Maybe this most recent economic crisis wasn’t Armageddon, but I think I saw a Guernsey or two fall somewhere over central Mississippi.
The technology and practices of our industrial world are changing at a mind-boggling pace. Since we started blogging just over a year ago, the advancements have been staggering, allowing us to begin developing a “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if” idea into a “isn’t-it-be-incredible-that” reality. However, if we had kept believing that we already knew it all, we would still be sitting on the porch, whittling, rocking in our chairs and wishing for a brighter reality.
This Big Idea is a gamble, to be sure; Big Ideas always are. But, to take our industry into its next great phase, we must accept that, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” We must reject bad managerial habits that keep us trapped in a paradigm which ceased to be profitable years ago. Aircraft operators are frustrated by rising fuel prices, rising training costs, rising salary and benefits costs. Equipment is getting older. Remaining competitive means newer equipment, higher standards and better practices. Meanwhile, many charter brokers insist on lower pricing, sometimes to the point of incorrectly educating the end-user on the actual cost of operating aircraft to the highest standards. Sadly, even some operators have been willing to operate below cost just to produce the cash flow. Reputable operators know what it costs to run a quality operation. Reputable brokers also know this and are willing to support the operators’ reasonable pricing structures to their own clients. But I digress. My point is this: charter operators are frustrated with rates which are not keeping pace with rising costs. Even with this frustration, we hamstring ourselves by acting conservatively out of fear of making mistakes and by avoiding anything new until it’s better understood. Neither habit is bad altogether, but the over-application of either of them can be deadly.
As I discussed the Big Idea with a few operators this week, I was discouraged at the response of many of them. If the Idea is flawed, I would expect rejection and would hope that someone would point out the fatal flaw; but, that’s not why it was rejected. Their rejection of the Idea stemmed from “I’ve never thought of that” and “We’ve never done it that way before,” not from the Idea’s merits or demerits. It’s one thing for an industry to suffer or fail due to catastrophic and unforeseen market changes, but that isn’t the case here. The market has been changing for at least the last 10 years. As operators and brokers began aggressively selling one-way trips, introducing our product to a wider audience, the market has been changing. As the global economy was reeling, our market changed further with more aggressive pricing, air taxi services, and ride sharing. I often here people lamenting the loss of the “good old days.” Let’s face it: the good old days weren’t all that great either. We still struggled. We still worked on narrow margins. I don’t think we worked any less hard, but maybe we worked a little less creatively.
While we’ve gotten more creative, it’s time for us to make a big creative leap now. Sharing flights is a creative way to broaden our market. Using social technology to share those flights is a creative way to work smarter. It’s the next Big Idea.
So, yes, 150 years ago, everybody knew man couldn’t fly. 70 years ago, everybody knew that supersonic flight was deadly. And 15 minutes ago, you knew that shared flights would never work. Once we accept that we don’t know our market as well as we think we do, we allow ourselves to adapt our industry to the new marketplace. When we use social innovations like Social Flights to tap into that new marketplace, we broaden our reach.
If we can learn all of that today, embrace the Big Idea of flying socially, imagine what we’ll know tomorrow.