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Paul Bilham

VP of Sales, Omnevo

Paul has worked in the travel technology space for over 20 years. Initially starting his career in the GDS segment he managed a number of high profile travel agency customers including Expedia and Thomas Cook as well as, holding key positions at both Sabre and Travelport. For the past eight years, Paul has worked exclusively in the inflight retail sector, managing relationships with some of the world’s premier airlines, including Southwest Airlines, Westjet, KLM and FlyDubai where he gained extensive experience in the onboard retail sector, both from a technical and process perspective. He has delivered onboard retail implementations and migrations across of number of airlines and brings a wealth of aviation and commercial experience to the Omnevo team.


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.


RFPs and RFIs: Making a list and checking it twice…

It's Christmas, and everywhere children are sending their wish lists to Santa, hoping that all their dreams come true on the 25th. It’s been a while since I stopped sending my own wish list to the North Pole, but I do get the pleasure of seeing the adult equivalent in my working like in the form of RFPs and RFIs, and I am always delighted when Omnevo is invited to participate in these processes. I look at the list of what’s wanted, but rather than figuring out if you’ve been naughty or nice, I have the job of working out what can be delivered and when. I usually find that I can say ‘yes’ to most things on the wish list, but sometimes there are dreams that are beyond today’s reality. Pre-order for onboard or home delivery? – no problem. Onboard retail, both via POS and IFE – absolutely. Accept Bitcoin for onboard retail payments in an offline environment? - not yet ! Working in sales, I love receiving RFPs and RFIs and always view it as a chance to give an honest insight into what we can do, our view on the market, and how we can collaborate with potential clients. However, many in the industry regard the whole RFP process as outdated and bad for supplier businesses, particularly when it becomes a race to the bottom in terms of commercials. We see situations where suppliers who may have exactly the experience you need to deliver the project are priced out of consideration, while inexperienced suppliers may make claims they cannot deliver, simply to win the work. On more than one occasion I’ve seen clients select a lower cost supplier and then ultimately return to us to re-engage and start the project over. More positively, with an honest and collaborative approach, the RFP process can deliver the ideal merger of client ambition and supplier capabilities. These processes also give airlines a chance level the playing field, focusing on specific criteria to evaluate and benchmark all participants and find the most suitable supplier in an unbiased process. This works well if it includes a detailed and realistic assessment of what exactly is needed and can enable the development of the optimal platform and a winning outcome for both parties. At Omnevo, I’m always excited to see a wish list from a potential client and then work through the process of seeing how we can deliver it, including constantly innovating to tailor the platform to their needs. Like Santa, I always hope the wish list is realistic and I can make dreams come true! I hope you enjoy the holiday season and that your (realistic) wishes come true in 2023.