A quick chat with... Azim Barodawala

Volantio's technology is helping airlines to maximise unit revenues and decrease costs, while also enabling them to avoid potentially embarrassing PR disasters. Routesonline spoke to Azim Barodawala about the company and how the aviation industry is responding to digitalisation.

Azim BarodawalaAzim Barodawala is the chief executive and co-founder of Volantio, a travel technology company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Ahead of his participation at World Routes 2017, Routesonline caught up with him to get his views on how airlines and airports are responding to advances in digital technology. 

How is digital helping to change the aviation industry?

The interesting thing is that digital can me so many different things.  For some airlines, "digital" simply means being able to process online payments on the website. For others "digital" may mean deep personalisation, knowing, for example, that your preferred seat is always 1K, and that you like camomile tea shortly after takeoff. 

Broadly speaking, though, I'd say that digital is allowing airlines to be able to roll out new products and improve the quality of service to passengers at a pace not experienced in the past, leading to incredibly amazing improvements in customer experience and hopefully a decrease in operational costs as well.

Are enough airlines/airports embracing the possibilities offered by new technologies?

No. I believe that airlines have a natural aversion to risk (as they should, given that safety is the first priority of any airline). However, airlines needs to learn to differentiate risk, in order to truly benefit from the possibilities offered by digital innovation. 

Additionally, airlines typically require very lengthy internal approval processes, creating a whole bunch of red tape that needs to be navigated before any new, innovative idea can get off the ground. This completely kills the innovative spirit of your employees, and leads to stasis over time. 

The best airlines in the world are those who have found ways around these roadblocks, and ideally have found ways to partner with smaller start-ups to bring the best ideas into their airlines quickly.

How can Volantio's platform benefit airlines? And what are the risks involved?

We've built a mechanism that allows airlines to dynamically re-accommodate passengers between flights. The platform can be triggered for revenue reasons - for example, a flight may appear to be in a spillage situation and the airline might want to move a few passengers from the higher load factor flight to an alternative, in order to recapture some of the high-margin, last minute revenue that they might have otherwise have lost. 

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Customers benefit by finding out days in advance of departure about an opportunity to earn some benefit in exchange for their flexibility.  And the airline benefits through the generation of incremental revenue.

We can also trigger the platform to mitigate denied boarding situations. For example, on an oversold flight, the platform can take the "live gate auction" process that so many passengers hate and make it a silent process executed via mobile. This leads to a much better customer experience, and also a reduction in operational costs, call center volumes, and front line stress for our airline partners.

Finally, the platform can be used in situations of irregular operations. If an aircraft has a mechanical issue and a flight needs to be cancelled, our platform can quickly notify all passengers on board and re-accommodate them onto alternatives. The airline benefits through a simplification of the operational processes, and customers benefit through a much more seamless experience. 

What has been your biggest achievement so far this year?

Getting our Yana platform off the ground and launched was a big achievement for the company.

Are you looking forward to World Routes, and why?

Absolutely! This will be the third year in a row that we will attend. I really enjoy the opportunity - particularly in the conference programme - to hear perspectives from airline leaders, and understand some of the key issues that are on their minds.

What helps you get away from the pressure of work?

I like to listen to podcasts and watch TV, when I get a chance!

Azim Barodawala is the chief executive and co-founder of Volantio. Prior to Volantio, Azim served as group head of strategy for the Jetstar Group based in Melbourne, Australia. He also spent more than three years working for The Boston Consulting Group, with a particular focus on travel and transportation. At World Routes 2017, he will be participating in the 'How digital will reshape aviation by 2020' session.


World Routes 2017

The 23rd World Route Development Forum
Barcelona, Catalonia • 23 - 26 September 2017

Confirmed speakers include: 

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

CEO
IAG

Olivier

Olivier Jankovec

Director General
ACI Europe

Vincent Hodder

Vincent Hodder

Chief Commercial Officer 
Flybe

View the programme

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