Azat Mulgimov, Air Charter Service: «Business aviation market is changing. Business charters will no longer be luxury»
General Director of Air Charter Service, Azat Mulgimov, is telling ABT-ACTE Russia about the importance of charters for business travel and about the current situation in the air charter market.
Azat Faridovich, please tell us about aviabroker functions. Isnt it more convenient for a business traveller to deal with an airline directly?
When a traveller decides that a regular flight does not suit him and books a charter, he can turn to an airline ticket broker as well as to the airline itself, there are no limitations in this case. But many airlines do not have client account managers, it is not cost-efficient for them to have one more department. They have an operations department, responsibilities of which include arrangement of flights, but they are arranged on the technical level. Most customers will not simply understand their professional language and technical aspects airline managers usually need to know. It is important to speak with the customer in his language and about what he is interested in. The main function of a broker is to establish appropriate communication with both parties: provide comfort for the customer at all the stages of flight arrangement and execution and send the right request to the airline. Can we say that a broker fulfills the function of customer manager outsourcing for the airline? In general, yes. The broker also looks for the optimum variant for the customer and spares him the need to call ten airlines and to make a hard choice.
Are there any special electronic applications in the market for charter arrangement and booking?
Nowadays there are electronic applications for anything. If you have a smartphone, you can order anything from anywhere. Any earnest company is willing to offer its customers mobile service. Air Charter Service also has such an application and it is quite popular, by the way. But even if you use this application, a manager will contact you to ask for more details and offer other variants. The reason is that business aviation market has a million nuances that may change even every hour. For example, plain availability in the departure airport: an hour ago it could be idle and now it is taking some lucky guy to the Côte dAzur. Or there may be individual requirements regarding meals on board. Nowadays there are no applications that are dynamic and flexible enough to follow the situation, so they offer an average price for an average offer. Attempts are made regularly to develop a more or less convenient aggregator of private aviation like Anywayanyday.com or Onetwotrip.com. We often see articles in aviation and would-be aviation media about new services that will allow customers to forget about brokers. «Why should you pay commission? The age of brokers has passed.» But our experience has shown that these very brokers with their commissions are behind these services and nothing really changes for the customer. It is a marketing tool which can not even be called successful, judging by our sales growth.
What shall a business traveller do if his charter is cancelled? Is there a universal procedure or is every situation unique?
If we speak about charters, everything is unique. A charter can be cancelled only by the customer himself, if he has changed his mind. In this case a standard fine system comes into play. But usually, if the flight was cancelled in due time, the customer will have no financial losses. If it is a force majeure situation caused by the technical condition of the aircraft, the customer is offered another equivalent plane or a plane, the class of which is not lower. All these situations are stipulated by the agreement.
What are the prospects of air charter market growth in Russia? How has the demand for this service changed for the past few years in this country? Are there any changes within the framework of world trends?
The air charter market in Russia is large, but not so structured like in western countries. It refers both to individual and group charters. The main difference is that in western countries charters are regarded as an expensive, but a feasible service where it is necessary, and in Russia they are unattainable luxury for the few chosen ones. By the way, prices do not differ, the difference is in the attitude. But peoples attitude can be influenced in many ways, including ABTs efforts to create the civilized business travel market.
Has the political situation in the Ukraine affected charter flights?
Definitely. Many airlines refuse to go to this region for safety reasons and because of insurance limitations. In this situation brokers are not only agents who find the few available airlines that can make the flight, but also play the role of a warrantor for the customer.
I would like to talk more about charters for business travellers. What are the types of these charters?
This is a very broad theme and one interview is not enough for it, I am afraid. You can find detailed information on all existing charter types and opportunities for business travellers on our website www.aircharter.ru.
What is the situation like in the business charter market in Russia and what are its prospects?
As I have already mentioned, Russian business aviation market is large, but not structured, it is raw. There are large reputable players, smaller companies and tiny «single person» companies. As the customer does not know the difference, airlines have to compete with their rates. But such a situation is harmful for any industry and the market will either cure itself sooner or later or collapse. As long as there are people and organizations that want the market to function properly and bring profit to all the parties engaged in it, it will not collapse. I think, natural profound changes will take place in business aviation in the next five years. Customer attitude to business charters will change from luxury to a business necessity in the same way it happened to iPhone and other Apple products some time ago. Only large trustworthy players that understand the importance of service and customer needs will be left, and others will either leave or have to lift their service level to that of the leader. All this will definitely affect the overall development of client oriented market.