Category Archive: Our Customer Stories: Avinode

  1. Chris Kuiper – Removing the barriers to private jet travel

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    Hi Chris. Can you tell us about the idea behind Catch-a-Jet

    We’re an app that’s been created to connect the empty leg flights of private jet operators with travellers.

    The end user is our start point for everything, and the app really is built around them and their needs. The result is a solution where they can book and pay for an empty leg flight in under a minute. And our goal is always to make it as efficient and as easy as possible.

    And what was your inspiration for the app?

    Well, the idea came about as a result of a conversation I had with a private jet operator. He told me that around 50% of his flights were flown without passengers. I was curious, so I dug deeper to understand the figures and see what’s been done in the past to try and reach the end users for these empty legs.

    What really motivated me was the idea of removing the barriers, for both end users and operators. Listening to the industry, and to a lot of potential end users, has influenced our business model.

    Operators would typically have to pay to feature on a platform like ours, but we’ve made it as attractive as possible by not charging them anything until the flight has been sold through our platform.
    And for end users, they don’t want a platform where they must register first, provide an email address in return for membership, or be bombarded with notifications. So, we’ve avoided all of those things.

    The Catch-a-Jet app uses the Avinode Empty Leg API. How have you found working with Avinode?

    It’s been fantastic, and I’ve learnt so much from the guys at Avinode about the technology and APIs in general.

    I’m very grateful for Avinode because you’re the biggest on the planet at what you do, and the support you’ve given me… you guys rock!

    I’ve been working closely with Sam Sidea, one of your engineers. Sam is worth a statue to your company in my view. I’ve also had a lot of support from Viktoriya (Gopfauf) and Saskia (de Jong) – they’ve been a pleasure to work with.

    And what does that API integration mean?

    It means that we’re able to make something that’s unique and attractive to end users and operators.

    Take operators for example. If they had to constantly input their flights manually, that’s a lot of work for the sales department. But by integrating the Avinode API, they only need to verify which flights should be appearing, and the rest is taken care of automatically. And of course, they keep full control over the flights and any details associated with it.

    Also, the API integrated into our platform lets us pull data from Avinode, which also makes it easy for us to add and onboard new operators. And now there’s the empty leg pricing module too, so we can offer more accurate pricing, which is invaluable.

    Take operators for example. If they had to constantly input their flights manually, that’s a lot of work for the sales department. But by integrating the Avinode API, they only need to verify which flights should be appearing, and the rest is taken care of automatically. And of course, they keep full control over the flights and any details associated with it.

    Also, the API integrated into our platform lets us pull data from Avinode, which also makes it easy for us to add and onboard new operators. And now there’s the empty leg pricing module too, so we can offer more accurate pricing, which is invaluable.

    You’re providing a solution where everybody wins?

    Yes, we are. For operators, if they receive €1,000 for an empty leg flight that’s better than the alternative, which is to take nothing at all. And every flight booked could lead to a new lifetime customer if we get people onboard an aircraft who have never been on a private jet before.

    It sounds like you really know you audience

    That’s true, and we’ve done a lot of research. In each country where we go live we have a marketing person who has profiled our potential end users. We’re typically looking at 30-75 year olds who can afford empty leg flights, and this is a big market.

    Marketing is as important as the platform for us, and we’ve made it our business to know about these people; the events they attend, the magazines they read, and the brands they’re drawn to. We’re currently looking at some exciting partnerships with brands that share our audience, so we can come together to offer them a complete and unique travel experience.

    It sounds like exciting times ahead, Chris. Best of luck in the future

    Thank you. We’re still a relatively new business but things are going well, and we know there’s potential to make a real difference in the sector.

  2. Wenche Knutsen – 20 years of building great relationships

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    How has working with Avinode impacted your business?  

    “Working with Avinode during all these years has made it so much easier to market our aircraft to buyers. It enables us to build a greater network in the industry and make new connections with both brokers and operators.”

    Can you mention a favourite memory from your time with Avinode? 

    “We have so many fun memories from spending time with Avinode’s team at both trade shows and networking events such as the Avinode Academy. From the start, the Avinode team has always been well-known as a bunch of happy, competent, and welcoming people. We especially appreciate these opportunities to meet with other professionals in the industry.”

    What are your hopes for the future of business aviation?

    “Now that the COVID pandemic is over, we’re hoping to attend more events in person and be able to build new relationships in person again. We look forward to Avinode facilitating this. In our experience Avinode has always been a great platform where operators and brokers connect, both online and in person.”

  3. Jesper Kragelund – 20 years of optimizing sales and operations

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    How has working with Avinode impacted your business? 

    “Through the years, our cooperation with Avinode has made a huge positive impact on our business and daily work. First of all, we have gained customers from all over the world. These customers would, most likely, never have found North Flying in Aalborg,  Denmark, without the Avinode platform. And we’re still finding new contacts via the Avinode network today.

    Our sales and operation staff has saved a lot of man hours by optimizing our fleet, prices and transient aircraft around Europe through the system.”

    Can you mention a favourite moment from your time with Avinode? 

    “We have many favorite moments with the Avinode team, such as the outstanding parties at Avinode Academy and many late nights with the team in Geneva.

    On a more professional note, we really value the recent introduction of Paynode. Being part of the Paynode network makes it so much easier to get paid from overseas in due time before a flight. We’re happy to see that more and more of our clients are starting to use Paynode.”

    Looking 20 years ahead, what do you predict will have the largest impact on your business?

    “We expect to face some challenges with the green transition that is happening in aviation. It will surely have an impact on our common business. Not to mention the introduction and possibilities of BIO fuel.

    We’re looking forward to another 20 great years with the Avinode team!”

  4. Silver Flight — Embracing the possibilities and achieving incredible results

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    Hi Kelly. I believe you’ve only been using Avinode for about a month.  

    That’s right, and we’re very pleased with it so far. It has a huge range of tools which we’re getting to know, and the sales team are happy because they can make the calculations very accurately. Plus, we love the fact we’re able to get in touch directly with the brokers. It’s a great platform.

    And you seem to have really embraced the idea that good price accuracy is great for business.

    Exactly. Our price accuracy is at 100%, and we’ve worked hard to achieve that because we see the value of doing so.

    How have the brokers reacted to your price accuracy score?

    Really positively. Although we might not be in the top 3 or 4 in terms of ranking on Marketplace, people do see us as a quotation partner because they know our pricing is going to be accurate. That’s what they tell us. 

    They can also see that, compared to other operators, we sometimes will drop in price. If the flight fits well within our programme, we’re happy to be flexible. We’re always sharp on price anyway, but where possible we’re willing to go lower if it benefits us or the broker and helps build that relationship.

    What advice would you give to other Avinode users on achieving better price accuracy?

    Well, you really must embrace the system. There are so many tools and it’s important to take the time to investigate what they can do for you. 

    Sometimes you get a quotation and you have an issue with a specific field, like a really high handling fee or a routing that you know is longer than an alternative. In these cases, Avinode lets you make corrections. You can fine-tune everything so the quotation is giving you what it should be. 

    I think you must be willing to go back into the system after every quote and ask yourself what tweaks you can make, and which of the tools available can help you do that. It’s a process. And I know from experience that you can only achieve 100% accuracy once you have everything set perfectly. 

    How helpful have the Avinode team been since you became a customer?

    The team – and Victoria in particular – have been fantastic. Like I said, Avinode can be a little overwhelming and because we’re a new operator on the platform, she is always in the background looking out for us. I don’t even have to ask her, she sees something and sends me and email that says, “I see that you’ve done this. If you did it like this it might give you a better quotation”. 

    Also, if I have a question and she can’t talk, she always gives me a call right back. That speedy response is what our customers expect from us, and we expect from Avinode. And they deliver.

    And finally, what is your goal moving forward?

    Well, we already have 100% price accuracy, but occasionally we allow ourselves to lose a little money on quotes. If you take the actual rate it would be something like 95-97%, so what we’re aiming for is to get to the actual 100% on our side as well. 

    But being able to get 100% accuracy rate on any given trip is a challenge. We operate the Pilatus PC-12, which can fly into the smallest airports around. And then the price difference between a small airport in Switzerland and an airport like Geneva can be quite big, even when the routing is almost the same. 

    To get each quote correct, down to the exact Euro, is the goal. And we’re working with Avinode to help make that happen. 

  5. The power of networks in times of crisis – one broker’s story

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    Tell us a little about BitLux

    Well, we’ve been in operation just two years and we’re growing quickly having doubled our projected annual turnover in the last two months alone. 

    Our customer base is mainly people flying for business. The biggest indication of this is that during November, December and January we had our slowest months. While everyone else was looking to get somewhere for the holidays, business travellers wanted to stay home.

    We also accept Cryptocurrency, which is pretty unique. A lot of companies claim to take this type of payment, but few do it properly. We’ve created a platform that can process $5m a month or $1m a day per transaction in a way that’s fully approved and trackable at our end.

    How did COVID-19 impact your business from the beginning?

    We have a large Chinese client base and I have a big personal and professional network out there, so we heard about the crisis back in December. For Americans it was only once they understood they were going into lockdown and everything which that brings, that people started to think about where they wanted to hunker down. 

    We began doing a lot of flights out of major metropolitan areas, to the Midwest for example, and I was advising people not to go to an island or anywhere that was totally dependant on imports.

    At the same time, we were doing a lot of repatriation flights from the Bahamas and the Caribbean, bringing home holidaymakers and employees of companies out there.

    And how did the opportunity to help with aid come about?

    The Chinese government put out a calling card to its foreign-based citizens to come home, saying that things were under control. That led to a lot of enquiries about what planes could fly there, and at the same time we could see a dire needs for PPE, especially masks.

    I started going through my Chinese contacts and with a friend we worked out how we could help plug the PPE gap using the same standards we apply to our everyday business; being ethical, being thorough and being detailed.

    We’ve been able to source and work on orders for literally millions of pieces of PPE – we even have people in China physically visiting factories to ensure quality – then we’ve been taking care of the logistics to bring it all back.

    Alongside that we’ve been working on repatriation flights to China. We’ve been sending G5s, G550s, Globals – we even had a 737 filled with a class of 16-year-old schoolkids, getting them back home. A lot of these flights have been back-to-back.

    And they can be tricky flights to organise too

    Really tricky! There’s so much red tape it’s unreal. You’ve got to work with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Customs in the US, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and Customs out there. And every piece of paper must line up with one particular tail number and one particular crew. There’s no room for error.

    That’s where the Avinode TripManager has been invaluable.

    We’re glad to hear that. In what way in particular?

    Those trips are some of the most detailed I’ve ever done in my career. Everything must be 100% accurate. If there’s a mistake that plane will get turned around mid-air. For that reason, if it wasn’t for TripManager, I think we would have experienced a large financial loss.

    We chose Avinode not just for the exposure that comes with being on the marketplace, but also for the logistics. It’s great having all your data in one place and aggregated in such a way that multiple parties can access it. Everything is laid out simply in a way that no other company can provide in a plug-and-play application.

    This is not the first time you’ve been involved in humanitarian aid, is it?

    No, unfortunately we have a lot of experience in helping with disaster relief, evacuations and humanitarian trips. For example, we helped when the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico and the island was devastated.

    An entire MD-87 was filled with aid. The plane had 155 seats and there were boxes on every one of them and in the overhead lockers. Then we took people in need of medical care back to the US to be looked after. It was a big task but we’re proud of the work we did.

    What are your thoughts on where the industry goes from here?

    Throughout this crisis I’d say at least 1 in 5 businesses I’ve worked with have taken a real hit, whether laying off or furloughing staff or even ceasing operations. In the US, the government’s paycheck protection programme has started to kick in and that should help operators get things back to normal pace without having to rely entirely on demand. 

    As for travellers, I think people are finally getting the data needed to make their own decisions. In the past week and a half, we’ve seen an upswing in domestic requests from people just wanting to go from A-to-B.

    Undoubtedly some will never get over this and maybe will forever fly privately because they don’t want to go near a crowded airport or airline. In many of the recent repatriation flights from the US to China we’ve seen groups of people come together to travel. There’s a real sense of family and patriotism, where people are saying, “Ok, we’re all in this, here’s what we need to do together.” 

    I see that in my neighbourhood, and I see that going on in the aviation industry. Humanity always comes together in times of need.

  6. Putting the community first – one operator’s story

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    Tell us how you came to get involved in providing critical travel during the crisis

    Things began to change for us in February. We started to see a huge wave of requests to move people away from where the virus was breaking. During February and March, we were moving customers from Asia to the US and Europe – a lot of one-way flights. 

    Then, as the situation unfolded in Italy and across Europe the requests were to fly the other way. We were flying people to China, but no one was coming back. That was when the team suggested offering not only our empty legs but also access to our global infrastructure, to those who needed it. We called this our Supporting Communities initiative and we were able to put it in place quickly. 

    Several governments and medical organisations were reaching out to us, looking for help to get diplomats and doctors home. Through Vista Global we have 115 aircraft around the world, so we knew we could make a real difference. Plus, as a business we wanted to be able to look back at these times and be proud of our actions.

    What made you uniquely placed to help?

    We have a global infrastructure, so we can maneuver aircraft and go with the demand. We also chose larger cabin aircraft for our fleet which means we can move people from continent to continent in volume. 

    And are you still seeing demand?

    Yes, although it can be a challenge to find the empty legs that work for people because of where they are trying to get to and where we are flying. We send out 30-40 empty legs every day to our network and the conversation starts at that point. 

    You’re a great example of a business adapting to the situation. Does that come naturally?

    Yes, it really does. Being adaptable, going against the grain and thinking differently is in our DNA and that stems from our Founder and Chairman, Thomas Flohr. 

    Thomas began in aviation as a private owner wanting to maximize his asset by putting it to the charter market when he wasn’t using it. He was less worried about where his aircraft was based, he just wanted to keep it moving. That was quite unique back in 2004 as most operators were obsessed with where their pilots lived, where the maintenance was being done etc.

    As the fleet grew he continued to show there was an alternative to buying your own jet or buying a fraction of one. He proved that the operator could take the asset risk away from the customer while still providing them with what they wanted at the right pricepoint. The industry wasn’t ready for this approach. It broke the mould and most people thought it would fail, but Thomas has been proved right.

    His vision all along was to create a truly global brand with an infrastructure that fitted around the lifestyle of customers. If they were in Beijing or Dubai, they could enjoy our service just like they would with a chain of hotels.

    That idea really came about in early 2007/2008 with the purchase of Skyjet and our first entrance into Asia and the Middle East. We made that big step at the time of the financial crash, but we adapted then and we’re doing the same now in 2020.

    That sense of adventure must run throughout the whole business

    There are 1,500 employees across the Vista Global group of companies, and I’d say that ever single one of them has an entrepreneurial spirit. We take on any challenge because that’s how we’re set up. Our goal is to find a way to get to ‘yes’, and if it’s a ‘no’, then no one else in the world can do it. That’s one of the reasons I love working here.

    I must give a special mention to all our employees and acknowledge the dedication and energy they’ve shown over the past few months. They’ve been fantastic and everyone is so proud of what we’ve achieved.

    What changes have you had to make to provide this new service?

    It’s been a case of getting our teams up to speed with how to deal with the nature of the new requests, the limitations of an empty leg and the practicalities of availability. That and understanding what we can and cannot carry. Some medical equipment, for example, you can’t transport without a license, and we’ve been able to obtain many of these quickly.

    Luckily, we’re expert in making things work and finding a way. We were the first to enter Africa in a big way, the first to go into Asia and operate globally from there into the Middle East, Europe, the US and South America… we have a can-do approach.

    What do you feel are the biggest challenges for the private charter industry in the short-term?

    I think regional operators are in for a rough ride, because if their region is on lockdown, they simply can’t maneuver their fleet. Some of those operators will suffer for sure and at best a period of consolidation is inevitable.

    We talk to on-demand operators around the world and everyone is wondering what the market will look like when people can travel again. I think commercial will struggle because many customers will be reluctant to go to a crowded airport or get on a packed plane. Private operators will have a huge role to play, I think. For people who travel a lot – if they can afford it – they’ll maybe do one trip with their family by private jet rather than the usual four trips by commercial. 

    Private jets have always been first into recession and the last out. This time we were the last into lockdown and will be the first out. We’re best placed.

    Hopefully we at Avinode have helped you during this crisis

    Avinode is right now the heart of all demand and acquisition, certainly for us. We have a great relationship with your team, who continually help us find efficiencies in our systems. Without you we wouldn’t have seen such a large increase in quotes or been able to deal with them so effectively.

    Avinoide has also been a big part of our success, helping us expand into new regions by connecting us with a vast network of brokers.

    Alongside the Community Support initiative, sustainability is very important to you

    It’s something we’re really committed to. We’re always looking for ways to operate more responsibly. Take fuel, for example. We’d like to see a lot more movement towards an environmentally friendly fuel and get that concept into the mindset of the industry. It’s about thinking differently. 

    We’ve always bought the newest aircraft with the most efficient fuel programmes, such as the new Global 7500 which we have recently taken delivery of and which has a significant fuel burn advantage over its predecessors. We didn’t just buy them for how they look inside the cabin. 

    Just like we saw in 2008, there’s now a pause in the climate debate, but it needs to be back on the table. We think there’s a real opportunity for us all to come out of this as a new industry from a sustainability and environmental perspective. 

    We created our Sustainability in Aviation white paper to really push the agenda and get the conversation started.