UK consolidator Aviate raises growth expectations after adding short-haul and regional flying

UK consolidator Aviate raises growth expectations after adding short-haul and regional flying

UK flight consolidator says it has seen positive early signs since announcing it has added short-haul and regional flying to its long-haul offering earlier this month.

The Chester-based firm now distributes fares for 12 short-haul airlines offering routes to Europe giving agents the ability to book and issue tickets around the clock.

Michael Edwards, managing director of Aviate, said he had been surprised by the airlines that have come to the fire like Icelandair, Aegean and Portugal flag carrier TAP.

He said thanks to changes in Atol and Iata regulations the barriers to entry to new tour operators, or agents acting as tour operators, have come down.

“There was a time when becoming a tour operator was anti-competitive, you could not get in to the market unless you had deep pockets.

“But that has now moved on a lot because you no longer need Iata to be a tour operator and you have Atol accredited bodies. That takes away a massive financial commitment.”

Aviate is continuing to add more airlines to its product range as growth accelerates and is hopeful of adding budget airlines through direct API links.

Two years ago the firm turned over £20 million, this year it will hit £61 million turnover and when sister aggregator Lime Management is included revenue is at £170 million.

Lime was originally established in 2003 to manage BA’s nett rate relationships with small tour operators and very quickly became one of the airline’s biggest customers.

Edwards said the exclusive agreement Lime has with BA means that anyone of its customer will avoid the £8 per booking Global Distribution Charge the carrier plans to implement from November.

“I would expect that the DTC [Distribution Technology Charge] will lead to software companies that need to be competitive connecting to BA’s NDC [New Distribution Capability] platform or to Lime,” he said.

Aviate recently launched a loyalty scheme for operators called the Aviator Club which currently has seven members who have agreed to put all their bookings through the platform.

This provides members with special privileges like ‘twilight hours’ office support service to 9.30pm.

Edwards said Aviate has established itself to date through reputation and word of mouth but now was the time to consider what the next stage of growth looks like.

“Most of our management team are tour operators and we are determined to retain a ‘boutiqueness’ in our business as we grow.

“So far we have achieved our growth through a reputation for caring for our customers and understanding our customers. We are tour operators selling to tour operators.

“Most of the major consolidators in the UK started off by selling to travel agents and some have refocused their attentions and amended their systems to deal with tour operators.

“We have done it the other way around. Our product offering is very tour operator customised and focused.

“As principals tour operators have more responsibility and therefore providing service within a regulated industry is important.”

Edwards added that the firm intends to remain at the forefront of innovation in the airline industry and react and respond quickly to changes and customer needs.

“Our intention is that future developments will allow users to link regional flights to their international bookings to create one seamless itinerary.

“We are committed to continually developing and expanding our product range in new and innovative ways. It’s certainly an exciting time for Aviate.”

A third arm of the business is technology developer Calrom, set up in 2007. It is poised to expand internationally as it integrates the firm’s group booking technology with partners like Qantas which has licenced the solution.

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