1-2-1 Airline meetings at AviaDev. 7 top tips for success
Attracting airlines to serve a particular airport/ destination has become a skill that has developed in the liberalised skies environments of Europe and ASEAN. If the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) is implemented in Africa, the airports and destinations that understand what an airline is looking for will be first in line to reap the rewards of the new routes.
Someone who knows all about this subject is Sabine Reim, Senior Vice President of InterVISTAS consulting, who spent 17 years at British Airways. Sabine will be hosting a workshop session during AviaDev, so join us now
Sabine shares advice for airports meeting with airlines during AviaDev:
"1-2-1 meetings are the best opportunities for airports to connect with airlines to build and maintain relationships. Conference environments that offer a ‘speed dating’ set-up and so access to interactions with multiple airlines in both formal and informal settings are particularly useful, both for new route opportunities as well as housekeeping for existing routes.
Airlines need to make business cases that demonstrate the worth of either adding or maintaining points on their networks. This ‘worth’ is increasingly driven not just by the need to deliver a profit, but also a given profit margin, both in absolute terms as well as relative terms compared to other destinations as airlines seek to optimize their networks. This is putting more pressure on airports to deliver. As such, interactions with airlines are an opportunity for airports to demonstrate their worthiness of being part of an airline’s network. Working with an airline to demonstrate convincing facts about a destination can also accelerate an airport’s addition to an airline’s network. As an airline develops a business case, a number of core aspects will fall under the microscope of a network planner’s eye.
Following a simple structure can help airports when preparing to meet with airlines at this year’s AviaDev forum:"
1. Good Use of Valuable Time
Meetings are a two-way conversation. This means they are about talking and listening for both sides.
Bring your points across concisely and clearly – airlines meet many airports in a short period of time and it is about making a mark. Therefore, be memorable.
As much as it is about showcasing your strengths, do not forget about the value you gain from listening to the airlines. Leave enough time to let the airline talk. Let them respond to your points, and take to heart their questions and agree a time frame for you to respond to them with follow-ups.
Be informed. Every airline is different, with their own distinct strategies, priorities and decision drivers. Research an airline well before you meet with them, so you are informed about them well enough to have a meaningful conversation that can drive effective next steps. It will also help you determine better your time horizon to success before meeting with the airline, allowing you to manage your approach to the meeting as well as manage your own expectations.
2. Introduction and Highlights
Start off with laying out briefly – and memorably – why you have requested to meet with the airline. Remember that more airports come to see an airline than an airline has aircraft for, so you have to set yourself apart from other airports who are also competing for the same, few aircraft. Therefore, why you and not somebody else?
Take 1-2 minutes – supported by data and verifiable, factual statements – laying out what makes you special by listing up to 5 highlights from your presentation. This is designed to get the airline interested in listening to you in the first place. You do not want the airline to lose interest before you get started.
3. Market Highlights
Why should an airline fly to your airport, and what makes the region your airport serves a contributor to a particular airline’s network? This means presenting credible data and information from good sources clearly. This should include key indicators such as market sizes, current supply of seats at your airport, characteristics of your local economy (and how those would drive travel on the targeted airline’s network), growth trends in your economy, economic and trade linkages.
4. Comparative Advantages
Identify your competitor airports and compare yourself against them using trusted data sources. This helps your story of demonstrating why you should be served before another destination. This section would include metrics such as market sizes, passenger characteristics, traffic flows, and economic indicators of yourself benchmarked versus competitor airports.
5. Contribution to an Airline’s Network
Identify your local market sizes as well as demand for transfer traffic to other destination through an airline’s hub. This should investigate passenger volumes as well as their value. The demand levels and spread can help identify service frequency needs while indicating the contribution your passengers would make to an airline’s overall network (the network contribution).
Looking at how passengers are travelling at the moment might be able to demonstrate that current travel paths are inconvenient and very expensive. If so, a more convenient option could stimulate demand.
6. Support Offerings
While airlines depend on the right passenger mix to deliver the revenue needs, costs are also very important. As such, you want to bring along information to the airline that lays out the cost of operating at your airport (landing fees, office rentals, etc.) as well as any passenger-related charges, including any taxes. All of these are crucial to airlines as they drive volume and yield mix as well as profit margins. In short, they are essential in order for an airline to make a business case. Therefore, lay out comprehensively aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges.
Lay out any regulatory issues that an airline might encounter. Offer assistance to overcome these, how you would assist, and time horizons for overcoming any regulatory hurdles. It is important to be honest, or lose an airline’s trust and therefore the opportunity to gain their service. Present yourself as their ally.
Increasingly, airlines will seek incentive schemes from airport to help with new routes getting started. On the cost side, these often relate to the alleviation of airport charges for 1-3 years, depending on the route.
Where possible, engage stakeholders to promote the service to visitors and the local community. Working with your tourist boards is key, especially where leisure is an important component.
Awareness of a new route is key to making it a success. As such, how can you help market the new service so that passengers, travel agents and tour operators are aware of it?
7. Agreeing Next Steps
Agree with the airline what the next steps are for you and for them. Then ensure that you deliver the additional information the airline has requested and you have committed to by the time you have agreed.
Finally, make your presentation look good. It is about being memorable and proving yourself as a trusted and professional partner. Airline-airport partnerships are long-term relationships of mutual interdependence and demonstrating to an airline that you are supportive, trustworthy partner goes a long way.