Robert Plhak and the team at VOO are looking to ease the common pinch points in broker/operator transactions with their new online B2B market place
V OO is a digital market place connecting brokers with operators. Software driven, it uses operator data to generate charter prices instantly, based on aircraft movements in real time and avoiding the issue of brokers ‘seeing’ aircraft that are not in reality available. Robert Plhak, VOO Partner, CEO, says: “It’s a booking platform. Everything else out there is about requesting, quoting, checking availability and prices for extras. We allow brokers to access all the information and properly calculate the price.”
VOO avoids the necessity of following up an online arrangement with multiple emails to sort the detail. More functionality is coming but, for now, payment secures the booking based on the broker’s request. Catering, pets and any number of other services are then defined through the platform’s chat function. Later in 2023 the platform will also provide complete visibility of the flight’s management, including permits, slots and other essential administrative processes.
Early in February 2023, VOO was busy onboarding operators before continuing the process en masse with brokers. Initial registration for operators and brokers is simple, but accounts do not go live until VOO has collected verifying data. Plhak continues: “We need the operator’s AOC, the insurance certificates and operating specifications of every aircraft they want to place with us and, if it’s someone like a sales agent working with the operator, then they need to verify they are permitted to do so.”
Brokers are required to provide documentation identifying them as a valid business, and Plhak notes that VOO is aware of and aims to check for individuals running less robust organisations. “If we’re uncomfortable, we’ll ask the broker to reach out to three operators they’ve worked with and ask them to verify the broker’s credentials.”
The sign-ups to VOO so far are from its home market, Europe, but others have joined the platform from Africa, Australia, the Middle East and North and South America. Interestingly, Plhak says that although operators must input all their cost touch points into the system for it to generate an accurate price, brokers will never see how it was calculated, only the total, with a tax breakdown. The system also enables the broker to recalculate the price they will charge their customer with their margin factored in.
Pricing is based on factors including aircraft range, payload, fuel burn and routing, even before choices such as catering budget, the requirement for a flight attendant, Wi-Fi or VIP handling are factored in. There are also options for filtering, based on aircraft size, comfort, speed and even certifications (Argus, for example).
If a charter has more than one leg the platform enables the details for each leg to be varied as required. A quote might, for example, include a Citation taking two adult passengers from London to Paris, and then onward to Geneva with an additional adult and a child, accompanied by their dog, with the catering budget allocated appropriately between the two legs. The process avoids the possibility of catering for the second leg falling outside the original budget and either forcing the broker into a difficult conversation with their client, or pinching their margin.
Importantly, VOO delivers its information in real time. A broker might go to a client with three prices on different aircraft, then have to wait for a decision. VOO will tell them instantly if the aircraft is no longer available or if the price has changed; a price may have been quoted from the required departure airport, for example, but a transaction agreed subsequent to the original quote now means a positioning flight is needed. All of this is evident to the broker when they return to their client and recalculations include their original margin and taxes.
VOO facilitates a contract between broker and operator. If the operator has entered their data accurately, no price adjustment should be necessary and VOO does not add a fee on to the booking. Instead, Plhak says VOO charges brokers and operators licence fees. There is also an emerging option for financial transactions through the platform, attracting a small percentage charge. Users have the option of subscribing to VOO for one or three months at a time, or annually.
Plhak expects between 200 and 300 aircraft to be available through VOO by the end of June 2023 helping, he says, brokers and operators through the busy summer season. He believes the EBACE show will be very busy…