Airline Manager 4 or AM4 is rather a simple managerial simulation game and yet it is addictive in a strange way. Simulation games that require planning, strategic moves and an eye on income and expenses had always synced with my interest in project management. Image source: AM4 Game Site
One of them is Sim City which puts the player in the seat of the mayor of a major city and another is FA Club Manager which puts the player in the seat of an English League football manager.
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The “4” in the game’s name indicates that this is the 4th version of the airline management game. The best part of the game is that it is a free game for the very basic play game. A short description of the game from the website shows the overall game features:-
Free airline management game.
Airline Manager 4 offers many new and exciting features, such as live flight tracking and much much more.
– Purchase aircraft from the market with a selection of more than 350 different aircraft.
– Create routes from more than 4,000 real-life airports.
– Track your flights live on the map
– Purchase hubs all over the world
– Keep your fleet maintained
– Handle your staff
The game provides 2 different options for a new player – Easy and Realism.
In AM4 you can choose either “Easy” or “Realism” wherein in Easy mode, the aircraft will operate at 4x speed and in Realism would be on actual speed and time. In Realism, the players also need to take into consideration of even runway length.
When signing up for the game, you will start off with choosing between these 2 starter aircraft – the trusted and famous Boeing 737-800 which has a range of 7,000 km but slower at 780 km/h and Airbus A320-200 which has a shorter range of 5,700 km but faster at 823 km/h. The range and speed make a lot of differences when it comes to flight turnaround time. Image source: AM4 Facebook
Main Expenses To Cover
Just like a real airline, there is income and expenses to manage with income primarily coming from the sale of tickets which varies from types of seats sold, destination and if there are marketing campaigns to boost airline reputation. and if you have issued an IPO, from buying and selling other airline stocks.
Not all fuel is the same and we often see this for automobile fuel. It is the same thing for aviation fuel and this is due to the types of engine that the plane has – either the older reciprocating-engine used for small planes & propeller-driven planes or turbine-engine which powers most modern jet planes. Image and information source: Aeronautics Guide
Aviation Fuel Price
It is reported that Boeing 737-800 burns 3,200 litres of jet fuel every one hour which translates to 780 kilometres. So assuming it is flying to its maximum range of 7,000 kilometres, the plane will burn almost 30,000 litres of jet fuel costing the airline anywhere between $170,000 to $25,000 and this is for only 1 plane. Imagine if you have 40 planes in the air and the cost of fuel may make or break your newly formed airline.
This is why aviation fuel is the primary expense in this game and the cost changes every 30 minutes with fuel price shooting up as high as $2,500 for every 1,000 lbs (pound) / 450 litres and as low as $360 for every 1,000 lbs (pound) / 450 litres. It depends on the timing as the prices changes at random. One saves a huge amount if you can lock aviation fuel at the lowest price.
CO2 calculation is complex but for this game, it is automatically computed and lack of CO2 quota will not stop you from getting your planes up in the air unlike lack of aviation fuel. However, your reputation takes a beating and this will reflect in the occupancy rate. Image source: IATA
CO2 Quota Price
The other primary expense is CO2 which also changes price at every 30 minutes with CO2 quota price shooting up as high as $200 for every 1,000 lbs (pound) and as low as $100 for every 1,000 lbs (pound). A low CO2 quota does not stop your planes from flying but it does beat up the reputation.
By the way, this is why airlines worry about CO2 quota:-
Policy actions and the efforts of the industry have led to improvements in fuel efficiency over recent years. For instance, the amount of fuel burned per passenger dropped by 24% between 2005 and 2017.
However, these environmental benefits have been outpaced by sustained growth in air traffic, with passengers in 2017 flying on average 60% further than in 2005.
In the EU in 2017, direct emissions from aviation accounted for 3.8% of total CO2 emissions. The aviation sector creates 13.9% of the emissions from transport, making it the second-biggest source of transport GHG emissions after road transport.
If global aviation were a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters. Someone flying from Lisbon to New York and back generates roughly the same level of emissions as the average person in the EU does by heating their home for a whole year.
You need to always keep an eye on the aviation fuel and CO2 market as it changes every 30 minutes and if you are lucky, you may hit the jackpot of buying it at the cheapest rate. sometimes you have no choice to buy it expensive as you need to get your planes airborne. So it is prudent to keep enough cash to buy expensive and then make the loss up from the ticket sales. Image source: AM4 Game Site
Then there are other expenses that need to be taken care which includes:-
There are 2 types of planes that one can play with – those carrying passengers and those carrying cargoes. Unlike passenger planes, the option for cargo planes is limited with only 19 planes dedicated to cargoes and this includes the powerful A400M and Antonov 225 selling at the highest $659,923,421.
However you will start off with a passenger plane and the first plane is provided free of charge but then again, without fleet expansion, there is no expansion of income. There are several considerations before deciding on the next plane to purchase – the cost of the plane, the number of seats that can be customised for different classes, the range of the plane and fuel consumption.
The ideal plane is the one that has long-range, flies fast, has a high number of seats and uses low fuel consumption per kilometre.
This runs on a daily basis even though you don’t fly any planes and although the amount is small, over time, the expenses can be substantial. Salary indirectly impacts staff morale which in return impacts the reputation of the airline and impacts the sale of tickets. Training will help to reduce the cost of running the airline as the decline of staff morale will be reduced.
This is considered as paying good money to get more money. Paying for marketing campaigns increases the airline’s reputation which in turn relates to the higher sales of tickets.
There are 2 ways to improve the reputation – one is by doing airline or cargo campaigns which are spread over 4 campaigns each with different cost and efficiency raise to reputation. For example, $990,000 spent on Campaign 1 for 4 hours will increase reputation from say 47% to 57% whilst $2,277,000 spent on Campaign 4 for 4 hours will increase reputation from say 47% to 82%. And you can also set the duration of the campaign from 4 hours to 24 hours.
The other way is to do an Eco campaign which allows you to gain another 10% in reputation if you are an eco-friendly airline.
For every new route for the airline to fly the planes, it will cost money to the airline and thankfully it is a one-time payment. Of course, every time route is changed, there is an additional payment that can go as high as $300,000.
However, you can hit a jackpot route if you do your homework using the “Research” option under the Fleet button which allows you to check market percentage based on your plane’s maximum range. The higher market route also allows you to sell the older planes at a higher price compared to the ones running on low market routes.
Of course, the types of planes that you arrange on these routes also makes a big difference. You want to have smaller, fast planes with low fuel consumption that handles the shorter regional routes and the bigger planes taking up the international routes. The cost of route and fuel can be offset by higher sales of the seats and the airline still makes a huge profit.
Just like a car, planes are subject to wear and tear and requires periodic maintenance and also after certain hours of flight. A Boeing 737-800 requires audit maintenance after 470 hours of flight meanwhile an Airbus A220-100 requires audit maintenance after 400 hours of flight. A failure to do audit maintenance will cause the airline millions in fines and grounds all your planes.
One of the twists of the game requires you to think outside the box with indirect clues which need you to plan the correct departure and arrival destinations. Some require you to pinpoint the location with your finger or mouse. Image source: AM4 Game Site
In addition to cash for expenses, players also need to have points which are gained by performing some tasks called “Achievements”. The points then can be used to enable more features in the game namely to enable cargo operations and to issue IPO for the airline.
And the best part of this is that these achievements are that it is presented in a cryptic clue such as:-
- Across the States which requires a flight from Los Angeles to New York JFK
- California Tour which requires a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco
- Charles Lindbergh which requires a flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to New York JFK
- Crossing France which requires a flight from Berlin Tegel to Madrid Adolfo Suarez
- Big 1-2-3 which requires a flight from Algeria with a stopover at Congo Kinshasa and then to Sudan
- Trump Biden which requires a flight from New York JFK to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, USA
- Arnold Stallone which requires a flight from Graz, Austria to New York JFK
You can check this very informative Youtube channel and Reddit link for an explanation of the clues and how you can achieve them. Of course, you need to try to decipher the clues on your own first and keep trying if the planned route is the wrong answer.
Overall there are about
81 85 achievements to unlock with comes with points varying from 5 to 15 points.
The built-in board page is simply excellent and covers a range of questions and clarifications without the need to exit the game. Image source: AM4 Game Site
The game has a built-in forum option in case you need any help or have any doubts to clarify without the need to exit the gameplay. The board also includes updates from the AM4 developers who entertain gamers’ wish lists and new changes to the game. You vote up or down the other gamer’s answers or clarifications so you can bring up the ones that truly help.
This section also has a good FAQ that covers all aspects of the game from fleet limits, how to earn money, how to increase reputation, how to sell a hub, how to compute airline shares and many more.
One great to make money for your airline is to buy other airlines stock but it takes a gamble to know which stock to buy and the patience to hold on to the stock until it is enough to sell. Image source: AM4 Game Site
Other Minor Functions
The Airline Manager 4 have more features under its gameplay which will need time to plan and execute and you can also collaborate with other players. It is not major but certainly adds to the income and clarifications in playing the game.
Tournament & Events
There is a tournament and event section but you need to procure tokens to participate in tournaments either paying one token at $500,000,000 or spending 4,000 points. At this point of gameplay, it does not worth spending for these tokens. Winners will get points and a special badge to be displayed on their profile page.
For events, you need to train up an Event Manager under training to unlock the event feature. The events are one good way to increase your occupancy rate but you need to re-route your existing planes to the route displayed on the event page. Once the event is over, usually in a couple of days, you need to re-route them again.
Once you have enough points, you can issue an IPO to have your airline listed and also buy other airlines’ stock. The share price goes up as you add more to your fleet and keep your airline profitable. Others can also buy your shares – 50,000 is the maximum shares that each airline can have and buy. You will usually start off with a value of $1 for each share and depending on the progress of your airlines, it can go as high as $10,000 per share.
It is a good way to make quick money especially for those players who are keen on increasing their airline to greater heights. It is actually a good way to make quick money after excluding the charges for the buy and sell of the shares. For instance, I bought shares amounting to $227,000 (usually targetting the new IPOs or active cheap counters) but over time, the value of the shares went up and it is now worth $12,000,000.
That’s a huge profit indeed. Of course, you may not get lucky all the time as some of the airlines goes bankrupt and your investment gets burned.
Like other games, you can join with others under an alliance and the key benefit you will get is additional occupancy via codeshare with your other alliance members. Some of the alliances require you to have IPO done and some does not require them. There is a small chat box that allows you to communicate ideas and help your alliance members.
Just like the real flight tracker like in FlightRadar24 or FlightConnections, you can also track your own planes on the map and see the present speed, altitude, number of passengers and distance from the arrival destination. Image source: AM4 Game Site
It takes a longer time to complete one game round because some of the routes take hours for the plane to depart & arrive. My longest flight with one stopover is 10 hours one way whilst the shorter ones are about 4 hours. Yes, it can be boring indeed but then again this game requires a lot of upfront planning in the same manner as all other managerial simulation games.
AM4 is actually a very promising game but it does need some improvement in terms of making the gameplay to be a bit more interesting. They already have a stock exchange that can make a profit or loss for the player.
Apparently, they have catering and banking in the game but the general comment in the forum states that it is a waste of time. Perhaps they can introduce some crisis management that may add the bite into the running of the airline.