Zaher Deir, CEO and founder of AeroBid, discusses the real-time bidding platform that aims to transform private aviation and offer operators a way to fill their empty legs.
How did you get your start in the aviation industry?
My background is as an aircraft engineer. I studied in the UK in Oxford and did my degree back in 1984. I’ve worked in private aviation all my life since that day, starting as an aircraft engineer and then establishing a company in Saudi Arabia, coming back to the UK, and starting a company called Jet Connection. I’ve worked as an operator managing private jets, and as a broker chartering private jets for clients. We’re also involved in purchasing aircraft on behalf of clients in a consultancy role.
Why did you decide to develop AeroBid?
Being in the market and working as both operator and broker, you see so many historical issues within our industry. The idea behind AeroBid is to try and tackle these issues, opening the market for operators and brokers to connect from all corners of the world, to conduct business on the AeroBid platform.
How does AeroBid function?
Ask yourself, what does a broker need? Because it all starts with the broker. They go out and work very hard to find the end clients, they want to find the availability of private jets, they want transparent pricing and immediate availability. Conversely the operator wants to keep their aircraft full, keep their schedule full and they want to deal with a broker who speaks their language as well.
Currently brokers need to request a flight through one of the static platforms available in the market. This will only give them a price from A to B, but when they get this price, it is not always accurate. The broker must call the operator to check whether the aircraft is available, and then get from them an actual price. This takes time, and the operators are overwhelmed with all these requests.
If ten brokers in the market are looking for ten different aircraft, and they each approach 20 operators, that is 200 requests for only ten flights. AeroBid resolves these issues by placing all requests in one common area. The operators can pick and choose what suits their operation best, they can put a price on this flight, and vice versa for the brokers. As a broker if you have 1000 operators on the other side who are willing to deal with you, all you must do is post your request on the platform, the operators will see it. If they don’t want to do the flight, they just ignore it. Nobody is going to penalize them for not bidding on a flight.
What’s your core customer base?
Now, we are focusing on Europe, Middle East, and we started in the USA, even though with our marketing campaigns, we are seeing people onboarding from Hong Kong, Australia and Africa. We haven’t really targeted these countries yet.
Are you out of beta yet?
We are launched, the marketplace is already working people are interacting, but it’s not on the scale I want to see of course. We have about 180 brokers already onboarded and about 50 operators. We’re talking to a lot of companies who love the idea, and they would join but for the summer period. As you know, everybody is overwhelmed with flights and with requests during the summer. We anticipate by November this year we will reach our critical mass whereby we have a solid number of participants to deal and do business with each other. I’m hoping within a year we will have about 1000 operators and maybe 3000 brokers.
How robust is the platform in terms of scalable communication between brokers and operators?
The platform is designed to handle thousands of daily requests. We have a Smart Alert system built into the platform. If you get an operator in in the UK who has ten passengers to drop in Singapore, once there the aircraft will have to come back to the UK to the home base, but the UK operator doesn’t have much business in Singapore and doesn’t know many brokers there. On AeroBid, wherever you are in the world, you will be able to fill your flight in a new geographical area which you haven’t done business in yet before. We’re bringing both parties together in one marketplace where everybody can see what’s happening in the market, this is the beauty of it.
How do you ensure accreditation is above board for all parties?
Before we accept the operator on the platform, we ask them to upload their documents. This includes their certificate of incorporation and their Air Operator Certificate (AOC) . Our team will get notified that there is a company and operators trying to onboard. Someone will physically go and download and check these documents, verify them, make sure they are genuine, and then an approval will be given to that company to carry on with the onboarding process. As for the brokers, the brokers are not regulated anywhere in the world. What we are demanding of them is a certificate of incorporation and an active, functional website involved in the chartering process.
What do you hope AeroBid’s overall impact on the sector will be?
I believe our platform we will solve 70% of all empty leg journeys and this is a big issue for the market. I believe every single one way flight request has an aircraft which is available to do that as an empty leg. Between 35% to 50% of private jets fly empty wherever they’re going because they’re either going to drop off some passengers, or they are going to pick up. When people go on holiday, they don’t go one day and come back the following day, they want to go for two weeks, the aircraft will not stay with them for two weeks on the ground.
Why are you launching now?
Because the problems still exist in the market, and the sooner you solve them, the better for everybody. I’m not sure if there is a right time but when the idea has been formulated, and the platform is ready, you might as well go ahead and do it.