This blog post is the modified transcript of an interview I did with my colleague Robin on airline fuel management. Robin is the brain behind the world’s biggest digital fuel network and shares tons of news, insights, and how-to’s.
Benjamin: You’re much more deeply involved in the topic of digital fuel management. However, I have the feeling, and I would like to know your opinion on that, that this whole topic has gained a lot of traction during the last weeks. There are a lot of things going on. Is that the case? And if so, what is your opinion? Why is this topic getting so much traction at the moment?
Robin: It sounds strange, but. But your observations are correct. Well, it’s not surprising to me, but surprising how popular the topic is right now, because, of course, the times are COVID-19 has really grounded so many airlines around the world. Operations are down more than 50 percent across the globe. Many projects have stopped due to cost-saving measures and everything. So you wouldn’t think that such a project like digitalizing the fueling process would still be on many executives’ agendas.
So it’s an entirely logical way of thinking. But it’s actually not. It’s crazy how many airlines and fuel providers are currently approaching us and trying to implement our solution at different airports and maybe for a whole network. I think there are three main reasons for that.
Three Reasons Why Airlines Invest In Fuel Management Right Now!
Robin: So the first one, of course, is COVID-19. COVID-19 calls for the fuel process’s digitalization because it enables you to limit or eliminate personal interaction ultimately. So there’s no verbal communication between the fueler and the pilots anymore. No receipts that need to be signed and everything. So, social distancing is the norm with such a system.
The second aspect is about cost savings. And of course, the cost savings are still a factor right now, but probably even more important right now because we are looking for desperately looking, looking for every little chance to buy to save a penny.
And the third one is about implementing that solution. You know, it basically reinforces the first two. It is amazingly cheap, and it’s surprisingly simple. This gives the airlines and the fueler of us the reinsurance, OK, this is a project we can actually complete at the moment.
Ben: I recently had many talks about the network. Indeed, the network is one of the most important benefits of such a solution. And the more airports are connected, the more interesting it is for airlines. What can you tell about, first of all, the current network, but mostly about the plans for the future?
Robin: Well, first off, our network currently covers 45 airports worldwide. Europe, the USA, and Asia are aware that the rest of the world is on the roadmap. So when we talk about the fact that an airport is part of our network, we say that an airline that is a customer communicates with a fueler connected to our system at once.
So let’s, for example, take Cathay Pacific. They’re currently working with one of the main fuel providers in Hong Kong to connect them to the hub. So as soon as they had this to provide, it’s connected to the hub. Every other airline using this fuel provided at Hong Kong Airport can use it too soon as they make some minor adjustments.
So this is always the idea behind it, you know, we say it’s 45 airports. Still, it might be even much bigger to one specific client in special constellations because you see, OK, I only have to fuelers, and the two are already connected to a network.
Details About The Airports Connected To The Fuel Management Network
Ben: OK, and that also means if a new airline joins that network, they can already use a digital fuel process at all airports that are connected, at least if they’re using the same fuel provider. Talking about the airports, the 45 airports, you mentioned how they are distributed across the world. Are there some hotspots where more airports connect?
Robin: Definitely, one hotspot right now is Europe. We have, let’s say, like 28 airports connected in Europe. And another hotspot is the USA. So across the whole state. So, no, it doesn’t matter of the East Coast or West Coast. We have another 12 airports connected there. And then we currently have Hong Kong. But that is almost going to happen in a couple of days. And we have Singapore. We’re in talks to connect Perth. So, as I said, it’s ever-expanding. The same thing goes for South America, where we’re in talks with Avianca. And even BP, because we’re trying to expand our cooperation with BP worldwide because that would help us connect even more airports.
What About The Airlines?
Ben: Let’s take a look at the other side. Which are the airlines that are already connected? Are there some airlines that are heavily using it and some newcomers that are going that way?
Robin: Our biggest client is Lufthansa. That’s also one reason why the network in Europe is that big. But the good thing with Lufthansa is that it doesn’t only mean we’re talking with Lufthansa, so it also means we’re talking to Swiss, Austrian and Eurowings. But even the very small like Edelweiss, Helvetica. That means we also connect them to the system making the network even more accessible to smaller, low-cost carriers in Europe.
And of course, I already mentioned Cathay Pacific, so that’s one of our newest customers. But they’re picking up the pace pretty quickly. They started with Singapore. Now they’re doing Hong Kong, and Perth is up next. And so and as you know that the network down in that region is pretty dense.
Talking About The Future Features Of A Airline Fuel Management Solution
Ben: Let’s move away from airlines and airports. Let’s talk a little bit about the solution itself. What are the plans regarding the solution? What are the upcoming features?
Robin: You know, at the moment, we have our hub in place. So everything is digitalized. You get a 100 percent clean data quality from that. This is basically the foundation of everything. Now we want to move beyond that. We want to expand our offering. First off, by providing a so-called pilot app. A pilot app is a tool that pilots can use to be always on top of the fuel order process. So they get that on there on their devices. They can make a fuel order, just a fuel order, reject the fuel order, cancel a fuel order, get the jet fuel milestone’s progress reports of the fuel, or everything on their primary device.
Some airlines we are talking to already have some solution in place for that. But some of them are not happy with what they’re having at the moment. Some others are looking at some others who don’t have anything. And we want to give pilots flexibility or agility to adjust to different situations as well as quickly as possible with such an app.
Ben: And I guess it makes it much easier for them to connect to the network?
Robin: It’s a solution that works perfectly, that goes hand in hand with our hub. So there is no information needed. You go to your device’s browser, and you save it as you save the address as a bookmark on your device and have the app installed. So every single web-enabled device in the world can work with our app that, you know, that’s a significant advantage. So there is no iOS or Android app you need to download it no matter what kind of device they’re using. Even if there might still be using some laptops, they can go to the website and work there. And of course, we’re also planning to do that for the fuelers.
Data Quality And Analytics As Part Of Future Features!
Robin: And as I already mentioned, another advantage of using that help is the data quality you get. We want to make the best use out of that. So establishing a proper business intelligence solution based on our hub and giving the operational managers more insights into the process that is going on at the moment. The operation to analyze every piece of data they have given gives them real-time information. So this fuel truck is currently going there and if the fueling process is completed. You use that much fuel. You know, there are thousands of KPIs you can basically calculate based on this data. And then we want to make it a very appealing suite with timelines and KPIs and a lot of which is moving forward. We call it FuelOS or an operating system.
Let’s Talk About The Investment
Ben: What about the investment, because you mentioned in the beginning during this pandemic, most airlines don’t have the possibility they would have in regular times. What can you say about that?
Robin: Well, as mentioned before, some airlines started doing the project right now, so the investment could be that big — can’t be that big because they still need to save money even though they can save money with a solution. But the thing is, we work with a fixed implementation fee. So so basically a fee you pay to join the network.
From there on, it’s all subscription based on a monthly basis with different packages. And you can switch between the packages. They’re scalable, no matter what kind of situation you’re in — if you only want to cover one airport, two airports, a different number of flights you’re operating, and of course, various features and everything. So this is totally up to you. You can change your packages from month to month. Try it out. Maybe you need it, perhaps not.
And as soon as you have implemented it, the effects are there. So you can see, the ROI is super quick.
Ben: Anything else that comes into your mind?
Robin: Yes, actually, there’s one thing. We’re hosting an online conference on the 25th of November. We call it the Future Fuel Lab, where we really want to talk more in-depth about our product’s idea and its potential to revolutionize the process and the industry. And we already have many confirmed speakers from airlines. We’re going to have a panel discussion around pilots and fuel providers and how the implementation project is going to work. It’s going to be a three-hour event. It’s entirely for free, and more than 150 people already signed up. So check it out on LinkedIn on our company website and join the event. And I’m happy to see you then.
Ben: Thanks, Robin!