18th October 2023
It’s clear that the aviation industry in 2023 is in no way comparable to the aviation industry in 2019. COVID has made all key players see that things can no longer be done the same way even though traffic is almost back at what it used to be, and profits are where rating agencies like to see it.
We recently interviewed entrepreneur and co-founder of EMMA Systems, Wisam Costandi. He spun out EMMA, along with co-founder Mohammad Hourani, just before COVID hit and has been talking with airports, airlines, civil aviation authorities and investors ever since, having experienced the changes in the industry first hand. We were curious to understand his point of view on the state of the industry.
Hi Wisam, can you tell us what you saw as the most remarkable changes in our industry over the past few years?
Wisam: “The most significant change I’ve seen, especially post-Covid, is the search for innovation. The aviation industry has always been fragmented between stakeholders, which is what attracted me to it and drove us to create EMMA; there was an opportunity to innovate and improve operations. The industry’s modus operandi might have been acceptable pre-Covid, but these inefficiencies were exasperated at the first signs of the recovery, and we continue to see them through delays and cancellations. What we see now is an industry looking for cost-effective and innovative solutions to not only run their day-to-day operations but as an investment for the future of their companies. Consequently, they are looking towards young companies and startups that are bringing innovation to the table and shaking up the status quo.”
So now is a great time to revisit how aviation players operate?
Wisam: “Yes and no since the difficulty is that airports have suffered from a huge fall out of staff delaying the much-needed change. The travel boom is back, revenues are on the rise but so is the realization that all we do, can be done so much more productively. The solution is that we need to step away from working like monolithic boxes controlling everything from A to Z. Airports want and need the best of breed suppliers for every component in the airport set-up. They have come to realize that a great supplier of FIDS doesn’t necessarily make the best RMS so why settle for less if there are often better and more cost-effective solutions around?
So, what would be your recommendation towards airports?
Wisam: “I am not saying anything new if I say that airports should take back control. Airports need to have full control of all the data generated across operations not the vendors. Understanding and managing the data is the key to create efficient operations and a great passenger experience. How can we create the best of breed combination of applications that the airport needs? How to have a consistent and coherent data flow across all applications/processes? Own the data, choose the best application for each domain and make them all work together either by doing it themselves or in partnership with a solid partner like EMMA Systems”.
How will you make a difference?
Wisam: “Collaboration is always critical, not just amongst the stakeholders but also between the actual technology systems as well. We have shunned away from the one solution solves it all. So, the question we set out to answer is how we could create a “best of breed” experience where customers could work with our or other systems together seamlessly, and not add additional headache to their respective IT departments. Providing users with a single version of the truth across multiple systems and stakeholders, as well as adding an element of predictability as data points are correlated.
And how does the financial side come into play?
Wisam: “One of the key advantages is that such an approach will be very beneficial for the cash position of airports. The industry no longer accepts vendors that seek a pre-financing of their needs. More flexibility also brings about a better value for money and models like pay as you grow will become the standard. This means a much cheaper implementation and costs at par with the number of applications and the overall usage, no heavy capex investments, no usage models per number of users in an airport environment, no unforeseen surprises. More flexibility, no upfront investments and a unique view across domains. In short, vendors will be expected to put their money where their mouth is.”