Interview: Mikhail Fandeyev Marketing Director, Aeroflot-Russian Airlines
Aeroflot’s fleet, which is among the world’s youngest, consists of 182 aircraft which are modern Airbus A320- family, A330, Boeing 737, Boeing 777 and Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliners. In 2015, Aeroflot carried more than 26,1 million passengers, and more than 39,4 million passengers flew with companies of Aeroflot Group. In 2006 Aeroflot became a full member of SkyTeam, the second-largest airline alliance in the world, it has been awarded an official four-star quality and service ranking from the leading independent authority on airline quality, Skytrax. In 2016 Aeroflot has also been named Best Airline in Eastern Europe for fifth time and fourth straight year at Skytrax World Airline Awards. Aeroflot is an official partner and carrier of Russia`s National Football Team, also sponsors the Volleyball Federation of Russia and is general partner of the Russian Olympic Committee. Since 2013 Aeroflot has been the official carrier of Manchester United football club.
How do you adapt the new technologies to your business? What are the benefits?
The major development that the new technologies make possible is the personalization of service and Aeroflot is employing all the available means to make this trend commercially attractive and valuable. What we do is trying to tender to our customers at every stage of their journey and make their experience unique and individual. To achieve that we are employing a mixture of advanced technologies using artificial intelligence and collection of data about our passengers at every point of contact and from external resources. Also, we use a mixture of IT solutions and human interface, because our employee is one of our core assets and we believe that the human interaction will always be a major part of travel experience, even though before a journey more and more interaction is happening remotely via Internet using applications or the site and quite a few people use the call center. However, once you are on board, the face-to-face contact that you have with members of cabin crew is of paramount importance and we try to empower our employees to make sure that they can customize passengers` experience to their best liking.
What are your expectations from 2017?
We are cautiously optimistic about 2017. We expect our business to continue growing even at a higher pace than this year. We are really looking forward towards double-digit growth, as there are strong sings that the Russian economy will grow next year. Aeroflot is growing strongly and profitably making use of all the differences in the market structure by using the multi-brand architecture whereas in our group of companies we have the full range of product offering from low-cost to the full-service premium airline.
What are the new trends in aviation business?
The major trend in aviation business is the fact that we are nearing the end of the unbundling era and coming closely to the re-bundling paradigm. And it`s really fascinating to see how the product and the service offered by the airlines around the world are reinventing themselves to better serve the changing needs and the changing expectations of their customers because the customers worldwide, Russian included, are becoming more and more demanding and expecting higher level of personalization and better fit to their needs at this particular moment of time within this particular travel plan.
Which region of Russia is the first choice of inbound tourists?
Not surprisingly, the two biggest destinations for inbound tourists are Moscow and the former capital of Russia – Saint-Petersburg. Both cities boast centuries of history, a lot of museums, very nice restaurants and fabulous nightlife. In addition to that we see the strong increasing trend in the popularity of our southern regions which become more and more touristically attractive, especially Sochi, after the Olympic Games of 2014 is becoming a new magnet of attraction for tourists domestic and international alike.
Aeroflot is one of the top 10 airlines with its airline cuisine. What makes Aeroflot special in this term?
That is a very good question in a sense that it underlines the importance of the physical structure of airline and the physical existence of the product which quite often these days is being eclipsed by the digital part of the product offering while most of the people we know still live in physical world and have the physical needs. In Aeroflot, we try to strike the proper balance between going advanced innovative and digital and attentive to the most traditional needs of people on board. Specifically, for our food onboard, we employ a range of internationally renowned chiefs from major Moscow restaurants and we change the food that served on board regularly so every time you travel with Aeroflot you have a chance to experience yet another side of Russian and international cuisine. On top of that, of course, there is a special technical know-how that you have to be aware of to make the dishes on board as tasty as they can be. Aeroflot offers about 17 different types of onboard menu, recently we have introduced another one that is called “Asian set” and which is catered specifically to the ever-increasing number of the Asian passengers on our Far-Eastern routes offering them a variation of their traditional cuisine.
Do you collect data from your passengers?
If yes, what are the benefits of it? Of course, by servicing our customers we get in touch with a lot of the data, which relates to their travel plans, and to other aspects of their lives. Overall our general approach to this data collection is that we only collect information that we believe can be used to improve the quality of the service that our passengers get. We do not believe in the data collection for the data collection`s sake. Once we realize that we can fine tune customer journey in a specific way using some kind of information we use a legal way to make this happen and pilot this solution. In fact our CRM system allows us to reach a big deal of flexibility in contacting our customers and we have seen in our practical experience last year and this year that the certain data collected from the passengers can be used to facilitate their further contacts with the company and make their travel experience even more fulfilling.