Has AeroBid had the transformative effect on the industry its founders hoped for? We caught up with AeroBid founder and chief executive Zaher Deir to find out
Big Interview: AeroBid’s chief executive Zaher Deir on what's next for the bidding platform
In April last year, the private aviation industry took a leap towards digital transformation with the launch of AeroBid: the world’s first live bidding platform for private charters.
A year on, we speak to Zaher Deir, chief executive and founder of AeroBid, to hear how the platform has been received by brokers and operators and discover what’s next for private aviation’s digital revolution.
It’s been almost a year since the platform launched. How has AeroBid evolved since April 2022?
We have seen a tremendous number of brokers and operators joining since last year’s launch. We’ve listened to their feedback and experiences over that year, and as a result, we’ve added many new features to help them get what they need from the platform.
For example, we added operators' and brokers' directories by name and each with their bio; it is a great way to present and market themselves.
We have also added alert systems for operators and brokers. These alerts will notify the operators of any flight request in any geographical area they chose to be notified; the alert system will work by selecting a single airport or a country as a whole, whereby our system covers all the airports in that country, so they can be instantly notified by WhatsApp, email or SMS as soon as a broker posts a charter request that matches their criteria on AeroBid they will be alerted.
Likewise, brokers will get a notification when an operator bids on their charter request.
What kind of response have you received from brokers and operators over the last year?
Our target was to onboard about 100 operators and 200 brokers in the first year, which we achieved in the first eight months. Our users love the user interface and user experience and how intuitive our platform is.
That said, AeroBid has been a big step up in terms of behaviour change compared to what the market has been conditioned to do over the years. That has been difficult for some operators and brokers to get used to.
But we know it takes time for people to change their habits, and we’ve put a lot of energy into educating both brokers and operators to see the benefits of this faster, real-time way of finding each other and introducing them to a new way of conducting business and negotiating charters through one convenient platform.
Those efforts are paying off – every day; we see people using the platform more and more.
We also introduced AeroBid Messaging. With phishing emails and social engineering on the rise, we provide a secure environment where vetted and verified operators and brokers can message each other, upload contracts, invoices and photos and deal with each other in a safe and secure environment within the platform.
That said, we are still listening to feedback and making changes to enable users to get what they want and need from the platform, and we haven’t stopped building new functionality for our users.
Do you think that some of those changes have helped people to start using AeroBid in a way that feels comfortable for them while they're getting to grips with the real time nature of the platform?
Yes, definitely. Our developers and engineers work hard on the back end while we keep the front end user-friendly and easy to use.
Our latest feature is AeroBid Ping: when a broker posts a charter request, they can ping up to 10 specific operators from whom they’d like to request bids.
As soon as the broker enters their flight request, our search algorithm will display a list of aircraft operators closest to the requested departure airport. The charter request will still be posted on the marketplace for other operators to see and place bids.
What we have introduced here is a way to help both parties use the platform in a way that feels more familiar to them – they still get the total value of the real time marketplace.
Yet, they also have the added benefit of requesting specific operators to bid on their request in a way that’s similar to their old ways of working, just faster and more streamlined.
We’re also working on integrating with other software providers, like FL3XX. This will benefit larger operators as they can access both FL3XX scheduling tools and AeroBid’s real-time bidding technology within one platform, streamlining the booking process.
Have there been any challenging moments in the last year?
At an early stage, we lacked engagement with the platform from the operators' side: around 30 to 40 brokers posted flight requests, but the operators weren’t bidding for the charters in real time.
We realised that many of the operators did not set up the alerts system, so our customer success team started contacting them and showing them how to use the alert system so that they would get notified any time a relevant flight was posted and not miss out on the flight requests.
Over time, this has improved, but we’re still working on that education and showing just how valuable the real time platform can be.
You recently launched the Empty Legs Marketplace. Why is that so important for the business aviation industry?
We created AeroBid with the idea that all one-way flights could be accommodated through a single, real-time marketplace.
Many of our operators and brokers informed us that they still wanted a single place to post their empty legs; after listening to their needs, we decided to create the Empty Leg marketplace.
We’ve made the Empty Leg Marketplace as intelligent and advanced as our original marketplace. For example, when operators post their empty legs or a one-way flight, every broker can see them; brokers can also set up intelligent alerts based on client requests.
Say they want to go from London to Paris – the broker can create an alert in the system for any empty leg to make that journey. When an operator posts their empty leg, that broker will receive the alert on their chosen channel and contact the operator to confirm the flight.
Also, the operators can post their Empty Leg as a fixed route or flexible, set the price or leave it open for offers, or place a guide price.
Brokers can suggest a deviation or a stop in between indicating their offered price, provided the operator has not stated the route as fixed.
On the other hand, Operators can be alerted to brokers' flight requests that meet their empty leg criteria. But again, for that to happen, both sides have to set up the alerts and use the system properly: it’s all about education and changing mindsets.
We’ve also been inundated with end users requesting access to our system, as they see it as an easier way to book Empty Legs directly.
We’re in two minds about whether we should allow them to access the Empty Leg Marketplace platform, as we’re committed to the broker community.
Still, I suppose it depends on how the industry starts using the platform and whether brokers are snapping up those Empty Legs. It’s something for us to consider for the future.
Operators love the platform, its simplicity, and the user experience, but the lack of engagement from some brokers is disappointing. Operators want brokers to respond quicker to bids on flight requests. Brokers love the concept and find the platform intuitive and modern, but they find that operators aren’t responding to flight requests fast enough.
The platform is performing beyond expectations from a technological point of view, and it is doing what we intended it to do; but we still need to work on internal platform engagement. I understand it takes people time to adapt to a new workflow and technology before they realise its full potential.