Rosterize: Truly digitising business aviation
The Uber-risation of business aviation processes – like charter bookings and fleet management – is now a common trend. But often that digital interface is nothing more than a shopfront with operators still working manually in the background.
There are some systems that have digitised every part of the process, but these are exclusive to largest operators and major airlines. Whilst the offering for smaller operators and airlines remains virtually nonexistent.
Rosterize is a start-up intent on inhabiting that niche, with plans to be fully operational by first quarter (Q1) 2023. Maxim Andreev, co-founder and CEO, Rosterize tells Revolution.Aero: “We started more than three years ago developing software for crew optimisation for small and medium-sized airlines. That was our idea. Now we are adopting it for the bizav needs.”
Annually operators lose at least $300m due to suboptimal and manual planning, says Andreev. “We found that there was currently no offer with crew optimisation software for small airlines. There are, I would say, enough players who provide these kinds of solutions for big airlines – Boeing, Lufthansa, Airbus etc. – but nothing for smaller airlines and unscheduled operators.”
The team began working before the pandemic, at that time and still now, aviation has been suffering from a lack of pilots and that was exacerbating a crew assignment problem. “It is much easier to assign crew if you have enough pilots, without them it becomes a nightmare for crew planners. There is also a heightened chance of violating FAA rules,” adds Andreev.
Rosterize’s software is not a copy or light version of Boeing Jeppesen or Lufthansa Systems solutions. “With big airlines, they have manpower planning — that is one app, they have crew-pairing optimiser — that is another app, they have crew rostering and bidding — that is a third application and then crew tracking etc. So that is a bunch of applications to deal with some part of the crew planning process.” Small operators and airlines cannot operate this way, they need a holistic solution, says Andreev.
Andreev says the firm’s target market for airline’s solution is small airlines operating in Europe, Asia and Africa. The US scheduled market is dominated by huge low-cost carriers like American and Southwest Airlines. Rosterize’s software cannot be used by big airlines, because fleets with hundreds of aircraft are too complicated for the software.
Emerging from the pandemic, Rosterize saw a 10-fold increase in product interest in January, 2022. But the outbreak of conflict between Russia and Ukraine set back progress once again.
“All of our target customers in Europe, Africa and Asia were so affected by the war — high oil prices, inability to fly over Ukraine and Russia. So that was our new nightmare after Covid,” says Andreev.
“It was in that moment we had contact with a US business aviation operator — what we heard was very interesting. The industry is growing and, especially in the US, operators are experiencing a lack of pilots. So they are overloaded with quotation requests and even with an increase in prices still couldn’t cover demand. Pilots salary also skyrocketed”.
Andreev said it was clear to Rosterize that some operational optimisation was needed. The team identified only one firm in the US, that was offering optimisation software for the sector. Again, it was focused on larger companies.
Conversations with other software providers like myairops, Avinode and Flexx followed and each provided further confirmation there is no capability in their respective softwares to help business operators. It appeared that the US market is full of general aviation operators that have similar needs but still struggles of doing crew planning manually.
Rosterize has several pilot projects underway with general aviation operators including one completed with Fly 7 Executive Aviation. The Swiss-based business operator was experiencing a number of crew rostering challenges, especially in terms of pilot allocation and crew supply. The projects currently under way are due to be completed before year-end, according to Andreev. The primary goal there is for floating fleet and especially home based crew that requires considering a real time airlines seats availability most duties.
The team has also partnered with fleet optimising specialists, Coastal Aviation Technologies to integrate both fleet and crew optimisation softwares in a joint offering for general aviation operators.
“Looking at the bigger picture, you get on average 150-200 requests or quotations per one booking. So right now, operators spend an enormous amount of time calculating these requests and there is no software solution for true online booking, especially last minute bookings,” says Andreev. The research shows that in a five-member planning team, two or three specialists are instantly searching for travelling opportunities manually.
Rosterize believes the market is going to evolve to demand more “Uber-like” services and every operator who wants to provide this kind of service must have access to crew and fleet optimisation software. “We want to be that component in the operation, that is why we have partnered with Coastal and are talking with several other companies in that field.”
Rosterize has no plans to monopolise the space, Andreev believes there is room for several players to offer optimisation solutions to smaller operators. Rosterize plans to go live with its first customers in Q1 next year.