The road to recovery: how the state of the aviation industry has been shaped by the pandemic?

Interview with Jacco Klerk, CEO at Direct Maintenance

In your opinion, what are the key elements for the “recovery phase” within the aviation industry to kick? Can you share your predictions on the path of the recovery?

Jacco Klerk: In the recent period, we have seen a low passenger flight demand, airlines changing their used equipment frequently, and we as service providers to provide flexible solutions. This means we need to be flexible to adapt to our customers to bring our aviation industry steadily back on its feet together. And we foresee that this will be the situation for the time being: we need to be agile in supporting our customers in their line maintenance needs and swiftly adapting as an organisation to serve our customers. This said, we still expect that we will experience a modest ramp-up of flight schedules in the rest of 2021 and steady grow back to pre-COVID-19 levels in the coming years as soon as we can travel again. In parallel, we expect the demand for Cargo flights with its current high frequency and dynamics to keep growing for the time to come due to limited belly freight options. From the perspective of leasing companies, a wave of new operators will come. These new operators will need proactive service providers to de-store aircraft and, after induction into operation, to have a flexible supporting line & base maintenance service provider. More likely independent providers, who have more focused customer dedication to provide bespoke tailored and cost-effective solutions. Something we as Direct Maintenance, part of Magnetic MRO, are well-positioned to offer.

With the financial impact of the pandemic as well as consumer trust pressure, all operators will want to avoid delays as soon as they re-start with their operations. And this will shape the customers’ expectations. What main improvements will have to be in place to meet these demands and what homework maintenance service providers have to do in order to be prepared?

Jacco Klerk: We have conducted a company-wide review, engaging all our personnel and consulting our customers. From observation to lessons learned – there is a range of improvements that we are implementing now to be well prepared, be adaptively coming out of this pandemic, and become more agile and deliver on our customer’s expectation. It all starts from how we act closer within our organisation – from stations engineers and management – as one team. We gain significantly from all our initiatives – so will our customers.

How Direct Maintenance have coped with challenges brought by the pandemic and how company is ready to contribute to the recovery of the industry?

Jacco Klerk: Like many aviation companies, we had a challenging time too, which pushed us deep into reviewing our organisation. However, looking back over 2020, all personnel has worked together to take initiatives and actions to pull through this challenging period. In return, this has deepened the family & team feeling and solidarity across our stations in Europe and Africa and our ongoing commitment to supporting our customers.  As an organisation in the wake of the industry’s recovery, we must remain flexible and adaptive to support our customers as our contribution, demonstrating our “can-do” and “we-care” spirit.

What are the key customer support requests you’re getting from passenger airlines and cargo airlines?

Jacco Klerk: Passenger airlines tend to focus more on their core business coming out of this pandemic. Based on our interactions with them, we see a development where airlines are leaning towards independent Line maintenance network service providers: next-generation of service providers, who will be able to provide service beyond the current scope of standard line maintenance services. Cargo airlines already focus more on services beyond the usual scope; besides, they expect us, as service providers, to be flexible with the dynamics in their operation. 

Leasing companies are looking to work more with organisations that can provide a range of service and have reliable partners looking after their assets. From our perspective, providing a full suite of solutions, from storage programmes, ferry flight support, line & base maintenance as Direct Maintenance and Magnetic MRO allows us to accommodate these requests and see a shift in demand.

Are there any longer-term projects that you’ve accelerated due to the pandemic? Is your business pivoting in ways you wouldn’t have predicted a year ago?

Jacco Klerk: We have ignited a lean and agile approach in our business attitude by engaging and empowering our personnel, driving improvements and best practising sharing. In parallel, we are focusing on accelerating digitalisation and optimisation on how effectively running our organisation. Our stations are known to have a strong customer focus DNA, and we will strengthen and enhance this further. We are finalising a strategic review of our long-term projects following the pandemic, which will provide new opportunities within our industry. Also, we are utilising our group capabilities as a Magnetic Group subsidiary to develop adaptive solutions supporting our customers’ outlook for the coming years.

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