Society Insights: Transavia’s Transition

To kick off the Society Insights series, Sophie got in touch with Niek de Rijk, Network Planner for Transavia, one of our home-based airlines. It was great to see Niek’s smiling face again, now framed by an awesome corona beard.

Sophie: The 2020 Network Planning Society event was held in Utrecht, which is your hometown, right?

Niek: That’s right, Sophie. I actually rode my bike to the event in February. The 2021 event will require even less travel, since it will be online. But I can’t wait until we can travel and be together in the same room again.

Sophie: We’re all looking forward to that, for sure. Tell me, what is your favourite part of the Network Planning Society events?

Niek: I really enjoy meeting my colleagues from other airlines. Even though we’re technically competitors, we share a lot of the same challenges and questions. Like sustainability, aligning with the operations department, and of course COVID-19. There’s a lot we can learn from each other to help the whole industry forward.

Secondly, it’s great to get to know the Schiphol team. Being part of the Network Planning Society means that we meet the people behind our work. So, when I have questions or issues, I already have a relationship with the person who can answer them. We’ve already met in person. That makes communication much easier. As far as I know, Schiphol is the only airport that does something like this, and it’s really helpful.

Sophie: As you know, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Netherlands during the 2020 event. How has your work changed since then?

Niek: It’s become a lot more difficult to predict the market. There’s a lot more late booking, and of course lots of cancellations when a country’s status changes. There are a lot more scenarios to consider, given that we don’t yet really know what direction the industry will take. So we’re exploring as many possibilities as we can.

Sophie: Is there anything Schiphol can do to help right now?

Niek: It’s still so difficult to predict what will happen, but it would be really helpful if Schiphol can share some of the scenarios it’s developing for the coming period. I’d like to know what Schiphol expects to happen, and share thoughts about potential outcomes. And as always, it’s great to share positive thoughts and optimism about the possibilities and opportunities that might arise because of the crisis. Of course, we’re all taking this time to re-evaluate our business, and it would be good to know what Schiphol’s outlook for the future is.

Sophie: The 2021 Network Planning Society event will be online, of course. What can we do to still make it special, informative and helpful?

Niek: I’m very curious about how other Network Planners are dealing with this crisis. Of course, we can’t share deep strategy with each other, but insight into how they’re feeling and how things have changed at their airline can be helpful. For me personally, it’s been tough to manage all of the adaptation that has had to take place – the working from home, the loss of contact with colleagues, the unpredictability of our work. I’m curious if my colleagues have found ways to manage it all, or found creative ways to stay connected to their colleagues.

Sophie: What is Transavia doing to manage this transition?

Niek: Planning a network involves a lot more steps now. We not only need to look at the routes that we want to add, and the demand for that destination, but we also have to take the governments’ travel advice into account. We need to evaluate what we can and need to do to secure a crew and keep everyone safe. The virus adds more moral and ethical considerations to the decision-making process.

Within the organisation, we’re searching for ways to stay connected, even at a distance. This is especially important for our Young Transavia group – our younger colleagues in the organisation. We’re trying to plan unique and fun online events to stay connected to them – like pub quizzes and ‘Masked Singer’ events. One of the worst parts is trying to say a proper farewell to beloved colleagues who are leaving the company. It’s just not the same to say goodbye online.

Sophie: Do you have any advice for your fellow Network Planners?

Niek: Stay strong and be positive. We’ve gotten through difficult times before, and this difficult time will come to an end sooner or later. If we stay strong together now, I’m sure that we’ll eventually be strong enough to start competing with each other again.

The future may be unpredictable right now, but there is a lot we can do to prepare for it. Manoeuvrability and flexibility will be the keys to the future of our industry. The skills we’re learning now adapt will come in handy in the future. It’s likely this crisis will impact our industry for a long time, and the more we can learn from it now, the better prepared we’ll be. For example: this is an excellent time to review how the decisions we make impact the rest of the business, like operations. These will be important insights to take with us as we move forward.

Sophie: What would you say to your colleagues who are thinking about joining the Network Planning Society?

Niek: They should do it, for sure. It’s a real opportunity to share your thoughts and discuss your challenges with people who know exactly what you’re going through. And not just in these COVID-19 times, but always. You’ll see your network much differently when you realise we all face the same challenges. We’re all in this together, and the Society reflects that.

Sophie: Thanks for your time, Niek, and we look forward to seeing you online at the 2021 event!

Niek: Thanks, Sophie, me too. And let’s keep that positive attitude going. The 2020 event marked the beginning of the crisis in the Netherlands. Let’s hope the 2021 event marks the beginning of the end!

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