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How outsourcing can help save the air transport sector

Posted 25 October 2020 · Add Comment

Peter Mohring, Managing Director of Transport, Serco Middle East, explores why it has never been timelier for the air transport sector to embrace outsourcing to help with post pandemic recovery.


The world as we know it has changed. Gone are the days when travel was as simple as jumping on a plane; now we are living in an entirely different world.

Of course, there is a fundamental need to operate differently, the old ways of doing things no longer apply and the rule book for the transport industry has changed beyond belief. But now as economies slowly start to normalise and we are able to travel again – albeit in a social distanced way – how do businesses and governments need to adapt? How do we adjust workflows and utilise technology to ultimately deliver the greatest customer experience in an age where everything has changed?

Clearly we need to reimagine the transport sector.

Aviation operators, airlines and airports need to make financial efficiencies across the board. At the same time they are still looking to maintain and of course exceed levels of customer service, and this is all whilst they are operating in a completely new environment where health has never been so much on the public’s agenda. A new environment necessitates a new way of working, outsourcing has the potential to deliver critical value to support the sector more than ever during this time, offering specialised expertise, flexibility, cost efficiencies and technological solutions to aid collaborative decision making.

Is the aviation industry ready for take-off again?

To understand the potential for outsourcing when it comes to transport, we must first examine the context. As one of the first industries affected, overnight the pandemic sent the aviation industry into crisis mode, with overall air traffic levels down by about 80 percent globally. This obviously came with a huge economic price tag for the industry and all its adjacent segments, such as tourism, hospitality and supply chains that depend on and support the sector. Unsurprisingly cost cutting measures have seen the halting of recruitment and training, reducing workforces, and the cancelling of contracts.

But despite this, what we have seen is the resilience and adaptability of the sector. It has forced us as well to reimagine outsourcing, and it has stressed the need for service providers to adapt to deliver even greater value than ever.

Across the entire transport ecosystem clients are looking for three things: flexibility, scalability and innovative ways of reducing costs, whilst not degrading a service. That is why outsourcing is so crucial when it comes to the transport sector, because it enables the client to be efficient and do what they do best, which is running the business, whilst the service provider delivers what they do best – delivering an outstanding customer centric service.

It allows clients to keep the core team focused on the recovery strategy, and weather fluctuations in the market, as the outsourcer carries all the risk on resources and service requirements. In an airport capacity for example, it gives the opportunity for the client to reduce OpEx costs and utilise a provider with a proven track record to improve customer service delivery.

Optimising asset lifecycle management

One thing that can be leveraged through the outsourcer’s expertise is their ability to bring with them and put in place the latest policy, processes, procedures, technologies and people that drive energy efficiency, operational efficiency, cost optimisation and optimised capex and opex costs generated by assets throughout their lifecycle.

One way to enable this is through digital asset management, which focuses on leveraging data and technology to drive informed decision making in the asset management life cycle. It’s about understanding the economic and useful life of assets, when it comes to driving improved asset performance that reduces risk. By bringing in the latest techniques when it comes to automation, data analysis and AI, information can be analysed to help clients with better insights to make better decisions and deliver greater value in a cost effective and sustainable way.

Currently, when it comes to operations and maintenance services, we see airports and airlines still on their asset management maturity curve moving from Time and usage based PPM schedules (where maintenance is still deemed as an expense) through to CBM, RBM towards Predictive and presecriptive methodologies for enabling maintenance where maintenance starts to materialize itself as an investment to the business.

Can outsourcing positively impact passenger experience?

Ultimately, now more than ever, the customer experience is key and outsourcing has great ability to deliver value through utilising companies who specialise in experience When it comes to aviation, passengers are feeling very insecure about the whole experience, so the more that the travel industry can do to make them feel comfortable and safe, the quicker people are going to come back and get that confidence to travel again. Consistency is the watch word here and this is especially important when it comes to customers getting the right information, experience and having the right expectations – even if they have to change.

The outsourcer will bring with them an outsider’s view and therefore a fresh perspective. Whether it’s a passenger or a customer experience, specialists are looking at this across a number of different industries and learnings and examples of best practice are being taken. Keeping people feeling safe and protected in a mall for example can be reapplied to other areas; whether it's on the metro or at an airport. The combination of having that customer experience capability as well as the operational side and the ability to implement this experience will deliver a greater impact in the current world.

Having an excellent customer approach has always been critical, but now more than ever it is vital to the future of the transport sector. Dealing with new rules and regulations may be subject to change, but one thing that can be controlled is how we negotiate and manage this. Leveraging best practice examples, implementing technology and having a consistency of excellent service is key to creating a sustainable transport model. We are living in a world where it is travel 2.0; and in fact working collaboratively with service providers will help reimagine and drive forward the sector.

Peter Mohring, managing director, transport, Serco Middle East (IMAGE - Serco)

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