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Book Review

Book Review

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Published by W.J. Zondag

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Published by: W.J. Zondag on Oct 11, 2009
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11/02/2011

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BOOK REVIEW
It should be no surprise for readers of Aerlines Magazine thatthe global
nancial crisis has hit the airline industry hard. Ques-tion raises how airlines can survive and what they have to do totransform their company into a winning airline business.With a good sense of timing, US airline industry guru NawalTaneja published his book “Flying Ahead of the Airplane” late2008. He claims that “Airlines willing to develop insight fromforesight relating to the expected ‘step phase changes’ will even-tually improve their margins. However, the backward-lookingairline, managed using old strategic levers and short-term met-rics, will cease to exist, merge, shrink, become more dependenton government support, or become irrelevant. ‘Management in-novations’ are not going to deliver the required improvements;innovation within management is essential for airlines’ survival.”The majority part of the book deals with
ve different topics. The
rst one are the so-called ‘ über trends’. This chapter describestrends like globalization, changing consumer demographics andthe emergence of new technologies. The book continues with achapter about “game changing”. Given the previously described‘ über trends’ as well as three scenario-related assumptions,Taneja believes that airlines might face
ve possible scenarios intheir operating environment: (1) the emergence of a new genera-tion of airlines in intercontinental markets (e.g. Jet Airways), (2)the global virtual airline, (3) the Gulf region becoming an avia-tion powerhouse, (4) a format invader from within the industryand (5) a reduction in the aviation activity.In chapter four, Taneja helps airline management to preparefor coping with the outlined trends. From his perspective, air-lines should prepare by optimizing their airline business model.Chapter
ve deals with the social networking phenomenon andchapter six with brand and loyalty management - both topics areconsidered to be very important for airlines to survive.Flying Ahead of the Airplane is predominantly written for air-line managers. To underscore this target audience, Nawal Tanejaused his personal address book to persuade up to 13 (!) airlineCEO’s to write a foreword. These pieces are ‘nice to read’ but,from my perspective, the added value of these contributions isquite low. The same holds true for chapter seven, which containsinsights from non-airline brands around the world. This chapterconsists of 21 stories (30% of the book!) of global companieslike Google, Ikea and Starbucks and what the airline industrycan learn from these companies.In the paragraph ‘Takeaways for Airlines’ on Amazon.com, theauthor concludes that Amazon is a non-asset company whichprovides Amazon various big advantages. That’s nice for Ama-zon but the problem of the airline industry is actually that it isan asset-based industry and related disadvantages do not fadeaway by adding some of the features of non-asset companies likeAmazon. Although other lessons that can be learned from thesebenchmarking stories might be interesting, it highly depends onthe particular circumstances of an airline.
Flying Ahead of the Airplane
by Nawal Taneja
Book Review by Willem-Jan Zondag

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