Anne de Hauw has always loved discovering new places. “To me, travelling is like oxygen – absolutely liberating, inspiring and eye-opening. And aviation is the preeminent enabler for travel, a key driver in economic development and, pre-Covid, generating 13.5 million direct and indirect jobs.”
Born and bred in Belgium, Anne studied fashion marketing in Paris and Florence before moving to the Principality in 2004 to work for Misaki, a Monaco-based pearl jewellery company mainly providing travel retail and duty-free markets.
“After a few years, I was hired by a global airline catering and retail company, where I was in charge of innovation. Even though I became a mom to two boys during this time, I totally enjoyed the travelling this job enabled me to do, meeting new people and discovering new places in all continents across the globe,” says Anne.
And she always loved coming back home to Monaco. “I have been to many places, but none of them is comparable to here, a perfect mix of a cosmopolitan city and a charming village that offers a wealth of opportunities in business, culture and leisure.”
In 2018, Anne decided to quit the corporate world and follow her dream to create her own venture – IN Air Travel Experience, the very first boutique consultancy focusing on customer experience, innovation and sustainability for air travel. (IN stands for Innovation, Inspiration, Influence and In-flight.)
“During my corporate life, I noticed there was a significant shift in the decision-making power within commercial airlines towards customer experience,” Anne explains. “Historically financially and operationally driven, airlines started to increasingly put the passenger in a central position within their strategy. And this is where I saw an opportunity for them to externalise passenger journey analysis and get unbiased strategic advice on how to improve certain touch points.”
With her extensive network and passion for improving passenger experience, combined with an expertise in transformational innovation, in-flight catering and retail, it was an obvious choice for Anne to create a niche consulting agency supporting airlines to ultimately increase passenger satisfaction.
But it is hard to gauge passenger satisfaction on board when there are no flights, as the global pandemic caused unparalleled disruption in many sectors, travel and hospitality being in pole position. “Even if the Covid crisis isn’t over and although the immediate future will continue to be tough, it also presents a unique opportunity to rethink the future travel experience, accelerate business transformation and embed purpose and sustainability into business strategies and day-to-day operations,” Anne explains.
“As airlines recover, restructure and re-evaluate, they must seize this moment to unlearn old habits and embrace new behaviours and new ways of working, rewriting the rules of business that are fit for the future the aviation industry needs. More than ever, it is important for businesses to truly commit to a purpose and ensure they use it to guide their thinking, planning and decision making.”
The travel consultant says that the pandemic has accelerated consumer desire to seek out organisations that aren’t just talking the talk when it comes to supporting social and environmental progress. “People want to engage with companies that are contributing to a positive impact on society and the planet.”
For IN Air Travel Experience, the announcement of lockdown in the spring meant “literally” all of its customer related airline projects came to a halt in just one week. Anne used “the unique opportunity” to accelerate a focus on innovation and sustainability. “To give you an example of one of our ideas, we developed the IN.bowl, a revolutionary in-flight dining concept that positively impacts the passenger experience. Unusual for airline food, this delicious and nutritionally-balanced dish that combats the negative effects of air travel is ultra-efficient in cost, space and handling. It is also environmentally sustainable in material use, weight and waste reduction. A triple win for the people, planet and the airline,” Anne describes.
Anne champions and defends waste reduction for air travel in order to support the industry in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. IN Air Travel Experience is a founding member of the International Aviation Waste Management Association, a non-profit organisation providing airlines and airports with a base of research and expert knowledge and aiming to advance circular economy knowledge and adoption in global aviation.
“In summary, 2020 was very different than initially expected,” she reflects. On the home front, Anne and her family went into lockdown in Monaco in March. “It was quite a radical change from our usual busy schedules, but I was grateful we were home together, safe, healthy and had food in the fridge.” Over the year, face-to-face business meetings, presentations and industry events have been replaced by endless video calls. “Despite the imposed social distancing and the seemingly people-less world out there, I believe an increased ‘togetherness’ matters more than ever and we stay connected with our customers all over the world through video conferencing.”
She admits that in terms of her bottom line, the year has not been brilliant, but her company is well advanced on purpose-driven projects and continues to build a solid foundation for the future. “As for 2021, I sincerely hope governments will cease to block travel – closing borders, quarantine measures, lockdowns – and people will be confident to fly again.”
Anne de Hauw pauses. “You know, I am still amazed how humans have managed to build a vehicle that can go up in the air and move! And I would love to learn to fly myself, one day, in a post-Covid world.”
According to Business Wire, this year’s passenger numbers are expected to drop to around 2.26 billion (similar to 2006) with passenger revenues tumbling from $612 billion in 2019 to $241 billion in 2020. Additionally, the ResearchAndMarkets.com report released yesterday states that total revenues for the industry look to fall from $830 billion to $418 billion over 2019-2020. “Despite generating around $590 billion in 2021, the industry is forecast to bear a significant loss of $15.8 billion. Restrictions on international travel and lockdowns evaporated passenger demand, with total passenger traffic estimated to decline by 52.7%.”