AirlinePros has been contracted by the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) for over a decade, to bring airlines into the U.S. market. AirlinePros’ award-winning efforts continue to benefit the diverse global portfolio of clientele. Just a few weeks ago, AirlinePros added its 50th airline partner – a milestone achievement, and great opportunity to sit down with Jim Foster, Chairman and Founder of AirlinePros, to reflect on the past 18 years of the company’s growth and success.
This year, AirlinePros is celebrating a ‘milestone’, with adding its 50th airline partner. What thoughts and emotions come to mind?
This has been an incredible journey, indeed. In 2006, we started out with one airline, our portfolio now includes 55* airline partners and counting. We are hoping to have 60 airlines on board by the end of 2017, marking our 18th year of existence.
*this includes both, U.S. and Canada
Let’s talk about your industry experience leading up to the start of AirlinePros. What led you to develop the company?
My career in the airline business started with Northwest Airlines, back in 1974. In 1981, I went to Hong Kong, and served as Chief Operation Officer with Dragon Air, which was later sold to Cathay Pacific. I returned to the U.S. in 1992, and became partner in a consultancy firm, working with various airlines. The AirlinePros predecessor company was born in August of 1999.
Who was your first client when you launched the company in 1999?
Our first client was Air Namibia. Both, Namibia’s flag carrier, and the beautiful country of Namibia have a lot of wonderful memories for me. Back in the days, I was engaged by a German airline client, LTU, traveling to Namibia to assist with implementing the codeshare agreement between LTU and Air Namibia. It was in Namibia, where I met Achma Asokan, Chief Financial Officer with Air Namibia at the time. Achma became my wife and business partner, and she is now the President of AirlinePros. In 2004, Achma moved to the U.S., and together we have shaped our company AirlinePros.
Was your office always in New York?
Our first office was in Miami, and in 2005, we moved our primary office to mid-town New York City, which is still our headquarters today. We have grown from a single person office in Miami (1999) to ten offices across the U.S. and Canada: NYC, Miami, Washington, DC, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, with currently 36 permanent staff members.
Would you like to share some of the highlights of the past 18 years in business?
That would be very difficult to pick, as it has been so many highlights throughout this entire time. What really fascinates me most is the international experience, working with all our clients from around the world, and getting a better understanding for different cultures. Over the past years, we have become very strong in Europe, representing French carrier XL Airways, the TUI Airline Group, with both the Belgium and Dutch division. We have been very fortunate to introduce quite a number of Chinese carriers to the North American market, and in many cases they fly to several gateways in the U.S. Like Xiamen Airlines, serving NYC, Seattle, and Los Angeles. One of our longest partnerships we have is with Hong Kong Airlines, who just launched their first non-stop flight to North America, flying to Vancouver. Later this year, in December, Los Angeles will become their first U.S. destination. It makes me proud to represent a diverse group of airlines, regional, as well as international carriers, providing advice and tools to meet the needs of the local travel community.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned along the way?
I believe that the most valuable lesson you can learn is that if it’s good for the carrier, and good for the travel agent community, it’ll be good for you. That really is our “Golden Rule” we have always made an effort to implement throughout the 18 years that we have been in business now.
What inspires you?
Being able to help people, go beyond their own countries and regional markets. AirlinePros is the largest airline representation and distribution company in the United States. We have had the wonderful fortune of introducing over 60 airlines to the ARC, and bringing them into the U.S. That has been inspiring to me, and continue to prospecting more carriers, expanding the relationship between the U.S. and foreign countries.
What would you consider the keys to the success of AirlinePros?
We have always worked on a success basis. If the airline is successful, then we are successful. As a consequence, this pushes us to be more proactive and interactive with our client base, creating additional revenue for our clients.
Thinking of the future now, what are you looking forward to the most?
Welcoming our 100th airline partner, having this conversation again, and hopefully, this will be in the near future. That would be something wonderful, we would love to achieve.