Aviation Management Conference

“Transfer your knowledge, before you retire, think of ways to transfer your knowledge, your career is otherwise not complete” – Joris Cavelaars, Aviation Management Conference 2009

On the 9th of December, the 6th Annual Aviation Management Conference was held. Shifts in Aviation.

Opening Speech

The conference started with a speech from the general manager at Aviation Studies, Philip Weersma. Mr. Weersma welcomed all attendees, and explained what Aviation Studies was about, and that this study is growing, with 420 first year students this year, compared to 150 four years ago. With his final words ‘I hope you make a lot of new friends and sustain the friendships you have, Welcome!’ the conference really began.

Trends in the Aviation Industry

The first guest speaker, Laurie N. Price, was probably one of the most talented speakers I ever met. Laurie N. Price is the director of Aviation Strategy for Mott MacDonald, a regular Chairman and presenter at conferences on all aspects of aviation. Laurie is also a private pilot, fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a visiting professor at London Metropolitan University.

Laurie had the rooms attention from the start, with lots of praise for the Aviation Management course, since he himself employs a former student from Aviation Management, but then he made a slight change of direction by asking us, students:

‘Why on earth do you want to go on into this industry?!  There are strikes, there is the environmental impact problem, airlines are losing money, volcanic ash – it’s a basket case. However, you young people are looking for a challenge, diversity and opportunities, that’s why you young people want a career. Aviation management is a great course, I can see that the industry will be in very good hands, all I need to do is see deliver. The problem is that people don’t like change, for example, like the losses with volcanic ash. I am now going through my 5th recession, I am starting to take these recessions personally, I think retirement is knocking. However profit is returning and the industry is growing. Demand for aviation will increase, however there is new capacity needed at airports, changes to the way airspace is managed. They say we have to be ‘better, but not bigger’ how are we gonna be better without more capacity. Also, aviation is misjudged, air transport is now carrying more passengers and freight with less noise, less emissions and less costs and fuel. Does anyone challenge the agricultural industry? It’s all horses for courses.

The media, well no one ever forgets the United Airlines guitar story, good news spread quickly, but so bad news. Also, aviation is developing and growing, we are soon close to being able to check in with our mobiles, it would get rid of paper, but what if you forgot to charge it?

The industry must start speaking with one voice.’

Laurie’s speech was very interesting, and how he delivered the information to the audience was great, with stories, comments, ideas, and current issues. Laurie immediately got my attention, and I jotted down, on my notes ‘Must speak to him!’

Chinese Facts and Figures and the Future Travel Market

Stefan Brand thanked Laurie for his speech, and got on the stand to present his research on the Chinese travel market. Interesting choice, not something I would come up with. I did learn a lot I didn’t know from his speech however. I’m not that big on numbers, but did you know there were 147,000 Chinese tourists in 2009 in the Netherlands, and, according to Stefan’s research, a growth of 9% every year? The Chinese are also the second largest non-European group visiting our country, with the USA being the largest group, with 750,000 tourists visiting the Netherlands. I remember when I lived in Arkansas, and I mentioned I came from Amsterdam, all the questions I got were on weed and the red light district, which Stefan said were one of the reasons tourists came to the Netherlands, oh yeah, and tulips, (tulips?!). Stefan’s question for his research was if the Chinese would overrun the Netherlands and he researched this, on five depending factors, the middle class, foreign government policy, economic growth, airport demand, and aircraft demand. China is investing in airports, and already have their own aircraft. To conclusion, Stefan said that if there is a 15% growth, there will be ‘no overruning’ however, if growth does continue into 20 years, ‘overrunning’ may be the case. With his final question, ‘What is the point of entering Europe?’ he closed his speech.

My interest in the Chinese market didn’t particularly grow, in my opinion, I don’t think, or never thought the Chinese tourist market would overrun the Netherlands, but hey, I never researched the possibility.

Coffee Break

Coffee break was announced, and since one of my friends ‘forgot’ his breakfast on his kitchen counter, he ran for some food – cookies. With enough coffee, and cookies we all started discussing the speeches, and since it seems impossible to avoid in a conversation full of men other than me, all the ‘hot’ ladies walking around. Some left to try their luck on the ladies, or on the speakers, and I left to speak to Rob Huizing, whom I met a year ago. Rob Huizing has good advice about solicitations and Curriculum vitae. I asked all my questions about curriculum vitae, interviews, networking, what to say and what not to say, since I am still looking for an internship, and I will be applying for Aviation Management in May. Either way, you can never have too much advice. After a bit more of talking we were all asked to return to our seats for the following speeches.

Legacy Meets Low Cost

The next speaker Anjali Ori had researched ‘Legacy meets Low Cost Carriers.’ She discussed the struggles and whether or not it was possible to have a partnership, mentioning the ‘leader in aviation, the USA.’ Furthermore, the frequent flyer agreement, and how miles and points were attained was presented. Anjali Ori made a clear statement saying that ‘Low cost is definitely a competition for legacy.’ However, legacy is responding with more advertising, but low cost carriers, are responding back with more advertising aswell. With her final statement ‘It is better to act than to react.’ her fellow researcher, Tim van den Akker, continued the speech.

Tim van den Akker focused on the future relationship between Low Cost Carriers and Legacy Carriers. For there to be a future in this partnership, baggage transfers, different agreements, and flying from primary airport were important factors. The possible future was either no cooperation, or cooperation. The first option, no cooperation, was for the Legacy carrier to be in control, this would happen by buying seat capacity from the Low Cost Carriers. The second option was a cooperation. Both carriers would be responsible for Pax, both carriers would agree that the Low Cost Carrier will contribute to feeding the legacy carrier. There would be a fundamental change in the business model, codesharing, and/or interlining agreement.

With the question, will one plus one then be three? The presentation was finished.

Single European Sky

Bianca de Wit was the next speaker, it was her first time at a Aviation Management Conference. Bianca de Wit works at Air Traffic Control, the Netherlands. At the moment she is the Functional Airspace Block Europe Central project leader for ATC The Netherlands. With a positive voice, and smile, she started her presentation.

In aviation there is a capacity challenge, traffic is growing faster than capacity. There is also a safety challenge, if the traffic doubles, the safety should quadruple. Why is there a capacity challenge? Fragmentation of airspace. Routes are on average 49 km too long, this is due to military airspace. This results in more fuel, more CO2 is produced per flight, extra distance, and more costs for the airline. There are also performance and environmental challenges. Functional Airspace block has a cooperation between military and civil ATC, improves performance, is obligatory as of 2012 and has to lead to defragmentation. After a few more explanations of the airspace, and military and civil ATC, Bianca de Wit stated that ‘We are looking at solutions across the border.’

Fast Point-to-Point Travel

Spaceports. Enough said, you could say. With a short introduction by a student, Ronald Heister was introduced as the next speaker. Ronald Heister is the founder of his own Public Relations Company, based in Amsterdam. In 2008 Ronald founded Your Galaxy, the first tourism agency specialized in space tourism in the Benelux, representing amongst others, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic as Accredited Space Agent. In 2010 Ronald Heister became Director general of the International Space Transport Association.

A short (although Ronald said it was long) film was played before his speech, on ISTA. This film was interesting, for me, and got me curious about spaceports, and all around it. Speakers from all over the world were filmed, and there opinions on the possibilities of flying up in space. I am not really that keen on flying into space, it’s a nice idea, but it’s not on my to-do list.  He started off by asking how many people had interest in working in commercial space, and only 7 people in the whole room raised their hands (I kept mine neatly on my lap, quite grounded actually). Ronald mentioned that ‘throughout history, the Dutch have always been ahead of time.’ Through his speech you could clearly see Ronald was thinking ahead, and had big plans. One thing he said, which I find true, is that if you want to be succesful you need passionate people from all over the world – well said!  ISTA is a big company and he mentioned all the steps or procedures that had to be made, and all the laws that  still had to be followed. For example, that insurance is important, and without insurance, there is no business.

Charles J. Lauer continued the speech, who is co-founder and Vice President of Business Development of Rocketpland Global, Inc. Charles had an American Accent, from the south, which I recognized immediately and was nice hearing again. Charles was both very direct and clear. He mentioned that when he was 12 he already expected this to happen, he said ‘Ofcoarse, it’s obvious this is gonna happen in 40 years.’ Charles further talked about the idea, and that it’s a known market, if the lawyer can send his packet the same day, and know it will arrive the same day, instead of knowing it will arrive 3 days later, of coarse he will pay 300 euros instead of 100 euros. Yeah… Would you?

Charles changed the question of how many people would want to work in commercial space, to how many people would want to travel to space,  there was more interest here, almost everyone raised their hands. Mine remained put on my lap. For some reason, it doesn’t catch my attention.

Their speech, of Ronald and Charles was interesting, learned allot about the spaceports, and their whole idea, and why it’s interesting to people. Despite me not having much interest in space, I must say they did give a good and interesting presentation, and, despite my ‘disinterest’ it made me google spaceports and space last night.


Lunch! At this point, I thought everyone was hungry, the conference room was empty within seconds and the lunch line grew. I saw my chance to meet Laurie N. Price, and have a chat with him about the United Airlines guitar story. Like I thought, Laurie was also very easy to talk to, and very enthusiastic. I handed him my CV with contact information, so he could contact me if he wishes, for any internship opportunities, and, not to my surprise, when I left to get my lunch, he was swarmed by other students for a chat. There was enough to talk about and everyone chatted with everyone, before we knew it, we were called back to the conference room.

Every Passenger a VIP

Social Media! The subject of the next presentation was ‘Every Passenger a VIP.’ With a terrific start, a short film about how passengers, nowadays feel, hours waiting before we can board, traffic, feel like we are squished into a box in a plane before landing, waiting again for luggage, and back into a long wait in traffic, the speech started. I have traveled  allot, but I must say, I never felt like that, I enjoyed and still enjoy traveling. I have lost my baggage quite a few times, some were never found, others I had to pick up after a few weeks, but somehow, traveling still seems nice. So, this short film, kind of got me thinking – yeah it maybe does actually feel like that!

Esther Lap, made the connection that packages are handled like VIP packages, why not passengers? Then came the interesting part and connection of Social Media and aviation. She mentioned how Hyves has been a big hit, by the donor stunt that took place a few months ago. Everyone who had a Hyves account, got a message asking if they would be a donor, and this was a great success. This stunt from Hyves came in the news, and pretty quickly everyone was talking about it. Another good stunt (which I am very happy with!) was Youp van ‘t Hek and Twitter. You van ‘t Hek decided to do something about the customer service from T-mobile. He managed to kill the reputation of a beer brand from Holland a few years ago, so T-mobile kind of saw what was coming. Within a few days Youp van ‘t Hek got many followers, and people telling them the problems they have encountered with T-mobile customer service (if I start mentioning the problems I have had, I would need to start another blog). However, this stunt worked, and T-mobile’s customer service reputation was killed. I do remember, when I was at work, we had a problem with the tv’s at the gym, we called their customer service, and after a long time of going back a forth, my colleague finally said: Are you gonna solve my problem or should I call Youp van ‘t Hek? And, within seconds, we were helped, so that stunt was a success aswell. With social media you have access throughout the whole travel process, to complain, or like.

Anna Ketting, Manager Social Media within KLM, was the next speaker, with a terrific presentation on social media and KLM. She started from zero, explaining Facebook and Twitter (for those people who never heard of it – is that possible?). Social media exists at KLM one year and a half. The reason? All lines (call lines) were jammed, and she thought, is social media a solution? And, so the whole thing started, KLM has people working behind Twitter 24/7 helping customers, and people who are traveling. KLM also thought how they could show their appreciation of customers twittering or posting on Facebook about KLM. They look for traveling customers who check in via FourSquare into any place at KLM, or people tweeting or posting on Facebook about KLM, and try to find the customer so that they could receive a gift card or something els, a little something to show their appreciation. It was nice to see how social media worked. Anna then continued on to the subject from every passenger a VIP, how is that possible? Really listen to the customer. Answer questions, don’t tell them where to look – answer their question. If the customer has a problem, solve it.

Anna further continued explaining how KLM keeps things safe, on what stuff to tweet, and what not to. Anna said there is a very thin line between information and being informative. KLM has a page that advises what to tweet and what not to. KLM also deletes any tweets that have flight information about a passenger.

To follow KLM, click here http://twitter.com/KLM (they give discounts and freebies to followers – so, follow!)

I follow KLM aswell, and every morning check my twitter to see what’s up in the world, and see that KLM is very informative on what is happening, delays, or any other news are posted daily. It was very interesting to see how social media and KLM started and where all those tweets were coming from.

Anna Ketting was on a tight schedule I think, because after the question session, she almost immediately left, not wanting to miss my chance of any possible internships in Social Media within KLM, I ran after her so I could give her my CV. She took my CV and said thanks – mission accomplished! Only now, keep my fingers crossed, hoping to receive an e-mail or something!

Joris Cavelaars had the ‘closure’ speech, thanking everyone. A few good words, on what qualities an Aviation Management student should have:

Take responsibility

Don’t be afraid of a challenge

Know what you’re talking about

But, that goes for you too 😉


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