Route development is an integral part of running both an airline and an airport. Heck, it’s a pretty important part of running a country too, with even a modest route holding the potential to bring in tens of millions to the local area. As such, there are many route development conferences and events that take place around the globe every year.
A route development conference is an opportunity for airlines to get together with airport operators and chat about where their services could overlap. It’s a tried and tested method to get conversations going which can, hopefully, develop into new services.
However, in my opinion, AviaDev stands some way apart from these other events. It’s not its size or attendees or location that made the difference, so why was this one a little bit special? Let me explain.
Interesting talk, but not too much
While the official opening of the event was a half-day conference, it was very much the icing on the cake of the overall product. Don’t get me wrong, the guests were excellent, the presentations interesting and the panel discussions highly enlightening. However, this was very much just ‘setting the scene’ for the main body of the event.
AviaDev uses a unique booking system for meetings between airlines and airports. Rather than just a free-for-all, the organizers use a combination of artificial intelligence, needs matching algorithms and good old human input to bring together those partners which are most likely to have a fruitful conversation.
That’s not to say that meetings aren’t abundant. In fact, meetings take place for the whole of the afternoon of the first day and all of the morning of day two. Altogether, more than 750 meetings took place over the course of the event, involving some 20 airlines and 60 airports from around Europe.
It was interesting to see a different way of doing things; usually, the airlines set up a table and the airports come to them. At AviaDev, roles are reversed. This allowed airports to become more of a destination; to set up attractive banners and let the airports come to them. It’s a small psychological tweak, but I think it worked really well.
Quality over quantity
AviaDev isn’t huge. It’s not meant to be. Overall, there were more than 200 delegates there, which was enough to make things meaningful but without it being a crowd. If you’ve attended other route development conferences, you’ll know just how busy, hectic and stressful things can get; this felt a whole lot more relaxed.
The tourism boards came too
One of the most interesting elements of AviaDev was that airports were encouraged to bring along their tourism board. While airlines and airports know all about the numbers, the tourism board brings along that little bit of X-factor that airlines love to hear.
While load factors and landing fees are all part and parcel of route development, when you’ve got someone in front of you who can really sell the destination and why passengers will love it, it adds another dimension.
Networking was the focus
While we can all lament those events we’ve been to when there never seemed long enough to chat with the other delegates, that’s not a worry at AviaDev. As well as generous breaks during the actual conference, the organizers laid on three separate networking opportunities, two over dinner and one involving paella and a boat.
There couldn’t have been more chances to network and chat, and to really make some strong connections in the industry to take away.
It gave back too
While AviaDev successfully brought lots for all of us to take away, it didn’t just take without giving back too. The morning after the gala dinner (which really was the ‘morning after’ for some), brave delegates took to the beach to run 5K for charity.
As a result, the team donated €1,000 to Amics de la Gent Major, a local charity taking care of elderly people living alone.
If you weren’t at AviaDev 2019 in Valencia, why not? It was a truly eye-opening event and incredible to see so much positivity in the currently difficult climate of European aviation. Bring on AviaDev Africa 2020, to be held in Madagascar from the 6th to the 8th May.