The AirlinePros International Assembly in Dubai saw the coming together of a distinguished panel of speakers from aviation and travel industries whose collective experience and knowledge illumined AirlinePros team from all over the world with innovation and insight, gleanings into the future of the industry, and of course the specifics as well as nuances of their respective domains. Bringing a wealth of experience and richly contributing to AirlinePros resource development initiatives, these trailblazers and thought leaders, pushed boundaries, fostered collaboration, and promoted positive change as well as intellectual exploration of the road, or, the flight path, ahead.
Virtual interlining is the future – Is MITA en route to obscurity?
Chief Executive Officer, DOHOP
The presentation by David Gunnarsson was about how virtual interlining is the future and whether Multilateral Interline Traffic Agreements or MITA would continue to be relevant. Citing an example of how it would be difficult for two full-service airlines within the same alliance to have an interline agreement owing to them having two different sets of service standards, David highlighted the importance of virtual interlining, which allows passengers to book flights with different carriers as part of a single itinerary. This has helped airlines generate an estimated $120 million in incremental revenue every year.
Civil aviation, airports and airlines are a means to tourism growth and economic development
An accomplished pilot and among the longest serving CEOs in the industry, Captain David Savy’s presentation hinged around the importance of a happy customer. “I am a very customer-centric person,” as he said. “Because it is the customer who makes business sense. Whatever you do in life, if the customer is happy, your work will be successful.” All of the key players in the trade cycle, namely, destinations, airports, civil aviation, and airlines, must work in tandem to make sure the customer is happy. Through repeated emphases on customer satisfaction, David drove home the fact that there was no need to reinvent the wheel but in effective implementation of systems already in place.
Does tourism growth have a conflict of interest with sustainable environmental goals?
Director, UNWTO, Africa
Tourism is a major economy driver, a job creator, creating one in 10 jobs, and therefore the need for tourism to be sustainable is without question. Elcia Grandcourt, ‘the World Tourism Organization face in Africa’, as Thomas Windmuller introduced, delved into the mandates of the UNWTO being a specialized agency entrusted with the promotion of sustainable, responsible, and universally acceptable tourism. Working closely with travel and tourism boards, and other agencies, the agency creates much-needed opportunities, small businesses, especially for women. Providing guidance on measuring sustainability, promoting strategic collaboration with stakeholders are some of the ways the UNWTO will be acting as a catalyst for global environmental conservation.
AirlinePros product diversification a must – Unlocking airline service’s success
A thought-provoking session started on a strong statement: ‘airports and governments think connectivity will come on their own.’ The introduction to airport services – one of the new offerings by AirlinePros International – covered key areas on bridging the gap between the aspirations of the destinations with its airports with the hesitancy of the airlines. While working with airports and key destination authorities, Gavin expanded on the key areas consisting of negotiating and securing new routes, developing connectivity, introducing incentives and a vision to stakeholders to get into new markets. The new vertical from AirlinePros will consist of advisory services working closely with airports to determine markets; masterclasses on providing strong business cases; and workshops on building tourism flows.
Innovation Drives the Biggest BSP Equivalent in the World
Chief Executive Officer, Airlines Reporting Corporation
Lauri Reishus mentioned how AirlinePros has a number of ARC clients. Providing financial settlement services between airlines and travel agencies, Lauri pointed out how airlines can now set commission percentages to the hundredth decimal, such as 2.45%, whereas they could do so only to the tenth decimal, such as 2.4%, earlier. Zero value transactions can also be settled with credit cards now, as opposed to cash and checks; thereby eliminating the need for manual corrections by agents and improving data integrity overall for airlines. As of October 2023, a NDC [New Distribution Capability] Verification Database also helps airlines and travel agencies implement NDC processing with ARC faster and better.
USA market dynamics post-pandemic
Aviation Consultant, Business Travel Hall of Fame
Mike Premo outlined post-pandemic trends in the US aviation market, including how leisure travel has increased 20% since 2019, while corporate travel has plummeted by a similar percentage. Mike touched upon challenges facing the industry, such as how airlines are currently grappling with an acute shortage of pilots; and how the closure of Russian airspace in retaliation to other countries placing sanctions upon Russia in the aftermath of the ongoing Ukraine war has affected aviation routes in North Asia. The Low-Cost Carrier model faces market saturation, worsened by delays in aircraft delivery due to the existing backlog at Airbus and Boeing.
Driving direct web sales for airlines – A dream come true!
Customer Success Manager, EveryMundo
Newton Muriithi talked about how Online Travel Agencies or OTAs wield undue influence over the travel industry today. By providing the right kind of content to customers and leveraging digital marketing as well as social media to their advantage, airlines can increase their direct web sales and load factors, resulting in not only increased profitability, but also an enhanced level of customer experience. The same technology can also be used by hospitality chains, transportation service providers such as railway networks and bus operators, as well as event organizers; which would indirectly help airlines sell more seats when offered together on a single platform.
Future-proofing airlines – Leading aviation trends and powering innovation
Head, Digital Transformation, IATA
Stephan Copart delivered an overview of the entire aviation industry, detailing how innovation could be introduced into every step of the process. For example, a biometrics-enabled passenger ID, which was first introduced to the world at the IATA World Passenger Symposium held in October 2023, makes it possible for passengers to fly without a passport or boarding pass. A recent passenger survey conducted by IATA only points to an increased appetite for such a digital form of identification; and to make such changes happen, airlines need to work in close collaboration with Governments and technology solutions providers, making sure that all of them are on the same page.
What constitutes an effective GSA – An airline’s perspective on cost versus quality
The venerated airline professional, Willy Boulter, spoke at length from the other side of the fence – the attributes that made a good GSA, drawing from his decades in the airline business. The presentation, one of the highlights of the day itself, on how to be a better GSA, was marked with gems like ‘even if the airline forgets it, the GSA represents their brand in the territory and should act as the airline itself would.’ In the highly educational and informative session, Willy also deep dived on the importance of pricing accuracy, credit control and remittances, ensuring resilience in the team, and the absolute importance of developing a second line within the organization.