this river crossing actually is. The problem with the original name is that it was far too easily confused with the name of the airline itself which caused all sorts of social media issues and leveraged virtually no brand recognition whatsoever. It's why my alternative 'Dangleway' name so readily took off, because the proper title of Emirates Air Line was ill-advisedly non-specific and eminently forgettable.

Expect a press release from TfL tomorrow excitedly announcing the name change. It'll no doubt focus on the cablecar's 10th birthday rather than what's technically an unbranding exercise, indeed I expect it'll include excitable promotional guff like this.
Josh Crompton, TfL's Head of the Cable Car, said: "The London Cable Car is unique to London and provides spectacular views for those wanting to cross the Thames to get to the Royal Docks or Greenwich Peninsula. Since opening ten years ago the fully accessible, unique experience has established itself as one of London's favourite spectacular leisure attractions. By providing a new and spectacular way to cross the river, it has helped encourage new shops, experiences and homes to be built on either side of the Thames. Journeys start from just £5 for adults making it one of London's best value experiences for a unique and spectacular day out."
Also expect your preferred London media portal to cut and paste these words to create an uncritical news story because repurposing press releases is easier than thinking for yourself, and that's very much how TfL's press office likes it.

One casualty of the big changeover has been the demise of the Emirates Aviation Experience, the so-called museum alongside the southern terminal which was essentially a walk-through advert they hoped you'd pay extra for. This closed to the public three weeks ago and has since been boarded up, while the cafe nextdoor sits empty with all the chairs and tables stacked to one side and a trolleyful of cleaning products just inside the door.

Also spare a thought for the Emirates Air Line's collection of branded merchandise which becomes instantly obsolete at midnight. Those £8 Glitter Frames, £5 key rings and £5 fridge magnets aren't going to be much use in an unbranded future. But don't worry, management have come up with the cunning wheeze of a special anniversary offer over three midsummer weekends - they're giving away the memorabilia if you pay extra.
London Cable Car’s 10th anniversary (£25 per adult)
✓ Fast track entry into your own private 360 cabin.
✓ One glass of champagne or orange juice per ticket
✓ One item of limited edition Emirates Air Line memorabilia per ticket
✓ Special photo opportunities
A normal round trip costs £10 so for an extra £15 you're getting a glass of bubbly and what's essentially a lucky dip into the merchandising brantub. If you're really lucky you might walk away with an Emirates Air Line snow globe to treasure. And if you think that's poor value, don't come in two weeks time because that's 'Wimbledon Weekend' when the champagne is swapped for Pimms and lemonade, it still costs £25 and the memorabilia option is withdrawn. It won't surprise you to hear that these overpriced celebration experiences get pride of place in the updated signage at each terminal, and the fact you can swipe through the barrier with Pay As You Go for £5 is relegated to the smallprint at the bottom.

I know I rarely have a good word to say about the cablecar but it really has become a greedy upselling exercise focused on squeezing every last penny out of the friends and families who come to make a day of it. As the Emirates Air Line morphs into the London Cable Car one thing sadly hasn't changed, it still isn't a useful integrated part of London's transport network, it's just a dangleway to nowhere.

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