Tag Archives: Cunard

White Star Wanted More Wealthy Passengers Not Third Class

Photo courtesy George Behe
Photo courtesy George Behe

Titanic was built to make money but not on the backs of immigrants as some claim. Instead they were designed to make money from wealthy passengers who would travel both ways. Second class was designed for tourists and professionals who traveled less often but wanted the comforts such a ship offered. And finally you had third class (steerage back then) who paid the smallest fare but proportionally were the largest in numbers. However despite their numbers, they were a smaller revenue generator compared to first class passengers.

Joseph Mortati in Collision Course:How Good Business Decisions Sank the Titanic and Why refutes the standard thinking by going through the concept of the new White Star ships and how they were designed to make money. Cunard, which had the faster ships of the day that broke records, sacrificed speed for comfort. The line was also subsidized by the British government to prevent it from being bought out by a foreign entity. That gave them a 2-1 advantage over White Star. They had speed and government backing. Ismay had to come up with a way to compete that would make money. Competing on speed would be difficult and expensive. They could still market to immigrants seeking to cross over to United States but they knew it was a diminishing trade over time.

Focusing on repeat travelers then became important. And not just any repeat travelers but ones who were very wealthy and willing to pay extra for comfort. They could charge higher tickets for them and provide amenities a hotel on land would provide. It was a daring and bold plan that hinged on getting the wealthy to buy tickets. It required a marketing campaign to convince them that ships like Olympic or Titanic were the ships to be on and be seen on. What Mortati found was that Olympic compared to Lusitania would make 40% more per round trip because of those higher ticket prices. And while immigrants still comprised 50% of passengers aboard, revenue from them was 20%. Which means 80% came from first and second class passengers and mostly from first class.

Now that debunks the myth. Had Olympic, Titanic, or Brittanic been built to make lots of money from immigrants, the proportions would have been very different. Instead you would have third class being the significant revenue generator and first and second class bringing around 20% combined of the total revenue.

Mortati, Joseph Collision Course – How Good Business Decisions Sank the Titanic and Why (2013, Amazon Kindle Edition)

Noted Naval Architect Sir William White On Titanic

Sir William White (2 February 1845 – 27 February 1913) is a name unknown to many Sir William Henry Whiteunless you are a maritime historian or a naval architect.  During his time as chief constructor of the Royal Navy, he oversaw the construction of numerous battleships, cruisers, and unarmored warships. He retired in 1902 after suffering a nervous breakdown in 1901 due to a mishap involving the royal yacht Victoria and Albert. He went to work for Cunard as a consulting architect for RMS Mauretania. He also became president of  Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and Institution of Marine Engineers. From 1909-1910 he was council chairman for the Royal Society of Arts, and was governor of Imperial College until his death in 1913.

His contribution to Titanic came during the American inquiry. He penned a long letter to The Times about how the media had sensationalized the story resulting in premature opinions as to what happened. While the lifeboat issue was certainly important, naval engineers had to come up ways to keep the ship from sinking when they collide with icebergs. Merely slowing down would not be enough (and passengers might not like moving slowly across the ocean).

White argued for improving the water-tight subdivision of ships. The Titanic used transverse compartments that ran the width of ship which did not work. He proposed future designs add longitudinal compartments that ran from bow to stern.

Many ships were retrofitted after Titanic’s sinking, like having their double bottoms extended up the sides to the waterline giving them double hulls (this was done on Olympic). Other ships altered the height of the bulkheads to make them fully watertight.

1. May 1912: The Titanic Inquiry(15 May 2013, The Engineer)

2. William Henry White (Wikipedia)

3. Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Engineering Heritage biography on William Henry White

4. An Expert On Titanic Wreck:Sir William White’s Deductions From Result of American Enquiry, Montreal Gazette, 31 May 1912 (available through Google).

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