From the power of dreams to the big trends in the airline business. Experiences and insights from one of the world's most experienced airline managers.
An exceptional personality recently took his place on the MCI podium: Stefan Pichler, who was born in Munich and is currently CEO of Royal Jordanian Airlines in Amman, told the students about his life’s journey, about his lows and highs and what motivates him the most. Almost in passing, he gave insights into the development of the international airline business and outlined four major trends that will determine the sector in the future.
Even at the age of 13, Stefan Pichler made it clear that he would not take an ordinary route: He left home and made his way to Paris. The next time he drew attention to himself was as a marathon runner in his 20s: he ran the marathon in 2 hours 12 minutes and qualified for the German Olympic team in 1980. Career milestones with NIKE, Lufthansa, Thomas Cook, Jazeera Airways in Kuwait, Virgin Blue (today Virgin Australia) from the British multi-entrepreneur Richard Branson and Fiji Airways were followed by a highly regarded commitment as CEO of Air Berlin. Although Stefan Pichler had already decided to retire, he is now CEO of Royal Jordanian Airlines in Amman. What continues to drive him forward is his relentless creative drive, which also allows him to take risks. However, he avoids this term, instead he speaks of his dreams: This is the message he also addresses to his audience: "Dream, and believe in your dreams. From these dreams results the power to take risks in order to be successful in the end.”
Stefan Pichler's professional steps in the airline business are marked by significant developments: In the 1980s, the airlines were still subject to strict regulations and only differed in terms of product and brand. Only subsequent deregulation made new price models and distribution channels possible. The 90s were the time of alliances: airlines entered into cooperations in order to expand their networks and serve markets better. At the same time, low-cost airlines positioned themselves on the market with completely different product, price and sales strategies. Finally, 9/11 in 2001 turned the entire industry on its head: sales fell by up to 80%. In order to survive, new strategies had to be developed. For the first time, the focus was now clearly on customer needs.
Stefan Pichler also outlines an outlook into the future. Four trends in particular will shape the airline business:
There will be further global consolidation. In the United States, the four largest airlines hold an 88% market share. In Europe, Ryanair, Lufthansa, IAG and easyJet currently have a market share of 67%, which Pichler expects to be 80% in the next few years.
The customer experience is the focus. Flying becomes a commodity. Airlines will sell these goods directly to customers, with the supply chain becoming increasingly automated.
Sustainability: Air traffic is increasing due to population growth alone: currently four billion passengers fly per year, in two years it will be 8 billion. It is imperative that airlines develop solutions to protect the planet. However, the entire flight operations must be included in the considerations, for example also airspace surveillance.
Diversity: The “monocultures” that have been practiced in the airlines so far are being broken down in favor of greater diversity and diversity among employees. Different cultures and different skills and talents will increase productivity and innovation.
After 20 years of international experience as CEO of various airlines, with a wide variety of tasks, successes and failures, it is clear to Stefan Pichler: Managing an airline means leading people. He quotes Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who said that men who build a ship together should first feel the longing for the great wide sea. Therefore, it's about realizing dreams. Another important point: Authenticity: "People are equipped with a 'bullshit detector', they feel it when you are not real as a manager. Just be yourself! "