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“The word ‘survival’ seems to be ever present whenever crisis management is discussed. That is not a state to aspire to.” This quote from book author Louai Al Roumani offers astounding insights into what airlines and airports can learn from crisis management in Syria and why this is important for future strategies. Roumani directed strategy at Syria’s largest private bank, BBSF, throughout the current conflict – including IS blowing up his bank branches, frequent mortar attacks and constant kidnap threats. He knows how to think in a real crisis. As we survey the diverse reactions seen across the airline industry, perhaps we could take his advice and shift our perspective a little?
Roumani’s book on his experiences – ‘Lessons from A Warzone’ – (published 2 April, Portfolio Penguin), shares his extraordinary story and, from reading a pre-launch interview (The Times, London), I think it could help every company leader.
There are two pieces of advice he shares that really resonated for me in relation to the stunned response of the airline industry to the COVID-19 crisis:
For many airlines, Roumani’s lessons need to be learnt from the COVID-19 crisis – just as they perhaps should have been learnt from earlier crises – particularly as the fault lines in the traditional ancillary revenue model become ever-more apparent whenever new pressure is inflicted. Right now, that outdated model is parked up alongside the grounded planes – going nowhere, delivering no revenue.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Even passengers grounded and isolated can continue to provide a revenue stream. Forward-thinking airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa have adopted Omnichannel approaches that are continuing to drive ancillary revenues right now, creating revenue and maintaining the customer relationship.
Customers want an Omnichannel experience that is available 24/7 on their mobiles and laptops. They want a seamless experience that meets their need for pre-planned purchases, leading brands across a hugely expanded range of product categories, personalized offers, convenient delivery options, etc. Before the next crisis, more airlines must respond by developing as lifestyle brands that reach their customers in more ways, delivering these needs and driving revenue and loyalty.
By integrating digitally into their daily lives, the airline transforms its revenue opportunity from a fleeting, vague opportunity that is tied to the ‘Golden Hour’ of the passengers being in their seats to a 24/7 opportunity.
When the next crisis hits – and it will – the Omnichannel strategy cannot provide total immunity from the fallout, but at least it creates the opportunity for the airline to think well beyond ‘survival’.
Frankfurt, July 14th, 2021 - Omnevo, leading provider of revenue-increasing digital platform solutions for airports and airlines and part of the AOE Group, and Fraport AG, owner and operator of Germany's largest airport, announced today that Frankfurt Airport goes live with the latest advanced version of Omnevo's award-winning omnichannel e-commerce solution. Additionally, the two companies announced that they have extended their long-term partnership for another five years to further develop the digitalization of the airport's range of products and services for the almost 70 million passengers (before COVID-19) who travel through Frankfurt Airport each year. With go-live, the existing digital solution platform, which Omnevo’s parent company (AOE) had originally developed for Fraport, was migrated to the latest Omnevo product version. Through its original partnership with AOE Fraport utilized the OM³ digital platform (now known as Omnevo) to become the world’s first omnichannel airport focused entirely on omnichannel both before and, especially, during the pandemic. The newly enhanced Omnevo cloud solution enables the operation of a complete airport marketplace solution for all travel retail sales at a fraction of the costs previously required for such a leading ecosystem, creating new revenue opportunities for crisis-hit airports of any size. Thanks to the highly flexible SaaS solution, Fraport has also effectively future-proofed its digital strategy by integrating directly in the Omnevo product roadmap, enabling it to benefit from Omnevo’s strategy of continuous improvements to the solution.
The past year has been extraordinary in so many ways and, while the tragic impact on lives takes precedence, we’ve also had to deal with the huge changes in our working life too. As the crisis developed early last year, I was busy planning in my new role as CEO of Omnevo - AOE’s new specialist product division - positioned as a digital solution pioneer in the travel industry, launching in early 2021. As the crisis grew, this became the most challenging experience of my career, but I’ve been surprised to find that it’s also become one of the most instructive and rewarding experiences too. Creating and launching any new company is always a huge challenge but we suddenly faced extraordinary new barriers as the way we do business had to be transformed. Much of 2020 was spent planning the new company and today, still operates almost exclusively remotely. Many of us, including some of the founders, worked together for almost a year but have still not actually met in person! Yet we already operate successfully in a global network and are scaling and winning new business. Omnevo is a truly virtual organization; this is how we were born and that is how we thrive. In this short time, we’ve already made our mark on this industry, with a culturally diverse, agile and highly committed team working alongside customers of all sizes around the globe. We’re gaining a lot of attention because we are recognized as game changers - and that innovative spirit is integral to our team spirit. We are committed to being the digital challengers and innovators in the travel and mobility industry – an ethos drives us every day. And it’s working. But what is the glue behind this, what makes us successful? Why is it working and, in these bizarre working conditions, how did we manage to get the team so well and engage with our customers so quickly? I’m obviously proud of what we’ve achieved but I want to share my personal perspective on how we made this happen and hope that it will resonate with others in the industry - and, hopefully, help you with your management challenges too.
COVID-19 has caused a near universal consumer adoption of digital far beyond just search and discovery. Globally, across almost every demographic, international lockdowns have got us accustomed to pre-order, pre-select and home delivery for many of our retail and service transactions. These rapid and continuing shifts in digital behavior inevitably affect the post-crisis traveler journey. As flights slowly resume, airlines, airports and associated service providers will no longer enjoy the luxury of resurrecting 'high touch' retail or food & beverage. Shopping and food & beverage are, of course, two of the most essential experiential elements in any travel journey. As travel restarts, travelers will now expect convenient digital access to these types of products as well as an overriding commitment to hygiene, sustainability and safety. And there is every reason to believe that these expectations will extend across the travel life cycle - from airport, to inflight and post flight. If you were an airline now, given the devastating onslaught of the pandemic on revenues and cash flow, just how and where would you start? Where exactly are the incremental revenue generation opportunities and cost savings to be found? Let's start by understanding the three key challenges: