UNSW aviation conference to land heavily on COVID impact

THE INTERNATIONAL AVIATION conference being hosted by the UNSW School of Aviation this weekend will touch down on the global impact of COVID-19 on the industry.

The 24th Annual Air Transport Research Society (ATRS) three-day conference runs online from August 27-29, featuring international experts. It will feature the latest research on airport efficiency, air transport economics and airline management as well as results of the ATRS airport benchmarking report, outlining the productivity of the world’s airports. 

The conference was postponed last year due to COVID-19 and will be held online for more than 400 attendees for the first time in its history.

Head of the UNSW School of Aviation, professor Gabriel Lodewijks, is an expert in aviation logistics and technology and he beleives it can help to kick-start the 'next generation' of global aviation.

“Now is the time to discuss how the industry can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, how to address the environmental impact of aviation and to show the world how this crisis creates opportunities for the next generation in aviation,” Prof. Lodewijks said.

Conference chairman and honorary senior lecturer with the UNSW School of Aviation, Ian Douglas said some international markets were reopening after border closures brought international aviation to a standstill in early 2020.

“The grounding of many Airbus A380 and Boeing B747 jets will change the shape of international travel as markets emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns, with a lesser focus on mega-hubs a likely outcome,” Dr Douglas said. He is a foremost expert on air transport regulation and airline market development, with a focus on ASEAN aviation.

ATRS president and expert in operations and logistics in the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Colombia, Prof. Anming Zhang said the post-pandemic industry development depended largely on the resilience of the entire aviation supply chain, including airlines and airports.

“These external shocks will reoccur in the future, perhaps taking on a new form, so the most important consideration is to ensure that the entire system is resilient,” Prof. Zhang said.

“The industry will be impacted, but we must try to minimize the damage. On the other hand, air travel contributed to the spread of a local epidemic to a global pandemic.

“So in the future we must consider how to cut off or minimise this potential channel.

“We hope the scientific ideas discussed and exchanged in this conference can contribute towards a better understanding of these important problems.”

The ATRS welcome address will feature the dean of UNSW Science, Prof Emma Johnston, Prof Anming Zhang, Prof. Gabriel Lodewijks and Dr Ian Douglas on August 27 from 3.45 pm. 

The  ATRS keynote speach is by Dhruv Gupta, the chief aviation officer at Sydney Airport, on August 27 from 4pm-4.45pm. This will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr Ian Douglas and featuring international operations and aviation development manager at Tourism Australia, Trent Banfield, along with head of strategy at Virgin Australia, Alistair Hartley.



Aviation tech leader Monarc Global joins forces with global company Portside

MONARC GLOBAL is already a world leader in providing technology solutions for aircraft owners and operators. The Australian company’s new partnership with global aviation tech group Portside is going to provide extra lift for Monarc’s international ambitions.

Monarc Global CEO Royce Crown said his company was “excited to announce” its partnership with Portside, one of the world’s leading companies in aviation technology.

The new partnership will allow aircraft owners and operators to have a more comprehensive and robust solution to their business operations by enabling them to price accurately with Monarc Global’s Travech system and manage prices using the Portside platform.

Portside recently raised US$17 million to grow its cloud-based software. With offices located in Houston, Hong Kong, London and San Paolo, Portside’s integrated platform for business aviation allows operators to have permission-based access to live schedule, maintenance, finance and expense data 24/7.

In addition, the Portside platform allows for better insights, more intelligent workflows, effective automation and fewer errors, Mr Crown said. 

“Our goal is to streamline and provide impactful solutions for the aviation industry, particularly aircraft operators and owners,” Mr Crown said.

“Working together with other like-minded companies was a part of making this happen, so it only made sense to partner with Portside. Together we can deliver gratifying results for our customers when it comes to centralising all their business operation needs,” he said.

“We are also looking forward to announcing new partnerships with other organisations soon.”

Together with Portside’s innovative business platform and Monarc Global’s automated pricing software Travech, he said “the business of aviation charter just got faster, smarter and better.”

Monarc Global’s stated purpose is to support aircraft owners and operators to evolve and scale steadfastly within their industry. Monarc Global is achieving this by building connections and partnerships with like-minded organisations and bringing their sophisticated, business and technology-induced products and services to operators worldwide.

Since 2017, Brisbane-based Monarc Global has helped aircraft owners, charter operators and airlines automate their pricing and booking systems with their dynamic in-house built pricing software Travech.

Portside supports over150 operators with more than 2,000 aircraft in 25 countries. Portside’s integrated platform connects with the most commonly used aviation software, including in-house systems, which allows the company to deliver a variety of cost effective solutions tailored to meet aviation business needs, supporting their digital transformations and enterprise requirements.



Monarc Global flies through the pandemic and helps build air alliances

BRISBANE-BASED aviation technology company Monarc Global has been innovating to help airlines, private charter operators and aviation brokers work together during the global pandemic—and it is paying off in unexpected ways.

Monarc Global last year helped thousands of Australians stranded overseas by facilitating urgent repatriation flights from India to Australia.

Barely out of the start-up stage as the pandemic emerged, Monarc Global was able to reposition and utilise its newly-developed software Travech – an automated, accurate booking and pricing solution used predominantly by charter operators, private aviators and airlines alike.

This year the company is extending its global reach by providing another solution to the grimly affected travel industry.

Monarc Global is launching its Partnership and Alliance Program. 

The program allows operators to work together by partnering with other airlines, operators and aviation brokers, forming a global audience and syndicate.

“We are a company that is pretty good at listening to operators and helping them to solve some of their biggest problems,” Monarc Global CEO Royce Crown said.

“We want to help operators, however big or small their business or fleet size may be, to have the opportunity to continue running their business even during a pandemic,” he said.

The program allows users to access Travtech and its unique multi-point application programming interface (API).

Mr Crown said operators could partner with other operators to share their fleets, obtain global reach, and access the aircraft’s instant live availability and accurate prices.

“The last thing an operator wants is to have their fleet laying dormant. Why not allow another operator to have access to your fleet from anywhere in the world, and you can continue business as usual?” Mr Crown said.

The program elevates existing alliances and builds new business partnerships by connecting the industry to work together in a seamless motion, Mr Crown said.



Singapore Airlines kept workers afloat, why didn't Australia's carriers?

SINGAPORE had half as many aviation job losses as Australia during COVID according to a new analysis that was tabled today in the Senate, comparing how different governments supported workers.

The report, compiled by the McKell Institute for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), is part of a submission to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, which today held hearings examining the aviation sector in the wake of COVID.

Australia’s remote location and its heavy dependence on international travel and trade meant federal assistance was essential for an aviation sector bought to its knees by a global pandemic. 

“The evidence of success is in the outcomes," ITF head for Sydney, Scott McDine, who presented the report said. "The number of job losses at Singapore’s major carriers has been roughly half of that in Australia – 15.6 percent instead of 31.1 percent. If that success had been replicated here, 6000 more people would be in work today.” 

Pre-pandemic, Australia's two big airlines employed 40,000 people, according to the report. About 30 percent of those jobs have been lost, and without targeted support more job losses could cripple the industry and seriously delay any recovery. A further 50,000 people were employed in supply chains and smaller airlines and are similarly at risk.

The McKell report examines four main areas of government aid: airline cash bailouts or loans; job support; cutting operating costs; and ensuring routes and capacity remain in place ahead of recovery. The report found the best response, by far, was specifically targeted job support.

Australia and Singapore both provided national job-subsidy schemes, but unlike Australia’s broad-brush JobKeeper, Singapore responded to COVID with a three-tiered wage subsidy depending on industry need.

Singapore recognised its unique reliance on aviation by supporting the sector’s workers with the top 75 percent subsidy.  

That nation has just responded to the subsidy’s success by extending it until late 2021, while Australia’s untargeted JobKeeper is about to be wound up.

The US backed its airlines with huge rescue packages, but also made them contingent on aviation-specific job guarantees. This kept job losses at major US airlines to 19.5 percent.

“Despite our relatively small population -- but because of our ‘tyranny of distance’ -- we are home to some of the busiest and most lucrative air routes in the world,” Mr McDine said.  “But those lucrative routes have flatlined.

“According to the OECD, Australia ranks 18th out of 28 countries in government aviation assistance programs. We can do better.

“That is why we advocate for an ‘AviationKeeper’ benefit to extend beyond the expiry of JobKeeper in March.”


Lloyds says aircraft auctions taking off in Australia

LLOYDS AUCTIONS is seeing strong interest in its upcoming aircraft auctions. In fact, the sector may be aided by the current pandemic.

According to Lloyds Auctions chief operations officer, Lee Hames, with the set-in reality of COVID-19, small aircraft operators are looking for avenues to offload surplus aircraft and it is providing a good opportunity for those expanidng their fleets, ready for when the industry takes off again.

He said helicopters, aircraft, parts and accessories will go up for auction this Saturday as COVID-19 takes its toll on the aviation industry.

“There are some extremely high-quality aircraft going up for auction this weekend featuring arguably one of the best Jetrangers on the market in Australia today,” Mr Hames said. 

The auction features a 1978 Bell Jetranger Helicopter with just over 8000 hours of airtime and no expense has been spared on its maintenance.

“The auction has received much enquiry nationwide where the current bid on the Bell Jetranger helicopter already sitting at over $500,000 with four days to go” Mr Hames said.

“The opportunity presents itself for many people who might be looking for a bargain at some high-quality aircraft with people taking the chance during this down time to adapt and plan their business model preparing for when things return back to normal,” he said.

He said another factor was that many aviation enthusiasts has found that in the past airspace has often been hard to come by. At the moment, hobby pilots or aspiring pilots "have the perfect opportunity to log some hours up in their log book across major airports around the country".

Lloyds Auctions have seen a huge boom in auctions across multiple categories including classic cars, fine art, high end jewellery and now aviation and aircraft over the last few months.

“We are seeing many people looking for alternatives to traditional methods of sales where we have seen an influx of people turning to online auctions for both selling and purchasing of items,” Mr Hames said.

He said the final call on the auction would be at 10am on Saturday, September 26.




US launch for Monarc Global’s Travech air charter software  

THE industry-transforming Travech air charter management software developed by Australian company Monarc Global is jetting in to the US.

Automated quoting air charter software Travech was launched in 2017 by Monarc Global, an aviation-tech company, to help private charter operators automate their quoting practices.

Monarc has since helped more than 40 charter operators within Australia in rapid automated charter quoting. 

“​The plan was always to launch in the US, but COVID-19 happened, and we had to put things on hold while continuing to build new and upcoming features for our software,” ​Monarc Global CEO and co-founder, Royce Crown said. 

He said Monarc Global’s automated quoting software would re-imagine the way many airlines are doing business. 

 “There’s a realisation from major airlines, who were 100 percent reliant on scheduled services, that had found themselves grounding fleets during the pandemic,” Mr Crown said.

“They can’t have this happen again. It makes sense that they should look for alternative solutions to continue generating business. This is something they will need to implement to keep business operating during such a crisis.

“Travech is the ideal solution for them,” he said. “It will help them to utilise their grounded fleets and allow opportunities for them to charter their aircraft.” ​

Monarc Global’s Travech software is currently one of the world’s leading – and accurate – live availability and live pricing solutions automating non-scheduled assets. 

During the pandemic, Monarc Global found a spike in interest in their Travech software from operators wanting to invest in new ways to do business. The isolation period forced many to rethink, relearn and implement solutions that would help them not only stay relevant after COVID-1, but also place them steps ahead of others within the industry. 

“We’re excited about bringing Travech to the US and helping more operators solve their quoting problems,” Mr Crown said. “A common problem with many charter operators is that they spend more time watching quotes they’ve completed not convert to a sale.

“Travech reduces the time spent on quoting. What could take up to three to four hours or even a day in quoting, can be completed in under a few minutes, using Travech,” he said. 

“This is exciting and crucial for operators because essentially it means they’re increasing their conversion rate using a software that’s also highly accurate compared to manual quoting.” 

Mjet Australia CEO Mark Pugliese, an operator currently using Travech, said, “I started using Monarc Global’s Travech software as a trial recently, and I’m very impressed with the accuracy of the quoting software. 

“Compared to other quotes, Travech has given me the confidence to be able to improve my business as I transition from my brokerage service to an operator for immediate and accurate results. It’s just so simple to use and won’t have to wait hours for return of quotes. I look forward to growing my business with them.” 

Monarc Global​ is launching Travech in the US in the next month, utilising an office based in Texas and their head office in Brisbane, Australia.

“With restrictions now easing, we’re ready to launch Travech into the US and help operators to find better solutions for their business,” Mr Crown said.

“Some may be skeptical about launching into a foreign country during such times, but I think now is a better time than never. Operators are using this time during COVID-19 to explore and implement new ways to do business.”



Could Virgin Australia's collapse trigger a better post-coronavirus scenario for national aviation?

THE FATE of Virgin Australia may be in the hands of administrators, but strong interest from major investors such as Wesfarmers and the Macquarie Group has created a sense the current situation may be the start of a story, rather than the end of one, according to an aviation industry researcher.

UniSA aviation industry expert, associate professor Kate Quigley, suggests the outcome of the Virgin Australia scenario may provide a glimpse into the future for the global airline sector, as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis forces operators to develop new, more resilient business models.
“The aviation industry has always been challenging, as there are large costs involved in keeping a fleet of planes in the air, and that often requires a very high level of debt,” Assoc. Prof. Quigley said. 
“So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other airlines around the world go the same way as Virgin Australia, because the only way those companies can make debt repayments is to have their planes flying, and that is impossible at the moment. However, where one operator drops out, there becomes more space for other operators to work in, and for those companies with clever, innovative ideas, there is a really exciting opportunity to reshape the aviation industry for the better going forward.”
Although, she said, Sir Richard Branson has hit out at the Australian Government for not bailing Virgin Australia out of its financial woes, Assoc. Prof. Quigley suggested that doing so may have prevented the local aviation industry from adapting to the post-COVID environment, which may have sent the wrong message to other businesses.
“A bailout might have saved jobs in the short term, but Virgin Australia was already struggling before this pandemic, so if the government were to prop up a problematic business model, many other struggling businesses might then expect the same type of support, rather than addressing their operational issues,” Assoc. Prof. Quigley said.
“Instead, there is now a space in the Australian airline industry for an innovative new operator to establish a viable business model that responds to the current situation.
“Whether that is a reborn version of Virgin, or a move into the market by one of the many international operators who already had a stake in Virgin, or a new operator entirely, they will be able to structure that business differently than the old Virgin model, adapting to the new marketplace, and ensuring competition remains in the Australian industry.”
While Assoc. Prof. Quigley acknowledged that Australia’s domestic airline market is a challenging one, she highlighted the benefits of competition in that environment, and stressed there would be new opportunities as the nation moves out of lockdown. 
“Without a second airline to compete against Qantas, the risk is obviously that they might start to price gouge, and then the public carries the burden,” Assoc Prof Quigley she said. 

“Even before this pandemic, many people felt domestic prices were too high, so they would fly to Bali or Fiji instead of Cairns, and we don’t want to see that worsen.
“But, significantly for whoever fills the Virgin void, Australia may well come out of lockdown before international travel resumes, so more Australians could be exploring Australia than ever before, and the domestic market might see a post-pandemic boom.”



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