NBAA Convention News

Avinode streamlines link between charter operators, customers

 - October 18, 2010, 7:14 AM

Online charter portal Avinode is launching its new Operator Link Web service here at the NBAA Convention. The latest addition to its Avinode Link family of products helps operators to market their aircraft directly to end users from their own Web sites.

As well as generating new leads for flight bookings, Operator Link is designed to streamline the process by which customers search for suitable aircraft and request charters online. Customers can study real-time pricing and availability data generated directly from the main Avinode system. They can also view aircraft information and photos, flight time estimates and operator terms and conditions in any one of seven languages.

Operators have plenty of flexibility to customize the appearance and functionality of the service, which Avinode claims can be integrated seamlessly into any Web site. The Sweden-based company is demonstrating the system at its NBAA booth (No. 8541).

Chicago-based DB Aviation, the first company to implement Operator Link, is already satisfied with the response to the system. "We chose Operator Link because it gives our clients immediate access to real-time availability information on our entire fleet," said Andy Schweikert of DB Aviation. "Our Operator Link has already generated a number of qualified leads through requests, and we've also gotten a few inquiries about the tool that have turned into requests," he said. "All in all it's been a real time saver for us."

Empty Legs on iPhones
Separately, Avinode is releasing its first iPhone application here at NBAA, bringing its existing Empty Leg Link service into the palm of charter customers' hands. Importantly though, Avinode leaves it to its members–operators and brokers–to approach their prospective customers through the app, which is built on a base that can be customized to include only their empty leg availability and branding. The broker or operator releases its own version of the app via the iPhone store.

The new Empty Leg App features a GPS-based search function that allows users to source the most beneficial aircraft capacity depending on where they are in the world at any given time and which airports they can most conveniently access. They can store their favorite airports to speed up the search process.

Meanwhile, the merger process between Avinode and its former competitor U.S.-based Charter X, has been gathering pace since it started in March. The two companies' IT departments are well on the way to completing the complex task of integrating their respective online systems and the new combined charter marketplace should be released progressively from early next year.

In June the North American sales and support functions for both marketplaces were moved to Avinode's existing operation in Miami. The operations of the new group's SchedAero and Wyvern subsidiaries have been combined in Trenton, N.J. Wyvern's safety audit ratings for individual operators are set to be added to the Avinode portal very soon.

The combined company has been keeping Avinode and Charter X customers posted on the integration process via a blog, where they can read updates and post comments or questions. Here at the NBAA show tomorrow, it will hold a question and answer session at Booth No. 8541 at 5 p.m.

Burlington, Vt.-based operator Heritage Aviation has been marketing its eight aircraft through Avinode for the past eight years. "The recent Avinode-CharterX merger has allowed us to centralize our data and eliminate duplication," explained company executive Jean-Sébastien Chaulot. "In early 2011, our redesigned Web site will include a link providing quotes and availability directly from Avinode."

"We have made a lot of progress and have been surprised at how successful we have been so far in bringing together the cultures of the two companies," Avinode CEO Per Marthinsson told AIN. "We share the same core values and have had a lot of our people relocating between the various offices."

According to Marthinsson, customer response to the merger has been very positive. "We are creating one truly global market place with [charter] data distributed around the world," he said. "Before, brokers might have had to look in two places to find the information, but now a broker in Munich can find everything from a turboprop in Dresden [in eastern Germany] to a light jet in Arizona."

In August, Avinode opened a new office in South America and it is laying plans to expand into Asia. It also is rolling out other new tools, such as the software and Web architecture to drive the site operated by major brokering group Air Partner.