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How digitalization revitalised my career - and will drive airline recovery

May 18, 2022
Author Paul BilhamPaul BilhamVP of Sales, Omnevo

“Are you crazy? Joining a start-up in the travel space in the middle of the worst global pandemic for over a century?!” 

That was just one of the concerned comments made to me when I left my previous job role after seven years and joined Omnevo in May 2021, with most of the aviation world at a standstill. in fact, it was Omnevo’s confidence and ambition in launching during the pandemic that told me this was something special. In the aviation industry’s chaos, they saw an opportunity. 

Exactly one year later, I know I made the right decision.

While Omnevo is a relatively new brand to the market, we’re backed by AOE – one of the most experienced players in the market – and we’ve assembled a team of highly experienced people who have worked across airline operations, retail, F&B operations, logistics and technology for many years. This experience, combined with an incredibly skilled technical team, means that we can make impactful changes to an airline’s performance; and that’s exactly how Omnevo saw the opportunity, even while most of the world’s fleets were grounded.

Passengers have new needs

Many airlines are now really embracing the mindset of digitalisation and, as passenger numbers recover, these returning travellers bring with them challenging new expectations around service and choice. Digital consumer experiences were revolutionised during the pandemic; we all became used to seamless personalised experiences, huge choice, 24/7 availability, convenient delivery options etc. While the world’s fleets were grounded for a year or so, consumer behaviour accelerated by more than a decade. As these customers return to the skies, every airline needs to ask, ‘How will our airline experience compare?’

At WTCE, our team will show how that experience can match the passenger’s needs and expectations, but the aviation industry has been relatively slow in adopting digital tactics in ancillary revenue. Unfortunately, that past hesitancy may be due to the fact that technology offerings in our space have often proved to be inadequate, over-promised or poorly executed, with little integration to existing solutions. Those weaknesses lead to minimal impact on savings and revenue streams - and can even end up increasing process and cost that actually hit, rather than revitalise, the airline’s bottom line. 

Achieving higher performance in the current market demands a versatile digital platform that off-the-shelf ‘solutions’ simply cannot deliver.  We address this through a modular toolbox, enabling airlines to create, manage and control their own digital and operational model – we develop a tailored solution that can be anything from starting with a precise focus on F&B to developing a full-scale omnichannel platform. Regardless of scale, it’s designed around each airline’s true needs and not around a vague ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Airlines have new opportunities

Forward-thinking airlines are absolutely right to look urgently to digital solutions; there is no other route to reaching today’s customer and certainly no other path to driving future performance.  Our approach is based around key fundamentals where we look to increase revenue, reduce waste, enhance choice for passengers and raise profitability. I’ve seen how Omnevo has delivered on these KPIs for its airline partners (the impact on waste and sustainability absolutely stunned me!) but airlines need to look deeper than ambitions and promises when selecting a digitalisation partner. From my own industry experience I suggest three key qualities to look for in your chosen partner:

  • A partner who understands airline operations’ pain points and can offer innovative, tailored, proven solutions 
  • A cross-functional team, not just IT/Tech experts but also airline industry expertise - people who have lived your problems can create better answers for you
  • Look for providers who are transparent about what can and cannot be done - setting clear expectations and communicating clearly

Our industry is recovering, which brings both new challenges and opportunities - and digitalisation is the path to optimising the airline’s response to both. I’m delighted to support that recovery as part of the Omnevo team and, if your airline is looking to a digital future, I look forward to seeing you at WTCE.

Visit Omnevo at WTCE

From 14th-16th June I will be at the World Travel Catering Expo, with my colleagues on booth, 1E40.

Every day from 4-6pm we'll also have Happy Hour so pop by for a drink and a chat.  

Register here


Aviation & Travel

True Innovation Comes Outside The Cabin

One of the biggest emerging trends I have seen in the airline sector over the last couple of years is the concept of passenger self-serve onboard or order to seat. Despite the almost constant discussion at every industry event, the funny thing is, this isn’t really new at all – almost 10 years ago, a former CEO of an onboard retail technology provider proclaimed: “Over time the duty free model will shift to 100% passenger self-service transactions. One of the biggest reasons being the fact that the trolley only comes down the aisle once a journey, for half an hour – in essence the duty free store is only open for half an hour. If I can make transactions myself, through self-service technology, the store is open for the entire flight.” And yet, a decade later, this isn’t even close to the reality on-board most aircraft. During the pandemic, with the need for social distancing, coupled with a desire for innovation, self-service again bubbled to the fore – it gained a new level of relevance. With passengers across all demographics accustomed to ordering everything from groceries to new cars via their phones, digital transactions onboard an aircraft look to be a natural extension of what has become an everyday digital experience. The aviation sector is obsessed (but occasionally intimidated) by digital answers, and there is much that can already be done. Making a digital store available for browsing and even purchasing is achievable, both on IFE and passengers own devices. The process raises a number of operational implications, such as how crew learn of and deliver orders, how payments are handled (particularly if there is no air-to-ground connection) and how this sits alongside the existing cabin service. All of these issues require significant thought and, in some cases investment; and there lies the heart of the problem.