The Airline & Aerospace MRO & Operations IT Conference APAC, organized by Aircraft Commerce, took place in Bangkok, Thailand this week. If I’m not mistaken, this is the fifth time this conference has taken place in Asia. Aircraft Commerce holds similar conferences in the US and Europe every year.
In previous years, this conference attracted around 20 vendors and a good turnout of most of the airlines in the region (except for the Chinese, who never turn up). This year the number of vendors soared to over 30, while the number of airline delegates seems to have decreased, both in number and in seniority of participants. There were probably no more than 100 delegates, more than 50 of which were from two local airlines: Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways. This led to “thin traffic” throughout the two days of the show – fewer delegates spread over more booths.
The conference itself was very “hands on” in nature, with many of the sessions dealing with mobility. Apparently iPads are still deemed as “sexy” gadgets by many in this conservative and slow-moving industry, even if there isn’t much adoption of this new technology yet.
One interesting session dealt with “IT integration”, with panelists from Airbus, MRO system vendors and airline IT executives. It very quickly turned into an “OEM bashing” session, with the Airbus guy naturally taking the brunt of the bashing. The main complaint was that OEMs do not provide all the data the airlines need and charge too much for the little data they do provide. The cost is especially prohibitive for smaller airlines. Furthermore, the same OEM provides different formats on different, non-integrated, systems for different fleets. The Airbus answer for this was to recommend airlines pay separately to an integration company (not a surprising answer, given the recent Airbus-IBM partnership).
Oddly enough, the panelists concentrated on the symptom: not enough data and lack of integration. They did not speak about the root cause of the problem: the fact that OEMs have no interest and no incentive to give airlines too much control over the data.
Aircarft Commerce was successful in making this conference the main IT event of the industry, taking customers away from the Aviation Week conferences. But it seems that it is also becoming a victim of its own success. Many IT vendors have recognized the success and signed up to exhibit and sponsor, but Aircraft Commerce was not as successful in growing the number and quality of participants. Many airlines did not show up, or sent one junior delegate. To continue being successful, Aircraft Commerce must find a way to increase the ratio of delegates to exhibitors.
Still, the PTC/Enigma team was able to have some interesting discussions with delegates around InService MRO and the concept of PTC’s Service Lifecycle Management.