Are you looking to gain valuable insights into the dynamic shifts in the aviation industry? Look no further! Tune in to the latest episode of the Jump Seat podcast featuring an industry expert, Dan Geier.
Dan shares his thoughts on crucial topics such as digitalization, automation, emerging technologies, and their impact on operations, safety, and customer experiences. With his extensive experience and deep understanding of the industry, Dan offers valuable insights that can benefit professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Chris Glass: 0:00
Welcome to another episode of the Jump Seat. My name’s Chris Glass, I’m a product owner here at FLYHT and my guest today is.
Dan Geier: 0:13
We actually worked together!
Chris Glass: 0:14
Yes, we did! Back at WestJet. We worked together for a very long time. When did you move on from WestJet?
Dan Geier: 0:23
That was probably, I was gonna say, about eight years ago. So I was with WestJet for about 18 years and then actually ended up working with Air Canada, which was quite a cultural shift, obviously. Going from WestJet to Air Canada, but it was with them for a couple years. Also did the ground handling side, working with strategic aviation, which is now GAT. Gat yeah, yeah, and most recently was working with Flare, just until about a couple months ago, and now I’ve just taken a position as regional managing director for Canadian North.
Chris Glass: 0:59
Wow, okay, so you have almost every airline covered right now, so yeah.
Dan Geier: 1:05
I think, I never planned on that WestJet for 18 years and then kind of opt around, right. But yeah, I said I’m like my goal is to work for every airline in.
Chris Glass: 1:15
Dan Geier: 1:17
So yeah, so I have a good background and understanding kind of about the industry and the differences between a lot of the carriers.
Chris Glass: 1:24
Now you weren’t always in aviation, but tell me about that brief period before you fell in love with the industry.
Dan Geier: 1:34
Well, the one kind of funny thing about this is I’d actually never been on an airplane before WestJet. So literally when I was growing up, my dad was like trucking camper and fishing and so so, yeah, my first flight was actually with WestJet because a good friend of mine actually had started there and I flew standby. But previous that I was actually in radio and that was my goal, and you can see why.
Chris Glass: 2:01
Right, I have the face for radio too as well. Yeah.
Dan Geier: 2:04
And so, yeah, I went to BCIT and then I worked at a rock station, 97 Magic FM in Penticton, and then I worked at AM1040, which was like the WKRP of stations. It was last place and it was a big band 1930s, 40s, 50s music on AM radio. So so, yeah, when my contract kind of ran out, they had switched formats. I joined WestJet in Abyssal. It was a part-time thing and I thought I’ll just do this for six months and then fast forward and move across the country multiple times and then it becomes addicting.
Chris Glass: 2:47
Yeah, I don’t think people can really understand how addictive the airline business is until they step foot in it. I had a very similar story where, you know, I thought I was going to be with WestJet for a year tops, until I figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up. And then all of a sudden, fast forward 20 years later and you’re still in the airline industry and you’re still growing your career. Tell me about being a CSA back, it was Vancouver where you started.
Dan Geier: 3:14
Yes, no, Abbotsford.
Chris Glass: 3:15
Dan Geier: 3:16
Chris Glass: 3:17
And a lot of people don’t know that Abbotsford didn’t have a lot of air service before WestJet was there, so you were kind of groundbreaking back then.
Dan Geier: 3:24
Yeah, I mean, when we started, it was really interesting because they didn’t have an airport. It was basically a fire hall that was converted, and so they had, you know, you open the door, check-in was very basic and then they had a pony wall in which you would go through and, you know, board your plane, you know, from this little gate, and when it got really hot, the commissioners would actually pull up the rolling door to kind of let some air in you know high security back then.
Chris Glass: 3:50
Right, Everybody has red passes, but they’re opening the door.
Dan Geier: 3:54
Yeah, yeah and the other fun part is when you went to start your ship, because you’re out in the valley there’s a lot of flies and so literally you know you’d be killing flies at the beginning. And when you’re checking in you’d be, like you know, window or I’ll seat and you’d be, like you know, trying to get the flies off you. But obviously Abbotsford’s a beautiful airport. Now.
Chris Glass: 4:11
Dan Geier: 4:12
And a really you know kind of great little hub in BC.
Chris Glass: 4:16
Yeah, and it’s not just a WestJet airport anymore. There’s plenty of airlines going there now and it’s really opened up that whole area to travel without having to go to the Vancouver airport.
Dan Geier: 4:26
Yeah, and really a lot of carriers you know, like at Abbotsford, obviously they’ve kept their you know landing terminals, you know pretty cheap, and they want that growth. So you know they’re almost a victim of their own success, because you know they’re trying to grow the airport.
Chris Glass: 4:41
It sounds like we’re doing a commercial for the Abbotsford airport, but I know Parm who’s the general manager.
Dan Geier: 4:48
They will love this.
Chris Glass: 4:48
Yeah, no doubt.
Dan Geier: 4:50
Excellent, yeah, free advertising for Abbotsford.
Chris Glass: 4:52
And so you started off in an airport that was basically a fire hall as part time, and then you moved to running the airport at Vancouver. Tell me the differences. Tell me what it’s like to step into that monster and to be a part of that airport.
Dan Geier: 5:09
Yeah, I mean I was, you know, in Vancouver as a customer service agent and moved multiple other times leading other cities before I came back to be the general manager for about 12 years. So what’s really interesting is to see the evolution of Vancouver Airport and you know they really. Obviously, if you look at SkyTracks, they’ve been, you know, top. I can’t remember how many years it was, they were just like 10 or 11.
Chris Glass: 5:36
One of the nicest, like aesthetically pleasing airports I’ve ever seen. It is, and you know what.
Dan Geier: 5:41
it didn’t start out that way. So they were really creative in pushing the envelope. And when you look at Vancouver Airport, the reason for doing that is, you know, getting that gateway traffic from Asia. So Vancouver, seattle, los Angeles are all in kind of that competition and Vancouver really catered to that which drove the whole market in that connectivity.
Chris Glass: 6:05
That international wing of that airport is just so massive Like it’s yeah, it’s pretty breathtaking, I mean it’s fully lit up and they got the you know, the waterfalls and all the art there.
Dan Geier: 6:17
So they’ve really invested in that and obviously that’s a huge draw for them and also, you know, a huge draw for a lot of airlines. But I mean, if you look at it, I mean every airport in Canada is really pushing the envelope and trying to get up to snuff and they’re very competitive. So you know, we’re in Calgary, calgary’s done a lot of renovations and changes and so they’re all competing kind of with each other.
Chris Glass: 6:41
Right, and they just always keep growing and always keep. It seems like every airport you’ve ever been to has always been under some sort of construction.
Dan Geier: 6:48
I don’t think it will ever stop.
Chris Glass: 6:50
Dan Geier: 6:51
And you know we’re talking about leveraging technology and those type of things. So I think a lot of airports and airlines are trying to really figure this out for the long term. You know, what does it look, long term, when technology is changing so quickly, right? So it’s like having a crystal ball a little bit.
Chris Glass: 7:08
Technology changes when it comes to what type of airline you are, and you’ve experienced a whole bunch of different airlines. So your routes were with WestJet, which was kind of the scrappy, innovative, low cost but not really kind of that hybrid model kind of carrier. And then your next role was with Air Canada. Talk to me about what legacy airlines like. What’s the big differences between the two?
Dan Geier: 7:35
Yeah, well, moving over to, you know, when I walked across Cal and started working with Air Canada, it was definitely you know a ship where you know WestJet was very kind of down home and you know Right, aw shucks.
Chris Glass: 7:45
They used to call it folksy Right and then they probably wouldn’t want to hear that now.
Dan Geier: 7:49
But going over to Air Canada, which was much more, you know, they were very driven by the business class traveler Right and that whole product is very, very different than WestJet and I think Air Canada has a great product on board and so working with them was very different. Very large, they had their regional airline jazz, so lots of complications as far as the size of Air Canada. But overall I think when I joined them they were really looking to kind of change the narrative around the customer service, the customer service, and so it was a great time to join them because, you know, I was able to kind of help out in Vancouver and say, hey, listen, like this is great, we want to focus on this. And it really kind of some of the WestJet stuff that I kind of learned and I’ve still, you know, blew a teal to a degree because it was 18 years of my life, but it was more of like making that connection with frontline and starting to change the narrative there and that actually ended up helping the customer experience overall.
Chris Glass: 8:50
Air Canada has gone through that change. I mean, they had such a negative reputation early on in my aviation career and it seemed like that was in the water supply for a very long time. And then somewhere around three or four years ago that narrative just flipped completely and you start to see people really taking to that brand as a customer service brand, not just as an airline that could take them anywhere in the world or has the business travel or the first class, but one that really has that customer service side. So it’s interesting to hear you talk about that transition.
Dan Geier: 9:24
Yeah, I think you know there’s always, you know for a long time. You know, air Canada was always, you know, kind of getting beat up in the press and all those kind of things.
Chris Glass: 9:32
It’s somewhat unfairly too, like we all have friends who say, oh, it’s still owned by the government and you’re like that hasn’t happened.
Dan Geier: 9:37
No, yeah, there was a lot of bad narratives that was going on and ultimately you know why other carriers were growing. But I think Air Canada and again I’m not putting Air Canada in front of Washington or any other thing but I think they actually started to listen and say, hey, listen, we need to kind of change. We were approaching the business and I think that’s come through. But, as you know, every airline has their time in the sun where they get picked on or something bad happens. You know all it takes is, you know, one bad winter.
Chris Glass: 10:09
Really one bad Christmas, or?
Dan Geier: 10:11
Chris Glass: 10:11
Yeah, absolutely, and I’ve worked those days as a CSA where everything’s going wrong and you know, then you read about it the next day in the paper and that’s not a fun scenario for anybody.
Dan Geier: 10:22
I mean if you look at airlines, it’s a very complicated business, right, and if anything can go wrong, it will. And it’s more of like you know, when you’re having a regular operation, how do you try to minimize that as much as possible and then learn from it afterwards. Right, and that’s the biggest thing, you’re never going to get away from not having a bad day in aviation, but it’s what you’re actually doing to minimize that or change some processes, and usually it’s like communication something broke down, a reservation system broke down, etc.
Chris Glass: 10:55
So you talked about it being a complicated business. The traveling public sees it as I check in, I go to the gate they put my bags on and I get on the plane and fly. Talk about for people who aren’t in the industry. Talk about why it’s so complicated. Talk about some of the moving parts, if you don’t mind.
Dan Geier: 11:14
Yeah, you know what, as you start to scale your airline and you start to have levels and connectivity, there is a lot of stuff on the back end. So you know there’s weather across the country, there’s mechanicals that can happen with your aircraft. You know you may have staffing challenges or issues If you look at, for instance, you know, the ground handling side of things. Ground handling has had a big challenge, post pandemic, in recruiting workers.
Chris Glass: 11:44
Because it’s a tough job.
Dan Geier: 11:45
It’s a tough job and airlines are looking for the lowest costs for the most part. So it’s kind of this race to the bottom at times, and when it’s happening you get a lot of turnover in some of these positions Speaking specifically of ground handling, where once was a job you would do for life, now you’re getting a lot of turnover. So those things happen. You also have, you know, airports facility. Anything that could happen there, you know bridge breaks, securities backed up, poor systems fail.
Chris Glass: 12:16
Dan Geier: 12:18
And it goes on and on and on. So the thing is is like you know, if you have one delay, that’s fine, but if you have multiple delays in a major city without a good game plan or a good communication with the other agencies, things can really snowball fast.
Chris Glass: 12:33
Yeah, you know, when I was running a continuous improvement project back in my previous career, one of the things that was really apparent is that, close in the ground, crew didn’t know when the plane was going to land. So they knew it was scheduled at eight o’clock but that delta between 7.50 or 8.10 when it was going to arrive. They didn’t know when to be at the gate. So, as a result, you had planes being unmet. You had guests waiting on board the aircraft for 10 minutes, even though the plane was early. You know now we’re looking at taking a delay because the ground crew couldn’t get there fast enough. So all those moving parts are stuff that people don’t really see, they just know, why isn’t there somebody at the gate all the time, right?
Dan Geier: 13:21
Yeah, great example, and you’ll see this a lot when I’m traveling. It doesn’t matter if it’s here. In the last couple of years, I spent predominantly most of my time in the United States, which was really great to see the difference between Canada and the US, but a common thing that happens is you arrive on a gate and there’s no ground crew. And a lot of people are like, well, why is this happening? But what they may not understand is, yeah, your flight’s on schedule, but the other three flights that arrived that were off schedule and there’s only so many ground crews, so it’s frustrating from a general public side, I think, to have to go through that and quite frankly it’s not their concern. But it’s where you know, having really well-oiled machine with good communication and proper planning from like, from your operations control center and all these other kind of data points to help you actually do the best you can inside of you know an operation with 70, you know up to 100, 200 flights a day.
Chris Glass: 14:19
So you hit the nail on the head with the multiple agencies like the ops control center, customer care, airports, in-flight flight, ops. How has technology played a role in bringing those groups together and where do you think the gaps are? Yeah, Well not to ask you the largest question in the industry. No, no, no, it’s okay.
Dan Geier: 14:43
Yeah, I think, just on that point, every airline is trying to figure out what technology is best Right, and they also want to be unique in the way that they use that. And airport authorities are trying to figure out you know how do we, how can we remain consistent from a brandy perspective of the airport? So I think technology has come a long way. Obviously, self-service is nothing new. It’s been around for quite a long time and you know, going back to my question days, the first time self-tagging was actually introduced in North America was in Vancouver and it really kind of it was a game changer. It was transiting. Back in those days People thought you were nuts for doing that.
Chris Glass: 15:29
the self-tagging Like I remember that moment in the industry where there was a lot of people not thinking that that was going to be successful or the norm.
Dan Geier: 15:37
No, and you’re right. So at that time and just talking about it briefly because it’s an interesting point is you know there used to be kiosks so you would go in, you would get your boarding pass right and then you stand in another line where you would have to be rechecked in to get a bag tag. So it was pretty cool technology back then, but it really wasn’t speeding up the process. And so what happened at that particular juncture is, you know, weship was flirting with self-tagging, they had a couple kiosks in the corner and we were pushing people through it.
Chris Glass: 16:07
Dan Geier: 16:08
But we didn’t really know if it was going to evolve.
Chris Glass: 16:11
I believe those were called touch and goes. Well, touch and go was the first incarnation.
Dan Geier: 16:16
Yeah, yeah they had the weird scream. It was a little gray, but this one, you know, the public wasn’t really ready and so at that point there was no algorithm at WESHIP to say, if we add multiple layers of flights into our bank, what does that do for our handling times and contact ratios. So that did happen, where we ended up putting a few additional flights in the bank and we went from really you know always being, you know happy, go lucky, moving people quickly, to having lineups around the airport.
Chris Glass: 16:45
Dan Geier: 16:45
And so really at that time it was kind of, you know, they couldn’t grow the airports. I knew I was in trouble and so, working with a lot of other people at WESHIP, we were able to kind of arena model it and it showed that if you just added a bunch of you know self-tag kiosks and going all in with self-tagging, it would reduce your handling time from like four minutes down to maybe 20 seconds for activation. And so nobody really believed me on this one and I had to sell the executive and they still the CEO. At the time, greg Stretzky was still, you know, kind of like I don’t think this is going to fly and I was just like we got to trust it down.
Chris Glass: 17:22
We got to give it a try or we’ve got to encounter. We’ve got to acquire all the counter space and hide all of these people and there’s no way to flex the operation up and down.
Dan Geier: 17:33
No, there was no way we’re going to be able to blow out the airport and other you know.
Chris Glass: 17:37
Dan Geier: 17:38
So when we did it it really changed, it took off and, and you know, then we brought it across the country, but it really that’s. That was a huge evolution in North America, and you’re now kind of at the secondary point now where that’s becoming a little longer than tooth.
Chris Glass: 17:55
Dan Geier: 17:56
And and now it’s like, okay, so what’s the next step? And so now you have self-serve bag drops, biometrics, all these new kind of areas that are still being figured out.
Chris Glass: 18:06
Right, yeah, you know. One question I get a lot as a product owner who who is building airport technology and airline technology and leveraging real-time information, is can you leverage RFID tags instead of bag tags? I think people don’t understand that the airports need to be ready for those kind of changes as well too. How long is that baggage belt in Vancouver? I heard a stat that it was a couple kilometers long at 10. Yeah, those round.
Dan Geier: 18:41
Yeah, they’re all connected. There’s high speed systems. It’s very, very complicated, Right, but literally you can drop your bag at one side of the airport and it knows where to go for the most part. For the most part, and if it doesn’t, it goes through a default pier. But but it’s really. I mean, that’s huge technology in order, because a lot of these airports are so big and if you connect, whether it be in Vancouver or Calgary or even Toronto, you know every airline is trying to meet tight connection times and so that the speed, the baggage backbone, is actually one of the most critical parts of the journey. Yeah, Nobody sees all the systems and the you know things being dumped off carousels and paddles, the paddles that are getting things back and forth are kind of messing up your bag. By the way, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on luggage. I always laugh when I I always laugh when I see people, they show up and they’re like you know they’re, they’re Gucci or they’re our money bag and I’m like that’s a bad idea. Invest, just get yourself a good old, you know.
Chris Glass: 19:37
Sam’s bag? Yeah, absolutely, so, yeah. So my thought on that is like, in order to change the technology, you have to change the infrastructure. So the airports need to be a partner and need to be ready for that as well. So you’ve worked for that, that startup hybrid. You’ve worked for that legacy kind of traditional carrier. You’ve also had other airlines under your belt with Flair. Talk to me a little bit about the ULCC business model and how mature it is in Canada and where do you think it’s going.
Dan Geier: 20:09
Yeah, well, the ULCC, I mean, you know, if you look at your up, ulccs are just commonplace. Yeah, they’ve been around for a long time and in the US, you know, they’re really becoming dominant and in Canada this is kind of a new introduction. So you know, speaking from Flair, they’re coming at with a very, very different business model and trying to stimulate the market, same way that West did earlier in the day, right when the airfares used to be $800 from Vancouver to Calgary and also it was $69. That was a huge game changer. And so now you have this really aggressive ULCC that’s come in and a lot of other competitors that are firing their way. So again, totally different business model. If you have a $29 fare, you know now it’s a la carte everything. So you know you’re going to be, you’re going to be charged for bags and kind of everything along the way, and so that insulating a collection of fees becomes critical to actually meet your business plan Surviving, yeah. So if you you know Flair’s a scrappy upstart and you know they’re going for it for sure, right. And you also have jet lines and links all in the competition, and then you also have Porter.
Chris Glass: 21:24
So which is offering an absolutely completely different product than most.
Dan Geier: 21:31
Yeah, they’re offering a premium economy, but you know for the most part. They kind of stayed in the East, but you can see them. They’re growing at the same time and so it’s really probably one of the most interesting times in aviation that I’ve seen in probably 20 years, where there’s a lot of competitors. We’re a thinly populated country, I think there’s not a lot of people.
Chris Glass: 21:51
Right, and there’s not a lot of routes where you could fill a 737 or a E 195.
Dan Geier: 21:55
Chris Glass: 21:56
Dan Geier: 21:57
And so the market’s strong right now. I mean, if you look at what happened over this last summer, you know it’s the first time really post pandemic where it felt like, you know, a peak season.
Chris Glass: 22:07
We’re back to normal.
Dan Geier: 22:08
So airlines are, you know, more than likely making money, and I think it’s. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out and if there’s a consolidation in the market. But whoever is offering the best product with the best technology I think is is going to be the winner and, of course, air Canada and WESHA will still be still be in their areas, you know West West. Air Canada East, and and they’ll do their own thing.
Chris Glass: 22:33
Right. So with the ULCC, the rise of the ultra low cost you had said something before about cost being king, so talk to me about cost control at those airlines and why that’s so important.
Dan Geier: 22:47
Yeah, well, if I, if I go back, and one of my mentors and you would know him too is one of mine as well yeah, Clive Beto. So you know, I met Clive when I was 23 years old at Abbotsford airport. I never met a CEO before. And this was like the difference of West Shed in those days. You know, he came and met me and so let’s go outside, and I talked to him for about an hour about aviation and keeping costs low in those things, and so I I got this really great education from one of those you know kind of founders and you know trailblazers.
Chris Glass: 23:19
Dan Geier: 23:20
But but really that’s that’s the whole name of the game. If you, if you look at how expensive it is to run an airline, cost is everything, and so driving costs out of the business, increasing the revenue that you’re taking in, but also making sure that you know, from a staffing perspective, you know your FTUs per departure become really, really critical too. So it’s a balancing act of not going too thin with your staffing but also not, you know, giving or giving away the bank kind of thing by overstaffing. So it’s, it’s, it’s always a balance of what the customer actually wants versus what is the what’s the actual goal? You know we want to hit 15% Right, that would be fantastic for most airlines. How did we get there? And every airline has a different business model of getting there. So Air Canada is very different, you know. I think it was like 80% of their revenue. Actually I shouldn’t quote myself on that, but somewhere it’s a high amount. That’s for the business traveler right, whereas you know a ULCC, you know that they’re not focused on that. They’re focused on something completely different.
Chris Glass: 24:28
Right and then yeah. So what are some of the most unique ways you’ve seen cost removed?
Dan Geier: 24:35
For the most part, I would think you know the cost reduction when I’m going to go back to leveraging self-service is probably the biggest way, right? So I think when we introduced this, like, for instance, self-tagging, a lot of people are like you know, you’re taking jobs away from people. And it was like no, we’re not taking away jobs from people, we’re keeping all of our head count, but we’re reducing our need to continually grow, grow grow grow, and and same thing for airports, right? So all of that money that you’re spending, if you’re able to reduce it, you get a better customer experience or a guest experience, and, and ultimately you know, you’re also reducing your costs as an airline too, which you can pass along to to the customer. So, when you start competing in this low cost market, you know you better make sure that your house is in order, because what was the old statistic in Canada?
Chris Glass: 25:31
95% of all airlines failed within the seven years.
Dan Geier: 25:34
Yeah, within five or seven years. And I mean there’s actually, if I remember. I don’t know if it’s still there, but in Montreal there’s a little greasy spoon by the airport and it actually has an airline member at Belia and so they have the current airlines in one right and then in the other room. It’s like the kind of walk of shame of every airline that’s been coming and gone and it’s pretty fascinating to kind of see how many airlines I mean a lot of people still talk fondly about those airlines and they had a good business plan, but they may not have executed it correctly.
Chris Glass: 26:08
Yeah, they didn’t have that chasm side under control and that can lead to so many issues. One thing I’ve always seen is airlines try to buy on time performance by throwing people at it or increasing turn times. You know they move from a 45 minute turn time to a one hour turn time without changing anything other than that 15 minutes, and all of the stuff that caused that delay at the beginning is now pushed another 15 minutes later and you spent all this money and you’re nowhere ahead. So talk to me about turn management. It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart and I know, working in airports for so long. What did you do to turn planes on time and to get them there? Where do you see a need in that world?
Dan Geier: 26:56
Yeah, well, when you look at turning aircraft, that is like the most critical thing and people want to get out on time, right, there’s nothing worse than dragging delay and of course, you can make up time if you hit the gas a little bit, right which actually burns to get the arrival on time. But really, when I look at it, every airline is trying to do their own thing and there’s a million videos on the internet about the best way to turn an aircraft. And I don’t think anybody’s really truly figured it out right you have the Southwest of the world where it’s general mission boarding.
Chris Glass: 27:32
Where people are literally running to find a window seat.
Dan Geier: 27:35
Yeah, and then you have other airlines that are quite standard as how they go through the premium, platinum class and then business class and then sub-business class. There’s actually. It was funny preparing for this. I watched Key and Peel. Yeah, and there’s a great clip of a guy going. He’s in zone one, but there’s like 15 other groups before him before he can board, and so that’s kind of what it is. But really, if I look at gate management and what makes it work, best is, quite frankly, is having good communication and standard, almost like military precision on everything that you do, and so every single minute needs to be accounted for, your team needs to be organized and the communication to passengers has to be really, really tight. If you’re going to do a 35 minute turn, and so it’s not even just above the wing, it’s below the wing, it’s the cruise and offloading the baggage within 15 or 20 minutes, the grooming Right, lab service, these are all. There’s so many things that go on in that short time period, and you also need to do it in a safe way.
Chris Glass: 28:47
So yeah, with so many moving parts, not doing it safely, there’s so many risks. So you hit the nail on the head with the safety aspect of it.
Dan Geier: 29:00
If I look at where the industry is going, we’re going to talk a little bit about this and you’re starting to see it come as using biometrics so biometrics at self-service to kind of eliminate that contact point with seeing an agent but being able to. There’s airlines like Spirit Airlines where they introduce that in the last couple of years where you go, it reads you, you put your idea in and it takes your bag away and so a lot of people are kind of scared of big brother biometrics but really the whole concept of it.
Chris Glass: 29:36
At the same time using biometrics on their iPhone every day.
Dan Geier: 29:39
Yeah, exactly, Exactly and really there’s something to be scared of. It really is to kind of make your journey through an airport smoother and quicker, but it will take time, just like self-tagging took time to get used to, but it also starting to introduce that down at the gate. So if you travel in the US, uscbp is now put in biometrics.
Chris Glass: 30:04
Right. So you stand in front of it and it reads to make sure you match your passport instead of having somebody physically check it.
Dan Geier: 30:11
Yeah, and it’s Canadian carriers. We’re still checking the ID. So, it’s a matter of, like you know, moving this technology and then trusting it where you know and so you can take away. Every step you can take away is better, especially when you’re in the boarding, so you and I talked about it. When you’re looking at turning an aircraft, every minute counts and there’s a million different touch points inside of a turn. Some airlines are really good at tracking this, Some airlines are learning how to do that, but a lot of times in a delay situation, you’re either looking for the first thing that happened or the last thing, and that’s kind of what gets blamed where, in actuality, losing two minutes on grooming, or you know the fuel truck.
Chris Glass: 30:54
You’re having your process tight here and there. Yeah, yeah.
Dan Geier: 30:59
So it’s more a matter of like really looking holistically at the data to find out what the problem is, before, all of a sudden, you decide to spend a ton of money and effort into the area that wasn’t actually broken to begin with, and I’ve seen this time and time again, where it’s like and we do have better technology. Obviously, the stuff that you guys are doing is going to drive a lot of that, and airlines actually need that service and they don’t really want to spend a ton of time trying to figure it out themselves either.
Chris Glass: 31:27
So there’s we were laughing just before this, talking about the vice presidents of airports and directors and everybody in a room arguing over a five minute delay instead of focusing on the rest of the turn and figuring out what happened. You know, and pressure is one of those things that only works when it’s applied, you know, and so the moment you move to the next thing, that other process goes back to normal unless you’re tracking it. So it’s something I’m extremely passionate about is trying to. We have a good product, we want to make money, but one of the things I want to do is I want to move airlines away from blaming somebody for a delay to figuring out whether their processes are under control. Not knowing how long it takes to drive a bridge, yet building a turn time that has three or four minutes for bridge driving in it it doesn’t seem like that’s the way to go to me. We need to figure out how long it takes the bridge to drive and then figure out what we’re doing on the turn and then start the process improvement side. So that’s that’s kind of where I want to see the industry move to is investing in that side of it and going after not just delays but all flights.
Dan Geier: 32:39
Well, it’s funny you bring that up because if you look in for airlines and this is kind of the interesting part is you know everybody the airlines main goal and objective is to get to an on time performance or arrival within 50 minutes of X. Yeah, at the same time you have multiple departments that are all have their goals and their bonus is attached to. As long as it’s not me, yeah To hitting these things, and so sometimes I always have to remind a lot of the teams that I work with is like we’re on the same team here. We’re not competing against each other, we’re competing against the other airline, and so if we silo off and start to point fingers, that’s, that’s a real big problem, and if you don’t get it in control of it very quickly, it will kind of eat your culture from the inside out. And you know everybody has to be open to like, listen. We need to find the best way through this gauntlet, and some airlines do a good job of it. Some airlines don’t.
Chris Glass: 33:35
You know it’s, it’s funny, it’s bringing that old kind of six sigma view, that lean process improvement view that is in manufacturing and taking it to airports, and that same side of course side kind of way of looking at those individual processes and making sure there is tight as possible. Like I said, that’s where I hope the industry moves, because I think that’s where we can really start changing the experience at the airports as opposed to just saving one or two points on your on time performance. You know you want to stay out of the news during Christmas and during the summer. That’s how you’re going to do it is fix the turns when you haven’t taken the lay.
Dan Geier: 34:12
Yeah, and you also have to be a little bit creative. You know, I’ve always, you know I’ve worked where we had a really good on time performance, and then I’ve seen other places. I’ve been where we don’t, and sometimes so, for instance as a passenger. So you’re at, you know the gate and they start rush boarding right, I’ve always told ages don’t rush boarding because it’s like a highway system, right so? yeah you’re going into rush hour and if they had the green red approach? Although it’s, it’s counterintuitive. If you slow down your boarding, you actually speed up the ability for people to get on the aircraft, yeah nothing worse, and you probably had this too. So it’s. It’s in the winter, you’re in Winnipeg and they’ve boarded you so fast onto the bridge, and, of course, the heat is like blaring on you, or it’s too cold broken yeah and now you’re jammed up and they’re like why did you do this? Right and it’s and it’s just, you know, you’re trying to put everybody through a tiny door in the front and Everybody has tons of baggage, especially in winter in Canada, and you’re trying to process that all at the same time. And so it’s really really looking and not knowing that, but looking at your facilities.
Chris Glass: 35:20
So let’s talk about service level agreements, because this is another area that I’m interested in disrupting, because so many times we we try to write these agreements without having dated to back up what these targets are and what these goals are. So talk a little bit about your experience with service level agreements and third-party contractors.
Dan Geier: 35:41
Yeah, I mean if. Well, the big thing here in the industry now is, for the most part, airlines are using Predominantly third-party carriers, right for a lot of the above and below the wing right, and so you know, obviously carriers are trying to keep their costs low, and so they’re. They’re working with third-party providers and ground handlers to give them a really good rate on service and value in return, and the one way that they do that is through service level agreements, and so a huge amount of money either bonus.
Chris Glass: 36:11
Bonus or a penalty.
Dan Geier: 36:14
Kind of comes out of this, and so it’s just it’s really important when you’re actually doing the data, to make sure that are the goals that not only are you setting for your airport teams, for your leadership Are in alignment with the being reasonable, with your ground handling teams that have a huge stake. And so when you talk about getting the data correct, it’s the difference between you know a target that is actually reasonable to hit Versus one that you’re. You know you’re constantly missing SLAs or you’re missing your KPI targets because really you haven’t figured that piece out yet. And so some airlines are good at it, some airlines are actually still learning with some of the margins these Ground handling companies make.
Chris Glass: 36:55
Two percent on the contract might make that contract not Valid anymore for them to try to go for next time and you may have to change ground handlers completely right. I have always felt like the data that’s missing is what’s going to help those partners get better. You know, it’s not just about taking a delay and finding somebody to point to and ground handlers make a really good person to point To because they’re not in your organization and there’s somebody else to blame but not providing them with data to get better is is, I think, one of the things that we really need To change when it comes to SLAs totally and in, I think, for the most part.
Dan Geier: 37:32
Airlines understand this, but your, your third-party handler, is you yeah right to anybody out there. That is your, where you learn your yep, they’re your brand, yeah, and so really you know having the partnership and actually you know working collectively with the ground handling organizations to say what are the challenges that you’re facing, because your successes is our success. Right and to your point, you know there’s been certain times in the industry and I worked on the ground handling side where you know there’s a lot of like. You know I’m angry, I’m yelling at you on the phone where that necessarily wouldn’t happen if it was your own people, right, right, but it’s a little bit easier when it’s a ground handler. It’s like well, they work for me, kind of stuff. So, by really having that partnership and that data is critical and setting reasonable targets, and also, you know not, you know you know having the stick when something goes wrong, but really you know that rewards or recognition and that culture that you’re trying to bridge, a bridge inside of your airline which comes out to your passengers or guests, it’s all tied together and so you know we didn’t really hit on this, but if you look at, you know a customer engagement and CSAT scores. That’s a huge part of the business. Yes, you want to be best in class and you want, you know, one person to tell ten people about their flight. So, again, a bit of a balancing act. But it all is tied together in one big package and and figuring it out. Spending the time to figure out what’s the right way to go Is more important than just launching something. Yeah, I see that a lot where airlines will be like we got it. We have a problem launch fix. This seems to be you know very heavy-handed, very heavy-handed, we’re gonna do it in three weeks. But really it’s like if you, if you spend the time on the upfront and really you know, don’t take a ton of time, but really really think about it holistically, with smart people and good data, you’re going to make the best decision for your long-term growth.
Chris Glass: 39:24
Yeah, you touched on. You touched on it when you were talking about the ground-handling side of it. One one study I was a part of there was an unmet aircraft problem, so the crew wasn’t meeting the planes on time, so the planes were waiting for the gate and there’s no crew to marshal them in, and On the surface this seemed like a ground-handling problem. It seemed like a staffing issue or just an awareness issue. And then, when you peel back the layers you peel back the layers, you peel back the layers you find out that the crew didn’t know when the plane, exact to the exact second, was going to be at the gate and, as a result, you know that planes on approach and it Shows up seven minutes early because it got a different vector, got a different way in. You know that crew isn’t there, even though they had the full intention and they were ready to go. They just weren’t at the gate when that plane was there. So it really highlighted a gap of information and we were able to provide that information to the crews that were working those flights. They were able to be there on time. So and that was leveraging the technology that was available that we didn’t know we needed. Right, because we were not looking for the blame, we were looking for the process. Right, we were looking for why it was happening, not whose fault it was.
Dan Geier: 40:40
Yeah, well, it’s funny you say that like so. Vancouver is a great example of that, where you know under 10,000 feet, you know you could switch runways right, yeah, 100%, if you’re out. If you’re on the north and you come on the south, you may have shaved off a ton of time and to your point, you know, can you? For if you’re down on the ground, do you know that that happened Right? And there might be some communication that gets lost, so that the constant transmission of information from an aircraft To the gate, to the op centers, so people know what’s happening in real time because there’s a lot of variables and you know, taxine can be different, there could be congestion. There’s a bunch of different things that can happen right. So all of that that’s kind of the next generation is getting that information to really funnel into one central place that makes sense and actually prompts, for instance, gate agents. It’s like, hey, listen, this is coming in earlier to you and you know help like almost automated coaching to at gates. Yeah you know, with AI and a bunch of different things, airlines will be able to kind of work with to say, you know you might be a newer agent, but it may prompt you to do something different, yeah, and get you ready earlier in the process so you’re not behind the able well, and then moving all of those processes earlier really helps get them off the critical path, so we’re not doing them at the very end, right?
Chris Glass: 41:54
Well, and you know what?
Dan Geier: 41:55
and when you and the problem is, if you start, you know, rushing, that’s where a lot of things can go wrong. Right, yeah, a lot of extreme mistakes can happen. And then there’s also the safety component of this. Right, we’re moving around an aircraft. There’s, you know, a ton, a lot of different things where it’s better to slow down and do the thing right then to like be in this, you know, kind of worrisome state.
Chris Glass: 42:17
Consistency of panic.
Dan Geier: 42:19
Yeah, and you actually cause more problems out of confusion.
Chris Glass: 42:23
So now you’re with Canadian North?
Dan Geier: 42:27
Yeah, I start with them next. Actually on Tuesday will be my first day.
Chris Glass: 42:31
That’s fantastic. So talk to me a little bit about working for, I think, an iconic Canadian airline as well. They’ve been around for a very long time and they serve a much different community with much different needs, and I think they do a great job at it. So tell me a little bit about working for Canadian North and what’s the next step for you.
Dan Geier: 42:50
Yeah, I mean I was just interviewing with them and you know, have my first trip kind of to Yellowknife. So I got to kind of see the city. And you’re right, the airline has been around for a very long time and it’s a really a very, very important carrier inside of Canada. Canada is very, very vast and large, and so most of those cities in the north, you know, wouldn’t survive necessarily if an airline like Canadian North isn’t there, and so it’s a huge part of Canada and our success as a country. So for me it obviously provides different challenges. Like I said, I spent most of my time in Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale last year, and now I’m going to be in a Callawit or you know, and I actually, because I’m from Vancouver, I really don’t have a wander jacket, so I’m ordering everything. I’m going to be in deep trouble, but no, I really look forward. They have different challenges because, you know, cargo is is essential to them.
Chris Glass: 43:50
There’s almost two different airlines. From what I understand, the cargo side of it and the passenger side of it is so different.
Dan Geier: 43:57
Yes, you get the cargo side, you have the passenger side and you can configure these aircraft back and forth and you know, unlike you know if you miss a bag, it’s bad.
Chris Glass: 44:07
If you, you know, miss cargo into an area, that’s not going to get it for a week, I’m going to get it.
Dan Geier: 44:13
That’s a way different Bolognese, so it’s going to be interesting for me. It’s a different type of environment, but so far they’ve been extremely welcoming and I kind of accept the challenges. See if I can take my other information and, you know, move it into a place where it’s minus 50 on the ramp. And yes, I’m going to be loading bags. They’ll probably make fun of me because you know, but I really look forward to it. So yeah, going to Ottawa next week to meet all of them. And then you know, new chapter begins.
Chris Glass: 44:43
Excellent, well, congratulations on the new role.
Dan Geier: 44:46
Yeah, thank you.
Chris Glass: 44:47
We’re almost out of time today, but one thing I really wanted to ask you. I ask all of our guests on it. I know you’ve done your fair share of travel. Where in the world should people go next? Where was where’s one place that people might not be thinking about, that you’ve gone, that you like to and you want to tell people about? Oh, you might my fair place, yeah.
Dan Geier: 45:07
Well, I mean definitely. You know, one of my favorite cities outside of Vancouver is Montreal. So if you’ve never been to Montreal and there’s a lot of Canadians that have it, and I’m like, listen, you don’t need to go to Europe, go to Montreal. It’s, there’s always something fun going on. And if you really want to have that romantic European experience, go to Quebec City. Yeah, don’t, don’t forget about Canada. A lot of people are always trying to get away from it, but I’m like this. This country is so beautiful and if I didn’t work for aviation, you know I would have missed out on all of it. And yeah. So so definitely you know, and obviously the Maritimes too. But if I had one place that’s my favorite kind of go to is the Greek islands.
Chris Glass: 45:48
OK, do it.
Dan Geier: 45:49
Do it, bop around on the, the fairies that shake a lot and go from place to place to place. It is, for me, it’s paradise.
Chris Glass: 45:57
Excellent. Well, I think you’re our first guest that’s recommended. Canada, first and foremost. So, you’re definitely breaking new ground here. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today. This was absolutely excellent and I look forward to watching your career and having you come back as a guest once you get your feet not wet but more frozen.
Dan Geier: 46:19
That’s coming, that’s coming, perfect, awesome. Thank you, chris. Thank you Dan.
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