“Great podcast! When you're free, let's have a chat!” All sound business ideas start somewhere. In this case, reaching out to Lewis King from the Albion Aviation Group after hearing his interview on Chris Notter’s Eva Podcast last summer, led to the founding of a promising partnership with aeroconcept in SEP20, and – amongst other things, the launch of a new On Board Courier (OBC) service just a few months later. CFG spoke to James Wyatt, General Manager of aeroconcept to find out more.
“The Albion Aviation Group is a global aircraft charter company, specializing in private jet, commercial airliners and cargo aircraft charters. Lewis King, its director and owner, has
pioneered a training program for people who want to become charter brokers. He's offering a training program and was looking for support on the cargo side, which I've developed”, James
Wyatt, whose own company aeroconcept provides aviation consulting, support, and training within the air cargo industry, tells me.
He reached out to Lewis after his podcast because “it was very clear that we matched on a business ethics level: we're both self-employed and both have a very similar style of running a business.” Following a zoom call and numerous follow-up meetings, the result was a formal partnership focusing on “three pillars of cooperation”.
One of those pillars is the “development and launch of a dedicated On Board Courier Product,” whereby Albion Aviation Group is in the lead of the commercial side of things, and aeroconcept manages the operational part.
Accompanying a shipment from A to B
Wyatt, who himself was an OBC during his college years, explains how the idea came about: “the OBC product fits very, very well on the charter side – both are very ad hoc.” OBC requests often come in from the same charter client base, depending on the size of the shipment since “you can find that people would be willing to hire a full aircraft for a shipment which could also be hand-carried by a person to that destination on a commercial passenger aircraft.”
Urgency, it would seem, knows no price tag, and the pandemic has not only increased the need for flexible solutions, “so we felt it was a good time to launch our product, and things have gone well”, it has also created new service requirements.
Wyatt describes a situation where a particular designer dress was not available for purchase in New York, so a courier was sent to collect it from London and bring it to New York. Rather than relying on an express integrator to do the job, “they want to have that extra mile of guarantee that somebody is physically looking after that shipment and doing whatever it takes to ensure that that shipment arrives at that destination.”
Ready for take-off
The OBC product was launched at the end of NOV20, and the first courier and OBC shipment – important documents – flew from Dubai, UAE, to Shanghai, China, in late DEC20. The preparation in the run-up to the launch was intense, as the two companies interviewed and put together a team of global couriers based in the U.S., Europe, Middle East, and Asia, ready to handle shipments on key trade lanes from three main industries: automotive, oil and gas, and medical, along with AOG spares and other critical products.
Commodity requests are assessed on an individual basis, depending on their origin and destination regulations, and the various airline/aircraft stipulations. The current pandemic situation with ever-changing requirements and schedules, does pose challenges, however the couriers, chosen for their ability to think on their feet, problem-solve, and deal with unexpected events, are seasoned aviation professionals – self-employed couriers who fly for many OBC providers, globally.
Right person, right character
“It was very important for our product that the couriers were selected carefully. The selection of the couriers is vital for two main reasons: firstly, the courier is the person who is on the front line. So even though aeroconcept and the Albion Aviation Group are doing the commercial deal with the client, where we're executing it operationally, the only person who sees the customer at origin and destination is the courier. They represent our company and our brand.”
Secondly, the person needs to have experience within the aviation industry – from dealing with excess baggage (as some shipments fly in the hold whilst the courier is on board), to import/export customs procedures, to handling certain goods such as dry ice which often accompanies medical shipments.
Wyatt outlines the strict application procedure which includes a mandatory online face-to-face interview, too, since the OBCs are more than just a number on a list. Interestingly, he mentions a project called Skylight cAIR as a possible courier source, since it looks to help people in the aviation industry who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, to find work again.
Perhaps three websites to check out, therefore, if you’re currently looking for an OBC or aviation job: www.aeroconcept.aero, www.albionaviation.com, and https://www.skylightcair.com/ .
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