Articles

9th August 2018

Fast onboarding achieved with a flexible approach to technology 

Implementing a full onboard retail service from scratch in six weeks is something we’d not usually recommend, but that was the challenge Versilia Solutions accepted from Niki and we achieved it.

When Air Berlin subsidiary, Niki, needed to switch from offering standard complimentary meals and snacks – which were unprofitable – to a revenue-generating buy onboard service, the challenge was set to achieve the change in time for the summer schedule. Versilia was selected to implement the full end-to-end service. 

Familiar technology enables a faster, more assured response

“The organisation and the commitment of all members of the Versilia team were crucial,” explains Neale Jouques, COO for Versilia. “Niki was expanding from its Vienna base into Switzerland and Germany, with 23 aircraft spread across seven bases; and five of these bases were new.”

Versilia assessed the many tasks in hand and found ways to short-circuit the go-live process. For example, a team was sent to Air Berlin to configure the necessary systems using existing technology. 

Neale continues: “The beauty of this approach was that the technology was familiar to Niki’s crew. We had to repair and install sufficient equipment for day one and set up the back-office systems to enable credit card transactions and cash handling.” 

Versilia provides a bespoke solution

Fast onboarding also meant Versilia had to develop the product range, with a selection of drinks, snacks and fresh food meals, plus a boutique offering. Then design, check, print and deliver the menu cards. 

Working at speed, and from different locations, brought its own challenges for Versilia, including moving Niki’s kit from Vienna to Zurich and Berlin, finding an alternative last mile provider, and renting storage space and setting up a warehouse in Hamburg.

“We provided Niki with a hands-on team, with someone from Versilia in every base,” adds Neale. “Our size means we can be responsive and we are not tied to pre-existing processes or systems. Before Versilia, airlines looking for a bespoke solution often needed to implement it themselves. Now, they hand over planning and installation to us, knowing we are listening to them and finding ways to make things work through third-parties that won’t confine them to an off-the-shelf solution. With the pace at which technology and retail are moving, this approach reassures airlines that we will not sit still.”

Full service from highly trained staff on day one

Neale is visibly proud of Versilia’s accomplishment for Niki: “We had some challenges, including a plan for an additional 14 aircraft that was abandoned at the last minute! But we face such challenges undaunted because we are adaptable and can mobilise people and resources at short notice.

“I’m delighted to say that everything went smoothly on the day. Niki was selling on all aircraft from all sites with the full range available. We’d trained the crew and we were there on day one to boost their confidence and support them.” 

In fact, Versilia’s super-fast response to this task was more successful than planned, with revenue targets exceeded. An outcome which Neale puts down to the skill and ingenuity of the team. 

Neale Jouques OBE 
Chief Operating Officer

Tags: Onboard retail

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