Inside AeroBid: the bidding platform shaking up private flying
Hi Zaher! Tell us about AeroBid
AeroBid is a new live bidding platform that’s revolutionising the private flight charter process. Using data and instant communications, it brings a fast, transparent and convenient way for brokers to request charters for their clients, and for operators to receive and bid on live flight requests. It’s designed by brokers and operators, for brokers and operators.
What's your biggest strength?
Private aviation has been long-overdue its digital revolution. Now, we’re leading it. The platform is a completely new concept for our industry – there has never before been a live bidding platform where brokers can submit their client’s flight request details and operators can instantly bid, in real-time, for the charter.
For brokers, AeroBid is a breath of fresh air as it allows them to reach a much bigger pool of operators, quickly and easily: giving them more options to deliver the best flights for their clients, and get accurate quotes from operators without having to call their list of contacts.
As for flight operators, it’s a more convenient way to fill schedules, delivering relevant flight opportunities directly to them. They don’t need to invest in marketing to reach new brokers, or spend time sifting through thousands of flight requests that might not be right for their business, which has been a growing problem for flight operators on existing ‘static’ platforms.
These ‘static’ bidding platforms (whereby broker’s requests are sent to selected operators who subscribe to the service) operators receive hundreds and possibly thousands of requests every day, most of which are unsuitable or irrelevant. With AeroBid, operators get to control what flights they quote for. They can search by keywords like location, aircraft and data, and can even receive instant notifications via SMS or email when requests with those key terms are submitted.
This search and notification functionality will also allow us to address the industry’s ‘empty legs’ issue. ‘Empty legs’ are flights that don’t carry any passengers: for instance, if an operator in London is collecting passengers from Paris, the flight from London to Paris often won’t have any passengers on board. It’s a wasted opportunity for the operator, and a sustainability issue for the industry. With AeroBid, operators can receive requests that allow them to fill that flight.
In short, we make it faster, easier and more feasible for both brokers and operators to secure the right charters.
What made you think there was money in this?
After three decades in the aircraft and aviation industry, I could see that there were some key issues impacting the private aviation sector. I’ve held high-profile aviation roles in Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom; I’ve specialised in private aircraft management, sale and acquisition; I’ve purchased executive aircraft for VIPs and managed a fleet of nine private jets. I haven’t just witnessed brokers’ and operators’ frustrations: I’ve been in their shoes and experienced those problems first-hand.
For me, private aviation isn’t just a career – it’s my passion, and I want to see the industry thrive and build a sustainable future. It’s really this that led me to launch AeroBid. I felt so strongly that private aviation needed a way to secure new opportunities for brokers and operators: I wanted to introduce operators to new brokers outside their normal territories and knew that the right digital platform would have a transformative effect on the industry.
In recent years, other online platforms have emerged – those ‘static’ bidding platforms I mentioned before – but they haven’t really established a way for brokers and operators to gain a competitive edge through digital channels.
If anything, they’ve caused as many problems as they’ve fixed. Operators aren’t able to share accurate quotes due to the fixed nature of the platform, and they are often overwhelmed by the amount of requests they receive. As a result, brokers don’t get to see accurate quotes quickly, and often resort to manually calling operators to get up-to-date prices anyway. It’s time consuming and ineffective: essentially the opposite of what digital progress should be bringing to the private aviation sector.
AeroBid really does exist on its own with our unique offering: there’s nothing else like it.
Where is the business today?
We launched in April this year, and operators and brokers are signing up rapidly. It’s still, early days, however early indications are excellent. We have signed over 90 brokers and 15 operators in the first 3 weeks – of course, the more operators and brokers subscribe and use the platform the more benefits it will produce for all. We aim to have 1000 operators and 4000 brokers on board by 2023, and we’re hitting our targets every month to reach that figure.
The platform is free to sign up and use until August 2022, as we wanted users to see first-hand just how convenient it is before committing to the platform. We’ve had excellent feedback on both the service so far, and the pricing structure that will come into effect once paid membership begins in August.
What is the secret to making the business work?
For us, the secret has been finding a genuine problem within our industry and fixing it. Although everyone on the team was already part of the private aviation sector when we launched AeroBid, we still took time to listen to other brokers and operators to find out what they really want and need from a platform. In fact, we’re still doing this now. AeroBid is in its beta phase, and we’re collecting feedback from users to make sure that the platform is as good as it can be. Continuous development is really important to us: we want to make sure we’re always moving in line with the industry, constantly improving our technology and staying up to date with what our members need.
How do you market the company?
We’re carrying out very targeted marketing and PR initiatives, in two of our core geographies to start with (the UK and US). Something we felt strongly at the beginning was that if we wanted AeroBid to be a success, we needed to reach our audience with the right message, at the right time: for us to be able to do this while still giving our full focus to AeroBid, we knew that appointing an agency was the answer. We now have agencies in the UK and US delivering PR, social media outreach and email marketing. Our advice to other technology businesses like ours is: get the help you need with marketing. The right agencies will help you communicate your idea effectively and reach the right audience through the right channels.
What funding do you have? Is it enough?
Like any other start-up business, we did our research on all aspects of costings we could think of at the time to establish the required capital for setting up. We also put aside the necessary funds for our operation without any income. The owners are committed to the business and are able to support the project should it be required to do so.
Tell us about the business model
The business model is unique, in the sense of being the first live bidding platform for private aviation in the world. It’s based on subscription fees, and both segments (brokers and operators) will pay a set monthly subscription fee to use the platform. It hasn’t been easy to establish the fees structure as we cannot compare our product to any other in our industry, so eventually we decided to base the fees on being competitive and fair to all involved parties. We believe we will always have a ratio of three or four brokers to one operator on the platform, so we split the subscription fees accordingly.
Are there any technologies you've found useful?
Everything on our platform was designed from scratch and specifically to fit our plan: being the first of its kind there were no software or apps that were readily available or could be modified to fit our requirements.
What were you doing before?
An Aircraft Engineering graduate from CSE, Air Training College in Oxford, I’ve held high-profile roles in Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. I was Director of Engineering and Operations for Executive Air Transport of Switzerland, I’ve worked as Chief of Maintenance for Arab Wings, and I’ve founded SAMCO Aviation of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 2008, I established Jet Connections, specialising in private aircraft management, sale and acquisition, and in 2014 I launched Pristine Jet Charter, based in Dubai, specialising in private aircraft charters. I’ve purchased 32 executive aircraft for many VIPs and managed a fleet of nine private jets, ranging from the Boeing Business Jet to Challenger, Gulfstream, Legacy, Citation and Dassault Falcon.
What is the future vision?
Our vision is for AeroBid to be the new standard in how brokers and operators secure their charters – and we’re expecting that to become a reality in the very near future. It’s an industry crying out for digital change, and we’re excited to be delivering that and making a real difference.