The COVID-19 pandemic brought unseen challenges to the aviation industry. However, the Direct Maintenance team tackled the risen difficulties as true experts of the field. During the pandemic, Direct Maintenance not only started to provide new services but even opened new Line Maintenance Stations and signed numerous significant service agreements. Curious about this success, we interviewed Mandeep Rana, the head of Sales at Direct Maintenance, to discover the insights of dealing with challenges efficiently and developing new partnerships during these uncertain times.
As the past year has been challenging for virtually all companies within the aviation industry, can you share what you’d see as the main challenges of the past year? How did you and your team cope with these challenges?
The main challenge was the significant drop in flights in early March 2020. At the sales department, we prioritized searching for alternative revenue streams – and, as there were still some repatriation and cargo flights, we started serving these types of airlines. We supported many ‘’unusual’’ airlines and/or aircraft types operating into the DMX stations, which was actually a challenge but having various well multi-licensed engineers at our stations, we could accommodate these customers easily. Simultaneously, most Airlines were parking their whole fleet, we successfully helped airlines and leasing companies in this process, even though it was a first-time experience for us.
What are the main trends in customer’s requirements influenced by the pandemic? Which of these trends are here to stay?
The pandemic caused three main trends. The first one is parking maintenance, which occurred because of an insufficient number of passenger flights. The trend should largely vanish when people start travelling again as pre-COVID-19. Also, the most uneconomic passenger aircraft will gradually be taken out of service because the newer generation aircraft allow better fuel efficiency and other environmental benefits. We can see that older aircraft models like B747, B767, B737 are being phased out, while newer models A320Neo, B737MAX, A350, B787 have been utilized efficiently during the crisis for repatriation flights or even cargo flights. Secondly, airlines increasingly outsource their maintenance activities to third parties and prioritize flexible and agile support from MRO rather than low prices. But also ensure growth and focus of their core business. Lastly, disinfection of the interior of the cabin services occurred to ensure the virus particles were removed from the aircraft and sanitation of the interior. These last two trends should remain.
What would find to be the key elements in successful partnerships between clients and service providers?
There are many key elements involved from which respect and acceptance of differences, followed by trust, transparency, communication, proactiveness, and collective commitment to resolve the issues and reach a mutual agreement are a few examples.
What, in your experience, are the key drivers of success stories: what actions and qualities lead to new contracts and growth?
To begin with, constant engagement with customers is essential: attention and communication create a bond that results in business. Being realistic and honest is also crucial because transparency ensures mutual commitment. In addition, showing our unique characteristics instead of pulling competitors down is mandatory.
Our way of dealing with customers brought new contracts and contract extensions for the company. A recent example is, after providing many years of high-quality Line Maintenance Services at Dublin, and investment in the relationship, the operator, who would typically sign up with another company, selected Direct Maintenance as their preferred provider for Amsterdam.
What are the future plans for the company in terms of expansion, new stations, new clients, etc.?
We are currently working on the one-line maintenance project: all Magnetic MRO stations will be rebranded to Direct Maintenance, adding locations to the network. We are also communicating with new and existing customers at the moment for some new exciting projects, so stay tuned for news to come!
Do you have your predictions for the aviation industry’s recovery? How long would it take to reach pre-pandemic levels?
I hope that in 2021 flights come back with 70% of the 2019 volume. In 2022, flights should return even more: people couldn’t travel abroad for more than a year and a half because of the pandemic. Thus, now it is time to fly again!