Total favours close proximity to its customers
While Total has been active in the commercial aviation industry for over 60 years now, their entry into the international business aviation sector is more recent. Today, with the support of a dedicated sales team, the company is able to offer creative solutions and cutting-edge services to its customers. Let’s meet Valeriya Bondarenko, the new Aviation International Sales Manager at Total.
How is the European business aviation sector looking at the moment?
The business aviation sector is a niche market. Although highly developed in the United States, it still lags far behind in Europe, representing 70% and 23% of the markets respectively. And while business aviation grew 2% in 2018, just 6 countries (France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain) represent 70% of all business aviation traffic in Europe. While traditional airlines serve 500 airports in the region, business aviation connects more than 1,400 airfields, including 900 dedicated solely to business movements. The 3 biggest business aviation airports in Europe are Paris-le Bourget, Nice Côte d’Azur and Geneva (source: ebaa.org).
How has Total positioned itself within this market?
Within the Aviation Department, we pay particularly close attention to working closely with our business customers, getting to know them personally and regularly going out to meet them, either on‑site or at our stands at various exhibitions, such as EBACE. This closeness helps us better understand their needs and specific requirements so we can better respond to them, for example, by developing our digital services or refuelling systems, perhaps. Our main areas of focus are therefore digitalisation and customer satisfaction, all in line with our number one watchword: service. Whether it’s financial, administrative or operational, service is the foundation of our business model.
What initiatives are you currently working on in this area?
Total’s roadmap is simple - to become a champion alongside our customers, offering them creative solutions, with safety at the forefront of our minds, which is an integral part of our company culture. For some smaller stakeholders in business aviation, Total will very soon expand its aviation fuel card product through various dedicated solutions. The customer journey will then become 100% digital, from registration to receiving the card. They will also be able to benefit from access - in just a few clicks - to a network of over 200 airports around the world. More generally, beyond the customer portal that our teams are currently developing, which will consolidate all information related to our commercial partnerships (contracts, invoices, dashboards, etc.), we’re making sure our information systems are improving. They will soon be more open to our customers’ individual systems, meaning data can be transferred directly without the need for any manual re-entry, which will reduce the workload in their back office.
What sets you apart?
Safety is an extremely important value at Total - it’s a fundamental part of our company culture. Total is a founding member of JIG (the Joint Inspection Group), created in 1970. This global organisation works to develop high safety standards covering the entire aviation fuel supply chain. It brings together more than 100 members and operates in over 2,500 airports worldwide. Our refuellers, as well as our customers, undergo significant amounts of training in order to get to know and fully understand both the specifics and the demands of the aviation industry.
Who are you targeting?
Our main contacts are decision-makers, including fleet managers, fuel buyers, as well as those who can recommend our products and services (pilots, for example). Our ‘into plane’ teams, who carry out refuelling procedures, regularly pass on feedback from our customers. We’re therefore always aware of our strengths and areas where we need to improve.
What challenges lie ahead in business aviation?
Environmental concerns are growing. A carbon tax is still under consideration, even though, for the moment, it has been rejected in the USA. Here at Total, we’re working on developing bio-fuels, with a view to integrating the challenges of the energy transition within mobility itself (electricity, gas). However, manufacturing processes first need to be approved before production and distribution can begin on an industrial scale.
You’ve just started in Aviation at Total. What’s your role? What are your goals in the short- and medium-term?
As International Sales Manager, my goal is to make sure that our customers can sit back and relax once the fuel contract has been signed. It’s my role to support them and ensure their daily operations run smoothly. I’m highly motivated by the wide variety of challenges we face. Moving towards digitalisation is part of this, whilst also developing innovative services. I’m currently investigating the possibility of introducing commercial products at our European airports at fixed prices. This would allow our customers to confidently estimate fuel costs and, in return, be able to offer their own customers prices that aren’t subject to fluctuations.
What do you enjoy about the business aviation sector?
It’s a passionate environment. Our customers are passionate about aircraft and engines, technology and aerobatics, blue skies and beautiful views. I don’t think you could work in this industry and enjoy it without sharing at least one of those passions.