Business ideas to partner with airline networks

Are you looking for partners in the airline industry? Airline networks are active associations of geographically concentrated companies and research centers with unique airline expertise, seeking business and new market opportunities. Get to know them and explore the benefits of working together.

Agencies like IATA (International air transport association), ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) as well as alliances, such as One World, Star Alliance or Sky Team are well known in the aviation world. Through, how about such organizations, as HEGAN (Basque Aerospace cluster), EACP (European Aerospace Cluster Partnership) or Aéro Montréal? Check out this post introducing the world of airline networks.

1. Airline networks – raising the curtain

In theory, clusters are the geographical concentration of companies, research institutions and industry-related public and private agencies along one specific industrial value chain, in our case airline, aviation or aerospace. This means that in the cluster there are not only end producers but also key suppliers and partners from related industries, such as IT, manufacturing or communication. One of the most prominent cluster examples is Silicon Valley in California.

Economic reasons behind the birth of a cluster: external benefits. Being in a cluster, companies are able to explore additional benefits, which lie outside of their house (e.g. find an expert with minimum reallocation costs). In addition, the atmosphere of competition and collaboration in clusters leads to higher efficiency/productivity for companies and better quality of products/services for customers.

Airline networks (commonly known as airline cluster organizations) are formal associations based on such clusters. Their uniqueness – is geographic proximity along a specific airline/aerospace value chain.

2. From Germany to Taiwan – the wide landscape of airline networks

In practice, airline networks can be found all over the world and usually specialize in one or more technology fields, e.g. avionics or aerospace vehicles and defense. Most of them have up to 150 members with usually less than 10% of large companies and provide a wide-range of services: from access to the European internal market over supporting collaborative activities up to access to private funding. Depending on the financial situation and member interests, information and activities of the network can vary. See a selection of the most diverse airline networks in the table below (Source: Information is based on ECCP 2019).

 Information is based on ECCP 2019  and Homepages of individual airline networks

3. Finding a relevant airline network

The above airline network examples are not the only ones. Quite a good mapping of airline networks has been done in the countries of the European Union, the USA and Canada.

In the European context, one of the good sources to get an overview of the airline networks is the European Cluster Collaboration Platform. The map shows existing networks/clusters/industry associations mostly in Europe, but also beyond. To identify relevant airline/aerospace networks, you have to classify the organizations either per 1) sectoral industry – aerospace vehicle and defense or per 2) technology field – aerospace technology. The best way to get in touch with an airline network is by contacting a cluster manager, who leads and coordinates the development of the network.

The image shows the regional concentration of cluster organizations (networks) in the aerospace and defense sector in Europe (dark red – high number of networks in the respective region).

 Cluster Organizations Mapping Tool, ECCP 2019

4. Get things rolling – business ideas to partner with an airline network

Now how can airlines do business with airline networks? An airline business idea would depend on the level of collaboration with an airline network. An airline can explore at least three main levels of cooperation with a network:

  • Observer: An airline does not have any contractual obligation with a network, though can already get informed about the network and follow some of its news and members based on publicly available information.
  • Participant: An airline explores cooperation with a network on one to one basis, e.g. by participating in selected events, activities, projects or studies.
  • Member: An airline is directly involved in the network via a long-term formal agreement, e.g. by contributing to strategy setting and service/project development of the network.

Following different levels of an airline collaboration with a network, the potential airline business ideas are summarized in the seven thematic areas:

  1. Geography of partners: The mapping of networks itself, as well as the public information available by networks, can give each airline a great overview of potential regional hot spots, companies and associations in the airlines/aerospace industry, which could be interesting to partner or connect for specific business purposes.
  2. Cluster manager as a trusted contact point: A cluster manager is an expert leading each network; this gives an airline an opportunity to establish a direct and trusted point of contact to discuss individual or long-term collaboration opportunities with the network or its individual members. Cluster managers can provide valuable advice on its unique regional business context and services.
  3. Industry-specific trends & events: Networks tend to publish or inform its community about specialized industry trends, events and trainings. These can be either already publicly available or accessible under certain agreements. In case of collaboration, an airline can organize a joint presentations, workshops or studies.
  4. Partner as a stakeholder: Depending on an airline, you can see different business opportunities in partnering as a stakeholder with an airline network. For example, an airline can collaborate in the organization of company tours. An airline can also contract a network about specific projects e.g. customer evaluation, product testing or conduct a business/market study, which can be requested on the individual bases with the network manager or its members.
  5. Pool of potential clients: As some of the information about the network members is already publicly available, an airline can identify it as a rich pool of potential clients, partners, providers and experts in the airline area and decide to get in touch with them directly. As a network member, an airline can also explore more benefits by having a direct person-to-person contact, accessing a platform to exchange ideas and establish the basis for the trusted relations with each other.
  6. Technology providers: Network members can be partners or collaborators in the development of specific products or services for the airlines. Beyond that, some of the members are unique technology centers with a space to develop prototypes and explore various forms of research collaborations.
  7. Strategy setter: As a full member of a network, an airline can directly benefit not only from influencing the network strategy but also define the long-term business opportunities with a number of regional or global organizations, institutions and stakeholders in the airline field. This will give a great basis for a wide network of contacts, projects and collaborations with increased business opportunities.

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Would you like to know more about airline networks? Do you need any tips to get in touch with some of them? Or you already have experience in working with these networks? Let me know and maybe we can explore some opportunities together.