Most professionals in the Business Aviation Field know how fast-paced the daily operation of a private jet can get. Passengers often have last-minute requests, flights get canceled or delayed unexpectedly, and the ensuing changes cascading across several departments and locations creates an even more stressful situation due to the attention to detail required.
A perfect environment for the revolution that the digitalization of the workspace has brought, one might say. However, Business Aviation is not different from other industries, a change in fundamental approach and culture is not that fast. Resistance will be encountered, be it due to fear of the unknown, costs or a plethora of other reasons.
BizAv companies have the added responsibility. Decision-makers must take into consideration cost-benefit calculations, attempting to achieve a suitable balance while ensuring that the passenger experience is not negatively affected.
In a business where slight details change the perception of service by a substantial degree, and competition is fierce, with clients being used to receiving only the highest levels of service, companies need to ensure changes implemented will go over well with the user of the aircraft. Ultimately, the passenger is probably an influential executive, and his experience can have repercussions for other clients as well.
On the other side, digitalization has proved that it can be an effective cost-and-time saver. Smart technologies understand that changing one parameter of a flight impacts several others and can adjust accordingly, taking the workload off the back of the operations team. As technology advances and learns, the tasks it can perform on a reliable level automatically increases as well.
Furthermore, aircraft operators are seeing a change in the type of passengers in the past years. Instead of coming mostly from the industrial and financial sectors, passengers increasingly have their bases in digital enterprises. They will, of course, be open to seeing a modern approach to business aviation, or will demand and welcome it. Having Wi-Fi onboard became a standard request quickly over the past two years, mainly driven by the expectations of this new class of passengers who expect a reliable, fast, and secure connection to headquarters, colleagues and partners in addition to news and information.
So, which companies are now leading the way in digitalizing Business Aviation? Let’s have a look at three different areas of the business:
1) Operators were probably the first in the industry to embrace the digital age. Historically, we see that the bigger the fleet, the earlier digitalization was introduced. Innovation helped those companies that were already successfully to maintain their edge. The experience gained in changing corporate culture and managing technological transition will prove to be beneficial when the next technology update happens. However, these first implementers, run the risk of becoming adjusted to and satisfied with their new level of technology, missing the opportunity to keep up with technological advances or installing system updates as new ideas and options not possible before become available.
Many examples of businesses built upon these new systems already exist. FAI rent-a-jet has recently announced the outsourcing of their accounting management, placing its trust in the start-up MySky.
Another space ripe for digitization are highly inefficient empty leg flights. Software-based solutions like GetJet try to gather requests from brokers and clients and then optimize the usage of aircraft, often through the integration of information from more multiple operators.
Purchasing solutions, as offered by Convolus, promising to consolidate the purchasing power of smaller companies to form a group with more substantial leverage in procurement. Processes that involve countless amounts of paper, like inspections and registrations could be the next to follow.
2) The FBO is probably the business a passenger is most likely to be directly in contact. During arrival and departure procedures, waiting for a delayed aircraft, FBOs have the opportunity to influence the perception of the client on how their travel experience was. For FBOs, more and more software solutions are appearing to manage day-to-day operations at the ramp and the back-office tasks like invoicing. The impact that those solutions have on the passenger experience can be debated, but the time and cost savings for the FBO are benefits impossible to deny.
Smart technology solutions also help in reducing errors by employees, which in turn reduces turnaround times and subsequently improve customer satisfaction. Not only are aircraft turnaround times are vital, but also the turnaround times of invoices and associated documentation. The faster an invoice goes out, the quicker the FBO can be paid.
Solutions are available to FBOs that promising to manage all aspects of the business process, from movement messages up to automatic invoice processing. Another key for FBOs is the interaction with the local airport authorities. With airports seeing more traffic, local procedures for safety and slot management will also become more digitalized.
3) Lastly, the brokers. Often one-person operations handling all aspects of the flight requests, they have been quick to embrace the digital future. While large corporations need more time to implement changes, the broker working in a small team or even just alone will take less adaptation time. Platforms like Avinode greatly simplify the process of gathering offers from many different aircraft operators. They provide white-label solutions for customer-friendly apps or payment platforms, making the broker´s life easier.
Suppliers of flight solutions are increasingly gaining market share from the traditional brokers. JetSmarter, Victor or Stratajet, innovate principally through the provision of simplified access to private jets and a promise of cost reduction. Transparency and predictable cost are also challenges these companies are tackling with the use of algorithms and smarter technology.
Operators and brokers may be the primary drivers of innovation, with FBOs being at an earlier stage of development. A broader outlook would include different technologies, from drones and autonomous flight solutions are promising to substitute helicopters and changing the urban landscape to MRO technologies and 3D printers shortening AOG times considerably. Faster onboard internet speeds will unlock currently unused potential.
Flying conference rooms or simple videoconferences, for example, could showcase the time and cost saving aspect of business aircraft even more. In the end, maintaining high service levels and costs low will be what matters both for the company offering and the passenger using services. To reach those goals, digitalization for all participant actors has to increase, as their proof of effectiveness is brought by the innovating companies.