For our Perspectives series, we talk to experienced business aviation industry professionals who share with us their individual insights and offer a window into their world. This month's interviewee is Patrick Lucy, account manager at Avinode and chairman of the NextGen Group at The Air Charter Association (The ACA). Avinode has been frantically supporting customers during the ebb and flow of the pandemic, and Lucy says that The ACA is doing fine work to encourage fresh new talent into the industry.
“I look after fixed territories, the UK being my main market, along with Malta, India and Oceania. I am the first point of contact when it comes to customers in terms of having any issues or wanting to see how they can better develop their workflow, streamline their systems and have a better working environment in terms of functionality within the aviation sector. My main focus is to make sure that brokers and operators have the right tools to do the job, so that they can be as efficient as possible. Avinode is a B2B Platform, so we are always looking to make sure that we can please our clients, be it a broker for an operator or an operator for a broker. Avinode is a charter sourcing platform, it is where a broker would come, run a search result such as Luton to Paris, a search would be performed and available aircraft would be presented that could potentially perform that charter. We also have Paynode, a new payments platform specifically built for the aviation sector. A broker with funds in their account can make an instant payment to an operator on a Friday evening or a Sunday afternoon for a flight on Monday morning. So an operator can be paid out of hours for a flight that is at very short notice. It’s an industry-changing space that we play in, to try and feel out the pain points for operators and brokers and look to improve them. One of our goals is to improve the industry as a whole.
We have seen massive changes. More brokers are moving into the space or pivoting within their core business. They are looking to better control the entire experience for clients, from initial contact through transportation to and from the aircraft, to the flight itself, onward transfers and accommodation. We’ve noticed a lot of diversification, especially within the last 18 months. People are looking to make best use of their time. There is nothing wrong with taking a hands-on approach to figure out all the little quirks that a customer is looking for, but using tech means that the same quote can be generated in a matter of 30 seconds rather than 30 minutes.
There has been a huge influx of new customers joining the industry over the last 18 months. This could be temporary – we are not sure yet. The general consensus is that we are now seeing customers who used to fly first class, who are now saying they don’t have those commercial airline options that they used to. They are willing to push the budget to carry out what is required, and do so privately. These newer customers appear to be very price-conscious, and they are willing to hunt around a lot more. This creates a lot more traffic and administrative work, with plenty of back and forth. We offer additional products that help to integrate systems and streamline the process, so that brokers and operators can work in a more controlled manner. It’s a lot more difficult at the moment to touch base and have a catch-up with customers. Many are looking to improve their workflows. Over COVID they had more time and there were fewer requests coming through. Now it seems everyone is back under the pump, because now to source the charter and the additional documentation required, you need to be a lot more thorough. It takes a lot longer now to organise those processes than it otherwise used to. Keeping this consistency up is fantastic for the industry. People are finally moving around a lot more, and brokers and operators are being inundated with a lot of work. There’s huge demand for travel once again, and we don’t want that to die down. When a quick change does occur such as changing quarantine rules and restrictions, this can shock the system.
When it comes to the NextGen Group, I think what The Air Charter Association has done, looking to tailor a service to everyone in the industry, has been brilliant. We have a very diverse NextGen Group with plenty of different viewpoints, and it’s really important to reach out to the young and upcoming generation both within and outside of our industry. It’s a big initiative and a priority for us to try to capture these people and make sure that they feel comfortable within the environment, to know that there are a lot of people up and coming in the space that they can relate to and talk to. We have presented to the Royal Air Force Air Cadets (RAFAC) and universities, and we are looking to collaborate with Fly2Help, a charity group. We are reaching out to teenagers and making them aware of the possibilities and the endless opportunities within aviation. That isn’t just pilots and engineers – it could be that you are into catering or interior design. Our objective is to make sure that the next generation aren’t neglected, and that all voices are heard. Together, we will help shape the industry’s future.”