EBACE Convention News

Universal builds its digital presence

 - November 29, 2006, 5:40 AM

Considering the ubiquitous status e-mail and Internet use has attained, it’s not surprising that companies are putting more of their marketing eggs into their digital baskets. Trip-planning specialist Universal Weather & Aviation, based in Houston, Texas, is a prime example. In the last three years the company has invested heavily in online technology, overhauling its Web site to give clients the option of managing flight-planning details online.

Not very long ago, telephone and fax were the preferred methods of communication used by corporate aviation schedulers and pilots, but as Blackberries have replaced phones and fax machines, online communication has emerged as the choice of even clients who wouldn’t call themselves particularly tech savvy.

Justine Finnett, vice president of sales and marketing for Universal Aviation & Weather, said the company has noticed a marked increase in the use of portable electronic devices by pilots, many of whom have become so adept at using Palm Pilots and laptop computers that they are now asking for the ability to do more flight planning themselves on the Internet rather than relying on trip-planning specialists for every detail.

Responding to this shift in customer demand, Universal has revamped its UVTripPlanning.com Web portal to let pilots create, run and file flight plans on a password-protected section of the site. Pilots and schedulers can still pick up the phone and call at anytime of the day or night, but for many clients use of the phone is generally limited only to times when last-minute changes become necessary–and almost everybody prefers e-mail to the fax machine, Finnett said.

“In the last three years we have made a significant investment in our online presence, recognizing there has been this shift,” she said, noting that the trend suited her fine since she had come to aviation from the computer world, working as a sales and marketing executive for Dell Computer and as a private consultant. Finnett said her computer industry background, in fact, was a main reason Universal hired her full time and signals the company’s desire to shift even more of its activities the Internet.