ARAC 2010: Video Q&As with Shashank Nigam, Patrick Sojka, Ivor Smith and Chris Gardner

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Ancillary Revenue Airline Conference, which was hosted in conjunction with the FFP Loyalty Conference and Co-Brand Partnerships Conference. Altogether, the conference was called the Mega Event and held in chilly Montreal, Canada.

While at the conference, I spoke with a few leaders in the industry about trends and what airlines can do to enhance their offerings. I was able to get Shashank, Patrick and Ivor on film. Though, don’t miss the non-recorded Q&A with Chris Gardner of GuestLogix at the end.

Shashank Nigam

Shashank started 18 months ago and is a though leader in the social media + airline space. I asked him why he started Simpliflying and he replied, “Because I love flying.”

With a growing staff, Simpliflying consults for airlines and now airports. His team helps with creating or extending a brand as well as structuring social media marketing plans.

Shashank was kind enough to let me steal a few minutes and ask a few questions about IFE, the iPad, and social media.

Patrick Sojka

Patrick started nine years ago and has risen to be Canada’s number one source for information on frequent flyer program bonus offerings. He has also added sites for the United States and the United Kingdom.

Patrick is considered an authority in his area. In fact, recently in one of his often news interviews, he was titled a guru. I told him, once someone else calls you a guru, then you know you’ve arrived.

Ivor Smith

Duty Free sales is a huge, thriving business for the airlines, but more so for airports. Ivor, through, believes that airlines should better cash in and cut the airports out.

Ivor participated on the panel discussion about in-flight shopping. When asked about what it is like to change the paradigm of airlines, he responded, “It’s a nightmare.” Though he then softened his remark by explaining how airlines currently run their duty free business and the opportunity that is sitting on the table.

I caught up with Ivor outside of the beautiful Cathedral-Basilica of Mary, Queen of the World.

Chris Gardner

Although I didn’t have the chance to videotape Chris, he was gracious enough to answer a few questions. Chris is a Managing Director for GuestLogix, who provides the OnTouch Platform and mobile point-of-sale transactions.

Q: So where is in-flight retailing headed?

A: An airline should surround the passenger from all touch points. We’ve built a broad retail platform for food and beverage, catalog sales, box office and theater tickets, destination info, etc. The on-board experience is unique and it doesn’t have to start with the web. Many people buy one-offs. That’s why the concierge desk at a hotel is so popular. Think about the entire buying process. Passengers are likely to buy just the airline and hotel online because that’s what’s important right then. The rest of the sale happens in the cabin.

Q: How do you see the change in in-flight shopping?

A: It hasn’t been a revolution, rather it’s an evolution. Five years ago, they said, “Who will buy food and beverage? And who will use a credit card?” Now, it’s standard. Everyone is cashless and automated. Though it’s not as easy as everyone likes to say it is. For example, who is going to take that bar code? Who at Will Call knows that the ticket has been purchased?

Q: What trends do you expect to see in the next few years?

A: We’ll probably come full circle and start taking cash again. For example, Europeans leave with cash in their pocket. At the end of the trip on the flight home, they want to spend whatever cash is left over since that’s what they had allocated for the trip. In a full service model, we will accept cash. It’s good customer service.

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About Adam Williams

With six years of IFE experience, Adam is currently a freelance writer for several industry publications and marketing consultant for vendors. He can be found online at and @SpeakWithAdam.