Issa Zuriqi, commercial director at Hadid discusses how the company has been dealing with Covid-19, how it stands out from its competitors and what the future holds.
What was your career path to your current role?
I always dreamt of being in the industry, and back in year 2002, I met with Baha Hadid while I was still working with one of the prestigious car manufacturers in Dubai. Being in customer service, I offered myself and my new expertise to bring in the techniques I have learned to the flight support industry. After one year, I received the golden call offering me a job to join the team in Dubai. My path started as OCC member and grew within the company to become the customer relation manager, the regional manager, then the regional director and now as one of the board members as the commercial director taking care of sales, marketing and business development of Hadid with a great team of dedicated members.
How have you been dealing Covid-19?
Vaccinated! Both physically and business-wise. The company took all needed measures to stand still at the times of difficulty, with our experience and readiness to jump in and offer our support. We received calls from all around the world, from old and new clients requesting to know updates on the international and local levels. We are an international company offering the most accurate local information to all those who ask. We expected a change in the regulations, and remained one step ahead of them. We kept calm, and ensured that we could be depended on when support was most needed.
We cried for the loss of lives, we sympathized with those who got sick, and we took the measures necessary for survival. It is our strategy to apply focus on clear directions in uncertain conditions. Hadid worked with operators to minimize disruption, assisting with re-planning, re-routings, fuel optimization and to keep clients abreast of the changing NOTAMS, regulations and restrictions in various regions.
Cargo, humanitarian, repatriation and MEDEVAC flights remained active and as important as ever throughout international travel bans and Hadid continues to provide a full range of reliable flight support services, even in the most challenging locations.
What are the best and worst elements of your job?
The best element is getting to know more people from the industry and growing a network of friends who are clients and suppliers. Traveling to different countries and meeting cultures to understand how to serve better. While the “worst” element I discovered recently, when I found that, due to Covid-19 restrictions, I cannot fly to certain places, many exhibitions were cancelled and some of old friends in the industry were lost to the pandemic.
Can you describe a typical day?
Handing over the shift with a cup of coffee in the hand is the most entertaining part in Hadid’s mornings for me. This is where our OCC discuss for a while how the shift was, discuss what is important before they move to action. Calling clients and suppliers and hundreds of emails flow around amongst the OCC teams. Looking for solutions to offer to operators, and sparing no efforts to come up with spontaneous but creative ideas to save the day. The office is like a beehive and reflects the hardworking and the careful attention to every detail. And no day is like another, every day is new experience added to our file, another happy client, and a wish for a continuity and fruitful business.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
With two words – “40 years”! When our first regional competitor started in the business, we were already 20 years old in the industry. And they were our ex-staff. Competition, later, became a different concept. Because today we work closely with many of our competitors who understand our stability and strength, and they join together with us to make the flight support industry a better place for operators to rely on. The competitors of yesterday are our clients or suppliers of today.
We have continued to expand our strategic locations worldwide and our business model, offering new services such as Travel and the operation and management of high-standard luxury FBOs. Furthermore, our proprietary flight management system, which we call COMPASS, has enabled us to act more efficiently, rationally and be more data driven as an organization.
What is the biggest trend currently affecting the business aviation sector?
Social media is a huge influence, wrongly or rightfully bringing news and new information to the world. Combined with disruption such as bad weather or a global pandemic, it can have a big impact on operators and airports but also allows them to work proactively to communicate with, and listen to, customers and track competitors. I believe the narcissistic elements of social media has had a negative effect on general aviation, with so many users “showing off” whilst on the contrary it has great value as an efficient means of transport with access to more locations for air ambulance flights for example, as well as for astute businessmen and women who know its value, and for repatriation flights. Especially during Covid-19, that it was the only means of transport for many businesses and those who needed it most.
There are other important, post-Covid, trends worth mentioning and these include the renewed importance and increasing focus on and efficiency of biometric security, pent up demand for travel and face-to-face events and meetings. There are changes to traveler behavior, with an increased frequency in last-minute bookings and a boost to smaller, less busy airports and airports exclusive to private aviation such as Riviera Airport in Italy, where we operate the luxury Hadid Riviera executive aviation terminal. This is a gateway to Monaco and the French-Italian Riviera away from the busy malls and queues of larger regional airports and we are seeing renewed interest here. In the same vein, private charter flights are seeing an expansion of the customer base, with more first time users due to minimized touch points, time saving opportunities and better availability during crises.
What does the future hold for Hadid?
More to be done, and our hunger for more to offer the industry. We have been Pioneers, and we will maintain our passion to lead from the front! We are motivated to grow every day and to offer our experience and expertize to those who need us. Building indestructible relationships, and looking up to a better future for humanity in which we are part of the process.