Time to innovate!

Addressing the unprecedented changes in the airline industry

The airline industry has been hit hard by the current situation with large numbers of people laid off, either temporarily or permanently. The IT departments are not immune and there have been well publicised reports of IT budgets being frozen, projects getting shelved and teams being reduced in size. This is despite the fact that quite often it’s the flexibility that’s been built into organisations by the use of IT systems and forward thinking IT teams that has allowed many businesses to continue to work in a remote and sometimes chaotic set of circumstances.

Here in the cargo airline world we’ve been less impacted than the passenger focused airlines around the Globe, but we’ve certainly not been immune. Whilst the headlines are proclaiming the delivery of PPE equipment via cargo (and passenger) aircraft and the fact that on-line shopping has boomed (which it has), B2B traffic has dwindled and overall the forwarding industry is in a state of flux. It’s not clear if the on-line shopping boom will continue, when B2B will return and a host of other factors

Now is the time to act

Some of my peers at operators around Europe have said how they are really worried about the future and wondering if this is the time to step away from the ‘glamourous’ world of aviation. I see this completely differently though; This is actually the time to do the opposite, to embrace this downtime, get long over-due projects out of the way and sit back and think about what can be done differently to take advantage of the World that is rapidly re-shaping itself around us.

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A lack of customers and throughout can actually be a godsend for those operations. Testing can be done with far less disruption and people can dedicate more time to getting projects over the line.

Focus on your customers

For my colleague, Eswee Vorster in FlySafair in South Africa, the mandated grounding of all aircraft fact was embraced as an opportunity to concentrate on strengthening the web front-end for their customers. Great efforts have been poured into improving the self-service elements of their operation; This at a time when customers were needing confidence that they could control their bookings and travelling experience.

The downtime freed up time to help him and his team to concentrate on these projects that had long been on their radar – with specific focus on embracing the digital/automated world even more than before. But he’s far more eloquent than me at describing them and I’m sure he can elaborate on those himself.

With a purely cargo operation, our customer base in Europe is quite different. It comprises of large blue-chip forwarders and e-commerce operations. They have been facing an unprecedented demand in part of their operation whilst seeing sharp downturns in others. In the midst of all this there is one thing that they are absolutely reliant on, information!

Our approach has therefore taken a different but related direction to that of FlySafair. We’ve also been concentrating on the customer, ensuring that they get all of the data that they need in the form that they need when they need it.

To this end we’ve made improvements to our in-house built mobile app. It’s even better now at providing them with notification on the status of the flights that we are operating for them. They are getting up to the minute details on the flights, the reasons behind any delays and when the aircraft is due to arrive.

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The self-service portal that they use to download stats for their back-end systems is also being changed to provide them with exactly that they need in the format what they require, reducing their own workload to let them concentrate on running their business.

We would have been making these changes at some point in the future, but we realised quickly that at a time like this we needed to adapt as fast as the market is changing around us.

It’s time to be a Chief Informer!

Getting the information out to customers, be they an internal or an individual or a multinational corporation has always been at the core of what IT systems are about for me. There is relentless talk of innovation, digital transformation and a host of other industry driven buzzwords, but ultimately it’s down to the information and making best use of it. Ensuring that it’s rapidly provided where it’s needed and in a form that is easy to digest and interact with.

This lull in the World at the moment gives us all the chance to work with our businesses to examine where we are hoping to go and how systems can be an intimate and essential part of that process. In the end we are all dealing with information but quite often we forget that information is there to inform and now is a great time to be Informers.

There is time to innovate now, so now is the time to innovate!

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