What We’re Made Of is a Q&A series that looks at how companies in the aviation industry are tackling challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt to changes in where, when and how we work, but we are resilient. If you would like to share your experience, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founder & CEO, Future Travel Experience
Day 19 of working from home
Date of writing: April 14
Are you in lockdown right now?
Where are you writing from?
We converted our garage into an extra room, which my wife led me to believe would be a man cave, but in the end, became a wife/kids den, which I imagine is what she always intended it to be!
How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
Thankfully, Meet by Google was already our established platform for online engagement between FTE Innovation & Startup Hub members, and it has been invaluable internally, recently, too.
Have you or anyone you know been directly affected by COVID-19?
Sadly, we lost my grandma to COVID-19 a couple of weeks back. She was 93 with health problems and went peacefully in the hospital, so that provided some comfort to the family.
What news outlets are you following?
BBC and APEX Media, of course.
“Industry events, where you can meet and build relationships with hundreds of people in one trip, will become even more essential and valued.”
How are you passing time?
I have been incredibly busy reimagining and launching new plans for the FTE portfolio, but I did watch Tiger King, and over the four-day Easter weekend, binge watched the latest series of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Describe where your business was at the end of 2019. What were your goals/projections for 2020?
By the end of 2019, I felt we were in a really good place. We announced our marriage with APEX in the spring and finished the year with FTE APEX Asia Expo in Singapore. That event enjoyed huge growth in attendance – and airline participation – which showed the tie-up was really working. Our ambition and expectation was that that growth would continue across the portfolio in 2020.
Can you share some specific challenges your business has faced as a result of the outbreak? How did you overcome them and how can the industry learn from your experiences?
We had to make some tough decisions on cutbacks and furloughing, but we were completely transparent with our staff so they understood the rationale. From there, we forged a new strategy together to get the very best ideas and be sure everyone believed in them, too. When I talk to others in the industry, I am surprised at how much uncertainty there is still among many organizations. My advice is always be completely transparent with staff, which I think is rare. They will appreciate it, and they deserve it!
How can we, as an industry, work together and rebound from this unprecedented crisis?
My constant frustration in air-transport is the lack of meaningful collaboration. Everybody talks about it, but very few truly practice it. This is a time when the industry should be engaging with each other to plan how it needs to change for this new era. I don’t believe that is happening on the scale it should yet. But I am very proud that the FTE Innovation & Startup Hub is driving a lot of meaningful dialogue between our 15 corporate airline and airport members right now, and that the upcoming FTE APEX virtual events on post-COVID-19 airports, aircraft and ancillary innovation will bring air-transport stakeholders together to look at the future collectively.
What’s one thing that will never be the same again for commercial aviation?
I think business travel will struggle to get back to where it was in the Western world as this lockdown has shown that many meetings can be conducted virtually without having to fly halfway around the world. Face-to-face engagement is incredibly important and should never be jettisoned, but I think people will have to do far more to justify the time out the office now, which will inevitably lead to less trips. On the plus side for FTE and APEX, I think industry events, where you can meet, and build relationships, with hundreds of people in one trip will become even more essential, and valued.