CEO of Cayman Airways Patrick Strasburger believes the airline can soon fly to new heights through a turnaround project.
‘We’ve learned a lot of lessons. The airline is on the way forward,’ he said in an interview with the Caymanian Compass Wednesday afternoon.
‘One of the reasons they don’t put rear-view mirrors on airplanes after you’ve learned your lessons is it doesn’t matter what’s behind you.
‘We’re going forward. Ninety-nine per cent of the employees in this company are very good and willing and ready to do a great job and we’re going to all get on the airplane, the jet way is going to come up here very soon and the way forward is up and it’s going to be a lot of fun.’
What Mr. Strasburger sees as a big start of the journey and of making some significant decisions is Wednesday morning’s announcement about the introduction of non-stop CAL flights between New York and Grand Cayman.
Mr. Strasburger said he does not let emotions interfere with decision making; a point, he said, that was misconstrued by another newspaper.
He does not understand where the headline and the first two paragraphs in a news article in last week’s Cayman Net News came from.
‘What I said the other day was that I make decisions based on fact-based reality and objectivism, and I will always keep my emotion from interfering with good decision making.
‘How that got to be involved with the shareholder I don’t know,’ he said.
Elaborating on his decision-making philosophy, he said: ‘When you look at the numbers the facts need to be weighed as the driving force of the decision, and individually you can’t let anything else interfere with that.’
The airline is to be a very customer driven organisation, he asserted.
There are five top customer service items that will be focused on:
‘We’re going to concentrate on being safe and secure every day we fly,’ he said.
On-time performance is another top customer service priority. Time is very important to passengers as they all have things to do, he said.
Running on time is also important to the employees.
‘We can’t run an effective, efficient, lean, cost-driven organisation that runs off time, because employees have the same issues – they have to find babysitters, etc. if things are running late.’
Clean and neat is another essential: ‘This means that whether you’re an employee, or a facility or an airplane we want you to be clean and neat.’
Getting passengers to a destination with their bag is another top priority, as is service with a smile.
Cutting costs is a main focus as part of the company’s turnaround.
In order to cut costs the company will be gone through with a fine tooth comb, and Mr. Strasburger asserts that every little thing counts.
‘We’re going department by department, line by line in a zero based budget,’ he said.
This process will also involve looking at what Lufthansa Consulting has come up with in its assessment and working together collaboratively to see where the company can be more productive and leverage technology to be more productive along with looking at what can reduce expense.
One such example is to cut a $192 yearly subscription fee paid for magazines.
Most magazines that come in, come for free, so why pay a subscription for any, he asks. Every little thing like that counts, Mr. Strasburger said.
Another example, he said, might be if office supplies come through five different vendors; they can try to consolidate a purchasing agreement through one, at a better rate.
He firmly believes that CAL does not need to be extravagant. ‘You can be professional and you can be clean and neat, but you don’t need to be extravagant.’
‘We’re going to go through everything and make sure that we’re not doing things that we don’t need to be doing.’
Generating more revenue is also high on the agenda and will be done by trying to ensure the product is priced competitively in different classes of service all the way up to the time of departure.
Recently, some customers have complained of only being able to get business class prices to Miami, for instance, because if business class is all that is available then that is what a customer is offered, and at that price.
‘That’s a yield management issue that the new VP Commercial has come in to address,’ explained Scheduling Analyst Jean Ritch.
‘And it’s not that we’re charging more, because we’re right on line with other carriers. It’s the availability and structures’.
One area being worked on is a process whereby travel agents cannot put a block on a number of seats unless they submit names and money and work within a specific time limit.
The Lufthansa Consultants are also busy with the joint project of the turnaround plan.
There are some airline positions in the process of being filled.
‘As soon as the team is completely assembled then we will start using the consulting departmentally to help drive the turnaround plan,’ Mr. Strasburger said.
CAL has several new positions coming on: a VP of finance, a senior manager of information technology, a senior manager of HR and a senior manager of ground operations.
The retiring of one of CAL’s passenger planes next month will not interfere with the schedule, especially since the Fort Lauderdale and Boston flights will be going out of service because those markets aren’t strong enough, he said.
Mr. Strasburger is not one to sit behind his desk the whole time.
‘Your inbox will significantly shrink if you’re out dealing with and meeting and talking to people and customers frequently’.
Another important factor for the successful operation of any airline is that the employees have to be happy and fulfilled, he said.
‘When they leave after a long hard day they have to be fulfilled. They have to have the ability to continually improve personally and professionally and they have to feel that they are treated with dignity and respect.
CAL is aiming for 1 July as the schedule for beginning to populate the new headquarters.