2020 was a tumultuous and disruptive year where social distancing, meeting restrictions, and hurdles on logistics forced us into the “new normal”. In the very first CXO Interview in 2021, Steven Pearson (SP), Chief Executive Officer, sat down with Jeff Chan (JC), Marketing Manager, for a light-hearted interview to discuss his forecasts of air travel resurgence in 2021 as well as his plans in leading TOPCAST through these challenging times and in overcoming the impacts of the pandemic.
Experience under Pandemic in 2020
JC: What have you had to do differently in terms of leading your team during the pandemic?
SP: In terms of the supply chain, there have been significant disruptions to staffing and operations for many of the suppliers, which has impacted the overall production, distribution, and logistics of aircraft parts. For us, this has resulted in a longer lead-time and the need to revisit our inventory planning and stocking policies, but that has not stopped us from meeting our commitments and customer expectations.
From an operations perspective, our team communicates with our customers daily, allowing us to make quick decisions on inventory levels. We provide our principals with monthly updates on the supply side to ensure mutual communication by giving them a better picture of the key markets we serve.
JC: Has there been a silver lining in this crisis?
SP: We expect there may be a fundamental shift in the manner of how the market operates in the post-COVID era, in particular, the mode of work between operators and suppliers and risk management. We expect to see a continued tendency to outsource more. Yet, the solutions expected to support this outsourcing will change, especially when it relates to risk mitigation around fleet operations. We can foresee more innovative solutions coming soon, and TOPCAST is adjusting our offerings to meet the changing market needs better.
Outlook for 2021 and Beyond
JC: What is your perspective on industry recovery in 2021 and onwards?
SP: I expect there to be a gradual growth from Q2 2021. A lot of media coverage and research shows a pessimistic view on the aviation business, but from an aviation and airline insider perspective, we expect a significant number of vacation bookings in the coming summer. When the vaccine becomes available and the infection number declines, a majority of people will once again have a strong desire to travel, and we would expect to see a rebound in traffic to 70-80% of pre-COVID levels in the 2nd half of 2021.
JC: New year, new challenges. What is the corporate development direction in 2021?
SP: I have heard positive forecasts from airlines and suppliers that in the coming summer, a traditional peak season, we would see booking numbers exceed that of 2019. We are now planning around our stock, to better prepare ourselves for when air transport and traffic begin to recover. As we go into the new year, we are signing on with new suppliers and adding further MRO capabilities to provide a more diversified value offering to our customers.
Feeling to Share
JC: Having led TOPCAST for more than a year, what are you most proud of about your staff?
SP: The TOPCAST team has exceptional confidence, faith, and certainty to dream big while working on driving significant change. There is unwavering confidence that we will meet and exceed our lofty targets no matter what challenges we face along the way.
JC: What are the (un)pleasant experiences for you under pandemic?
SP: The most unpleasant experience I have encountered was the restriction on travel and strict quarantine requirements for up to 21 days in Hong Kong, but we understand health and safety always come first. With that being said, I have enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends, albeit often virtually, but I certainly look forward to traveling again to spend more of those encounters in person.