Strategic Planning For Your Airline

Alessandro Ciancimino

Vice President of Consulting,
Sabre Airline Solutions

Sanjay Nanda

Senior Vice President of Delivery, Care and Consulting, Sabre Airline Solutions

In today’s volatile economic and environmental conditions, every organization is compelled to transform itself amidst rising pressure from competition, advancements in technology, access to information, changing consumer behavior and increasingly complex patterns of customer demand.

Research firm Forrester recently interviewed a number of executives across multiple industries on the topic of leveraging consulting help in business transformation projects. Their findings indicated that:

  • Most executives plan to use outside consultants to gain domain knowledge. They want deep expertise in their particular processes and their industry, as well as access to more resources than are available internally.
  • External advice, to complement internal strength, is the order of the day. When asked what kind of services they want the consultants to provide, executives said they want both high-level advice and operational/tactical advice, and a significant portion want consultants to perform hands-on implementation activities.
  • Mentoring not replacing. They do not want consultants to produce out-of-the-shelf documentation or to completely takeover projects. Instead, companies look to consultants to act as advisors. Specifically customers want:
    • Validation — Executives most often know what their business problems are and have ideas of how to solve them. However, they want an objective third party to validate assumptions and help create an action plan for implementation.
    • Mentoring — Leaders want consultants to act as coaches or change agents and teach them how to do their own strategic and tactical work. Consultants need to help customers build their domain knowledge, which is necessary to make process changes and operate the new process after the engagement is completed so they don’t revert to their old ways once consultants leave.
    • Tactical assistance in the implementation phase — Businesses need consultants to help them implement the recommendations as well as measure performance results and benefits derived from the consulting projects.

At Sabre Airline Solutions®, our consultants help airlines gain domain knowledge through deep industry expertise and comprehensive industry data. We provide both strategic and tactical recommendations and further assist in implementing recommendations together with the airline, validating its ideas and mentoring as change agents.

Our basic rule is that our projects must bring both tactical improvements and strategic changes in business practices. Tactical improvements are crucial since they generate quick results that create positive momentum around the project and provide quick returns on investment. Strategic changes in business practices are key to ensure long-term and structural business improvements.

The early roots of our consulting practice were in the support of business processes and best-practice execution around the implementation of our software solutions. Over time, we realized that our experience with a very large set of airlines around the world puts us in a unique position to help customers with business problems around their own economics and the best leverage of technology to generate maximum value.

Additionally, our exposure to forward-thinking airlines, next-generation business models/ideas and our own innovations in technology has helped us accelerate results for our consulting customers.

Our consulting services address specific business challenges, opportunities and/or performance issues facing airlines. Additionally, we aim to help airlines perform strategic initiatives with the overall objective of improving their commercial performance, operational efficiency and brand differentiation to ultimately improve their customers’ experience.

Such services range from specific business initiatives in specific areas, such as network and fleet management, pricing and revenue management, alliances and partnerships, sales and distribution, e-commerce and merchandising, business intelligence and analytics, and operations management to more strategic initiatives like long-term business planning, merger and acquisition planning, and start-up business planning.

Consulting services are also provided as part of the implementation of our technology solutions, with the goal of fast tracking the adoption of the solution within the specific airline’s business environment through business process changes. This ensures rapid realization of the business benefits associated with that particular solution. This is an innovative way of deploying “solutions” that incorporate a business perspective together with the IT perspective. And it maximizes customer satisfaction by providing a measurable, quick and substantial return on investment.

We also offer operations research consulting services. We leverage new operations research-based ideas on topics of high value for airlines; these ideas and models allow airlines to maximize actions even as business models in the industry evolve.

For example, standard revenue management principles and actions have become widespread in the industry and have narrowed competitive advantage. By taking advantage of cutting-edge ideas in the same space, our airline customers can differentiate themselves and generate further revenue lifts.

Other examples include having developed methodologies to leverage Big Data, such as shopping data, to model customer choice in a competitive environment or to create fare alerts when an airline’s fare availability in a certain market at a certain point in time is uncompetitive. Many other applications in this area have been developed to address specific customer needs with customized modelling techniques.

We understand that the dynamics in the airline industry are constantly changing and presenting new challenges in the market in addition to the growing competition in the industry. To manage these and successfully grow, airlines have to balance strategic plans and actions with a need for tactical, quick-return execution. Airlines have their own growth and business goals, and the consequence of not keeping up with the pace is significant.

We pride ourselves on being a consulting practice that addresses strategic matters through tactical action plans. In fact, the strength of our consulting team spans multiple dimensions.

Exclusive Focus On The Airline Industry

We have been exclusively serving the airline industry for more than 30 years, working in every functional area within the airline business and in all regions of the world. We specialize in solving end-to-end business challenges, from startups, operational performance and network planning to partnerships and consolidations.

Our business consultants have significant industry experience on a worldwide scale. Our functional experts specialize in areas such as e-commerce and merchandizing. We’ve been there and know the challenges and opportunities airlines face.

Holistic And Collaborative Approach

When we partner with airlines, we bring a holistic perspective to identify opportunities that will drive value and result in a positive change. We’re in it for the long term, working with airlines to move from ideas to actions that will equip them to develop and realize the vision they have for their business. Our holistic perspective and cross-functional expertise within the airline business allows us to diagnose airlines’ unique challenges, customize a solution and put it into action.

Leveraging Decision-Support Solutions And Comprehensive Industry Data

We use our industry-leading decision-support and optimization solutions during the consulting engagement to provide accurate recommendations. Our data analysis is supported by the highly qualified operations research team to support industry data that might not otherwise be readily available. We have comprehensive and accurate industry data ranging from GDS data, market data, shopping data and revenue data. Such data is extensively leveraged during the engagements through our proprietary models and procedures to manage and process Big Data.

Whether the business challenge is limited to a single functional area or spans across the airline’s organization, we help airlines identify the key levers to improve business performance, increase brand presence and achieve their vision. And most importantly, we take pride in the many instances where we have demonstrated our competencies with tangible results to an airline’s bottom line.

The articles in this special section were written by our consulting leaders and provide a sampling of our strategic consulting methodologies and the benefits realized by our customers who have implemented these recommendations. We look forward to visiting with you about how we can partner together to bring greater efficiencies to your airline and help you achieve your long-term goals.

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