BusinessDay

Airlines can mitigate costs by implementing tech solutions – AeroCRS CEO.

Meir Hadassi Turner is the founder & CEO of AeroCRS, a travel solutions company focused on helping airlines expand their regional sales reach to improve the carrier’s distribution and retailing strategy as it prepares to extend its route network throughout Africa. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, he speaks on how airlines leverage technology to operate profitably.

Can you take us through the journey of AeroCRS? What services do you offer, and since what year did you commence operations?

Founded in 2006, Israel-based AeroCRS offers several travel-related products, including inventory management, reservations, and flight/fare management technology. AeroCRS’s product suite has evolved significantly over the last two years as stakeholders in the aviation industry reevaluated their partnerships and distribution strategies. With cloud-based and NDC level 4 technology at its heart, AeroCRS already hosts 90 airlines worldwide, with eight more in advanced implementation.
In May 2022, the company was acquired by 777 Partners, a Miami-based alternative investment firm with a diversified travel technology portfolio, to support the company’s ambitious technology strategy focused on delivering solutions that create new commerce channels for travel companies and improve next-generation retailing, distribution, interlining, and passenger connectivity.

Recently, AeroCRS partnered with Fly540, East Africa’s premier low-cost airline. What does this partnership entail?
The partnership will enable Fly540 to broaden its international footprint as it prepares to expand its route network throughout Africa. This will be achieved through successfully migrating to the AeroCRS Passenger Service System (PSS) and the AeroCRS Network. With AeroCRS, Fly540 will benefit from a new network and ancillary marketplace to reach new audiences and drive incremental revenue through online travel agencies, meta-search engines, and other aggregators while enhancing how it manages its passenger’s relationships.

As a travel solutions company focused on helping airlines expand their regional sales reach, how can you achieve this for airlines?
Airlines choose us because the AeroCRS one-stop solution includes all the essential functions of airline operations. We specifically focus on finding ways to free airlines from the constraints of their legacy systems, which typically lack the modern and flexible code base that carriers need to implement cross-functional processes, adapt to constantly evolving consumer needs, and available revenue channels beyond conventional ancillaries. More importantly, AeroCRS helps carriers expand their regional sales reach through a network based on global API integrations to over 20 distribution channels that enable airlines to distribute more broadly to new audiences and drive incremental revenue.

Any deliberate efforts to reach African airlines with these offerings?

AeroCRS is targeting customers worldwide, yet Africa, where we grow from, is a beautiful market for us; we see many growth opportunities in Africa, and we have many esteemed customers there due to the flexibility of our software to adapt to their model, a few examples are the variety of safari operators that we have on our system. The system enables them to work not just as a point-to-point airline but also to operate efficiently within the safari camps, providing safari operators the ease of booking and operations.

The AeroCRS UI of the back office allows small carriers to implement the system within one week, our distribution network takes care of the rest, and the airline team can focus on operations.

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Nigeria is currently the fastest growing economy in Africa and the most populous in Africa, which implies a considerable travel market. Any plans to tap into this market shortly?

We are already there. Overland is one of our customers, and they are using the system in growing numbers. We are helping them in several of their distribution and growth elements; the team is working with the airline to help them utilize the system to its best; for sure, we see Nigeria as one of the best growing markets in Africa on passenger numbers and working with other partners in the country to implement our system and distribution capabilities.

Airlines are still recovering from the impact of Covid-19. The Russia-Ukraine crisis is currently causing aviation fuel scarcity globally, thereby increasing airlines’ troubles. As a travel solutions company, how would you advise struggling airlines, especially in Nigeria, to remain profitable now?

Airlines’ main focus should be their distribution and system capabilities. To remain profitable, airlines must take advantage of advanced features of systems. A few examples are the use of BI for decision making; when you have a business intelligence system that can highlight for the airline the load factor and the profit from every route even to the future, you can make smarter decisions such as usage of lower capacity airplanes for specific routes, change of pricing or closure of a course well in advance, needless to say, that AeroCRS supplies a BI system out of the box for airlines… on another note, we see a massive change on the passenger booking behavior after COVID, airlines need to allow more flexibility for passengers on changing their routes, either from a policy change at the airline or the ability for technology to support this factor.

How do you help airlines leverage technology advantages to mitigate operational costs at these times?

We focus on helping airlines distribute more broadly to new audiences and drive incremental revenue. Reaching new markets by implementing cost-efficient tech solutions while reducing risks is a step in the right direction to mitigating operational costs.
What are some of the success stories of AeroCRS? Would you like to share some of the challenges and efforts to mitigate these challenges?

Our most recent success story is helping South African carrier LIFT implement a complete package solution to get the airline up and running in less than 90 days. This meant delivering an all-in-one solution that would fit its budget and support all the functions essential to airline operations. These included inventory management, reservations and routes management, fares management, B2C, B2B, DCS, FPP, reporting, and GDS and OTA integrations.

The launch timeline was a big challenge, but we finished it on time and within budget. Another challenge with the project was the airline’s request to create a unique customer loyalty program with an integrated digital wallet that would allow passengers to add extras seamlessly, rebook to add amenities, rebook seamlessly, and change validates toes to add extras, rebook, and change flight dates seamlessly. This wasn’t one of our core features, so we had to innovate around our existing system to create what the customer needed. This is how the LIFT Wallet came to life. The wallet technology enables the airline to create a new source of positive cash flow from existing operations, as funds deposited by customers into their LIFT Wallets are received and held by the airline. LIFT can also see how much customers have deposited in their Wallets and their redemption and earning activity using the AeroCRS back-end system to manage the program. LIFT has achieved solid results and positive customer feedback since its launch – so AeroCRS was undoubtedly the right fit!

What is the next big thing for AeroCRS? Plans for the next ten years?

With the acquisition by 777 Partners and the joint forces with Worldticket and ABB, we plan to offer airlines even more flexibility in their product and new innovative developments alongside new distribution capabilities; we firmly believe that operating an airline should be the focus of the team working locally. They should define their distribution strategy; once that’s done, a supportive partner should be able to execute at speed and ease for airlines, and that’s precisely where we are right now and aim to be even more innovative in this; a good example is the connectivity of different models allowing airlines to connect at almost a click of a button, expanding their route network.

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