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Wed 25 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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Tech talk

Mercator vice president of sales and market development Duncan Alexander explains how the company's products and services can benefit airlines.

Tech talk

Mercator vice president of sales and market development Duncan Alexander explains how the company's products and services can benefit airlines.

How is SkyChain benefiting the region's cargo business?

Earlier in the year, we held a Cargo Forum in association with IATA. The main theme of the conference was IATA's e-freight initiative which aims to drive paper out of the supply chain. Dubai is the only e-freight compliant cargo hub in the Middle East. This is a very strategic move for Emirates SkyCargo, Dnata Cargo, Dubai Customs, all airlines using Dubai and ultimately for the Dubai economy.  Passengers can make a connecting flight in Dubai within 45 minutes of landing.

Cargo consignments, however, can take up to six hours due to the paperwork involved. Remove the time-consuming paper processes and send advanced electronic versions and customs can be pre-cleared and connections made a great deal faster. As the economy recovers and many industries look for fast re-stocking and just-in-time delivery, operating in an efficient connecting cargo hub will be a competitive advantage. SkyChain is delivering that advantage today.

How have Mercator's passenger solutions helped airlines?

We also recently held a passenger services conference again in association with IATA. More than 80 delegates from 30 airlines came to Dubai to discuss and see examples of fast travel initiatives. These comprise a set of airport-related IT solutions that improve the passenger experience. These include self service check-in, use of 2D barcodes, self document scanning such as passports, self check-in of bags and self reporting of lost baggage. Mercator has an excellent scorecard in its delivery of ‘fast travel' which can be witnessed at Emirates' Terminal 3.

How easy is it to switch systems over from legacy systems to Mercator systems?

For the cargo users it requires a mindset that there is going to be a change in working practices. The technology is the easy part.  People having to adapt to changing processes is normally the sticking point.  However, with good training and induction the efficiencies of the new systems speak for themselves.

How long after system implementation do you have to work with a client?

It varies. For our revenue accounting and ERP solutions some customers specifically book our staff for a number of months to ‘be there' at month end closing.  Other airlines become confident with their system relatively quickly and our staff are quickly offsite.

How has the aviation IT market been affected by the economic downturn?

A number of industry surveys have shown that IT spend has been reducing. We have not seen that. We are witnessing two trends both related to cost reduction. First, airlines are looking to increase the amount they outsource. For example we see low-cost airlines moving into new forms of distribution and commercial relationships. The second trend is airlines looking for new answers to their cost base or ways to enhance revenue.

This might involve the implementation of a new system on a ‘rented' application basis. Many airlines are seeking to reduce costs of distribution and Mercator is teaming up with FareLogix to provide a cheaper means of distribution of their product to  key travel agents.

We also have a new partnership with Calidris, which provides revenue integrity tools that are integrated with our core passenger services platform Jupiter.  We are also seeing a rising demand for CRM and loyalty solutions which not only improve customer relations but can also generate revenue.

Will Mercator be making any acquisitions in the future?

Yes, but we are not in a position to reveal more details at the present time.

Is Mercator continuing to invest money in new products?

We are funding areas where we see demand, such as e-freight compliance and new warehouse management in the cargo arena. For passenger solutions we have launched a new value proposition, Jupiter, which enables airlines to buy an entire suite of products to suit their needs on a  ‘fee per passenger boarded' basis.

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