Face to Face: Tailor Made
Air Charter Service director Dmitriy Korshunov explains how to adapt your business to the changing market.
What does your role involve at ACS?
As director, I am involved in both the passenger and cargo side, but unusually I am involved directly with sales and deal directly with our clients. Directors, or country managers as we call them, are very similar to salesmen. I am out on the road a lot and my performance is measured against people who report to me, so in this way ACS is different from other charter companies.
How does this way of working benefit ACS?
It works for us. This is the way we have grown the business over the last 17 years into a US$200 million organisation. It means we can offer a truly personalised service. In addition, our account managers, whether they be on the cargo or passenger side, are expected to be at the clients disposal at any time. We operate 3000 charters a year worldwide.
How has the passenger charter business developed at ACS?
It is no secret that in the Middle East in the last 12 months there has been a huge growth in passenger charters. We see the reactions of our competitors as they respond to passenger needs by increasing their sales force and responding to requirements and our homework has been to do the same. Talking about numbers, ACS Dubai’s staff numbers is about 70% passenger and 30% cargo.
Has this figure changed because of the decline in the region’s cargo sector?
At ACS Dubai, cargo is developing at a slower speed, yes. But the aspects of our business remain the same such as relief charter. Because of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict, relief charter is still in demand, so this side of the business is not directly affected by the economy.
What is your core customer base at the moment?
The slowing economy has changed things. With regards to passenger charters, customers who worked in finance, real estate etc. have gone, but now we have high net worth individuals on our books, as opposed to corporate companies.
Can you explain the service you provide to your clients?
We work with major multi-national companies. On the passenger side we can supply a charter for a group that is travelling to various meetings in one day, or a larger group flying to a sales conference for example. On the cargo front, we have the largest share of the cargo market in Europe. Our clients include freight forwarders, charities and relief organisations, as well as governments, airlines, GSAs and oil and automotive companies and brokers.
What type of aircraft is popular with passengers at the moment?
You will be surprised, but the trend is super-heavy jets.
Because the downturn has pushed prices lower, so they buy because they can. It is not that a 15-seat jet will fly full, but a client will want the heaviest possible jet.
Do you offer any schemes to returning customers?
We do not offer jet card schemes as we do not believe it is a product our customers need. Our business model is tried and tested and we are confident that with our financial strength we can back emerging trends that we believe in. We do not expect to see new aircraft designs coming along this year, but we know that some sectors will dissipate and some sectors are immune to the financial turmoil.
Are you considering consolidation or joint ventures during this period?
ACS has not and will not form joint ventures. We have our own brand and methodology.
Expansion plans for this year?
We plan to further expand our operations in South Africa. We have opened an office in Johannesburg and we will finalise the opening of another European office later this year. Regionally, we will continue to respond to the needs of our existing clients and also seek out new clients.