1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Colin Lewis has almost 20 years of blue-chip commercial and marketing experience gained in Australia, Asia, the UK and Ireland. His background includes travel and technology, as well as senior marketing and business development roles for Thomas Cook in Australia, Asia-Pacific and the UK. In May, Lewis was recognised as the Marketing Leader of the Year at the Marketing Institute of Ireland”s Annual Awards.
You spoke about your good business routes - can you say a bit about those, plans for new ones, and any products aimed at business travellers?
Aer Arann focuses on large UK population centres to regional Irish airports, such as Edinburgh to Cork, London Luton to Galway, and Manchester to Sligo. This 'fly direct' option gives the business customer real choice, and avoids them having to travel via major Irish airports.
Aer Arann's major business routes out of the UK are London-Galway, London-Waterford, Cardiff-Dublin, Isle of Man-Dublin and Belfast-Cork and Manchester to Galway and Waterford. These all operate at least twice daily. Interestingly, when we added capacity on some key routes - London to Galway and Waterford - increasing them to three times a day, overall [passenger] volumes and load factors rose substantially.
Within Ireland, all routes operate with business timings. For instance, we fly Dublin-Cork five times a day. And Aer Arann has tailored the product for the business customer to reduce the hassle factor ” for example, we don”t have baggage or check-in fees, our check-in time is just 30min, seating is allocated ” so there are no scrums onto the aircraft ” and we have complimentary newspapers.
We have just launched a corporate ticket book product, which enables customers to use a 'virtual' book of tickets, offering the ultimate flexibility for any business customer: any seat, any flight, no cancellation, change or other fees, and a seat can be booked 30min before closing.
Our Silver Club programme launched this year in recognition of the loyalty of our customers. It”s very simple for members to operate: there are no tiers, no points to count and no complexity. It makes our customers' lives easier, reducing the hassle of travel, and enhancing the door-to-door experience ” it includes Business lounge access, first choice of seats, zero change fees on all routes and heavier baggage allowance.
For the corporate travel agencies, Aer Arann fares are available on Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre and Worldspan. In addition, we have a tailored Corporate Travel Portal for corporate customers, which offers special discounts for corporates booking online.
Considering some say leisure traffic may be more affected by the economic downturn than corporate travel, do you have any plans to try to target business travellers more?
There is no doubt that corporate travel is more resilient in any potential downturn. Aer Arann has a deliberate strategy of building our schedule to meet the demands of the business traveller where possible. As mentioned above, we have launched products that directly cater for the needs of the business customer. With our schedule, our strategy is to build frequency up from once to twice a day, which stimulates further demand from the business traveller. For instance, out of the southwest of Ireland, we changed our timings on the Waterford to Birmingham route to enable customers to visit the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and return the same day.
What are the issues with baggage fees at the moment? What is Aer Arann's policy?
Many airlines have introduced baggage and check-in fees as a way of boosting revenues. Aer Arann has a policy of no baggage charges and no check-in fees.
Tell us about taking on Ryanair? What are your tactics? Are they working?
Aer Arann does not consider Ryanair to be a direct competitor. We focus on doing the best job we can for our customers rather than how we position ourselves against other players in the market. Comparing Aer Arann and Ryanair is like comparing apples and oranges, it's a completely different customer experience.
How do you see the general outlook for low-cost carriers ” Michael O'Leary recently predicted many will fail this winter if oil prices remain as high as they are? How is Aer Arann positioned?
Despite the increase in fuel prices, Aer Arann is in relatively good shape to cope with fuel costs in excess of $130 per barrel. While fuel prices are something we have no control over, our fuel hedging strategy and fuel-efficient aircraft have protected us. Our greatest advantage is that our aircraft, the ATR 72 and 42, have the best fuel economics in the airline industry. Our ATR aircraft use 70% less fuel burn than some other jets on our routes, and use as much fuel flying 370km (230mi) as a Boeing 747 consumes taxiing for ten minutes. As a result, Aer Arann is better insulated from the fuel price spike than other airlines.
Aer Arann is 100% e-ticketing now? What are the issues with this currently?
Aer Arann has full e-ticketing capability with Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre and Worldspan. We started the programme in early 2008, and the process has been remarkably smooth. We are particularly delighted with e-ticketing, as it enables us to offer last seat availability in all the GDSs. This has allowed us to expand our offering for customers using the online travel agencies.
Is there any other general Aer Arann news? Network expansion?
We have launched six new routes this year, we now serve six countries - Ireland, UK, France, Holland, Spain and Portugal ” and in July will start Londonderry to Dublin services twice-daily.
Congratulations on winning Marketing Leader of the Year ” what is it you like about the company and product you are selling?
Firstly, it was an honour to win the All Ireland Marketing Award ” the 'Oscars' for marketeers based in Ireland ” as it is a reflection of the hard work of the entire Aer Arann team, and the passion and commitment that we all bring. The airline business is great fun, combined with hard work, and there is nothing better than working for an airline that is respected by its customers, is fast growing and has a great future.