Chairman of the Board of Directors
2018 was a very special year for skeyes: the company celebrated its 20TH anniversary and changed its name. Why?
Johan Decuyper: The aviation sector is changing and so are the needs of our customers. This is why we launched an extensive transformation programme within the company several years ago. We have put our finances in order, have invested in our technical infrastructure and have recruited many new employees. Our new corporate culture – which we have developed in close cooperation with all our employees – has safety, customer focus, service continuity and new technologies as its core priorities. Our new name, skeyes, is a reflection of this new identity.
Renaud Lorand: Indeed, the name “skeyes” says it all: we are “the eyes in the sky”. We are the partner that you can rely on, that ensures the safety of air traffic and keeps a watchful eye on the needs of its customers. We are a partner that provides the efficient and high-quality services that the airlines and airports expect. And we are a partner whose eyes are focused on the future, particularly in the area of drones and sustainable development. Of course, none of this would be possible without the professionalism and extensive expertise of our employees.
In Europe, 2018 was also marked by a significant increase in air transport and numerous delays. How did this global change manifest itself within skeyes?
Johan Decuyper: Across Europe, 2018 was a very difficult year: the airlines, airports and air traffic control providers clocked up a dizzying volume of delays – more than 19 million minutes. However, despite the increase in air traffic, skeyes succeeded in maintaining its excellent score for punctuality. With 98.3% of flights handled without any delay, it is one of the best results of its kind in Europe. The average delay is very low, at only 0.11 minutes per en-route flight for skeyes, against a delay of 1.40 minutes per flight at FABEC level.
Renaud Lorand: skeyes’ 2018 performance was excellent. Not only in terms of punctuality, but also, and above all, in terms of safety – our primary mission and absolute priority. The same goes for our financial results: 2018 was the fifth consecutive year of profit. skeyes is investing wholeheartedly in its systems, in new technologies and in its human capital. In 2019, we will surpass the mark of 900 employees. The company is once again a respected European player and is prepared for the future.
Competition in the air traffic control sector has increased significantly. How is skeyes preparing for these changes?
Johan Decuyper: Air traffic control is, by definition, an international sector. In more and more European countries, we are seeing that air traffic control is subject to competition, particularly in the area of control towers. Our reasoning is therefore very simple: we have to be a reliable and efficient partner, the preferred supplier for our customers. Ever more rapid technological developments are also likely to disrupt our sector significantly. Here too, our roadmap is clear: adapt and evolve to remain a reliable efficient partner. This is why we created a joint venture to provide training and why we are investing in new systems and in drones – among other things through our digital platform droneguide.be – and in pioneering “U-space” demonstration projects on a European scale, in collaboration with other leading companies such as Amazon and Proximus.
Renaud Lorand: A company that fails to evolve will decline. To confront the changes in the sector and comply with the strict performance targets set by Europe, we launched, at the end of 2017, a major transformation program in collaboration with our employees. The strategic guidelines could be summarised as follows: customers, employees and the future. We are aiming for 10-year contracts with the airports, with clear measurable objectives. In addition we are investing in a better work-life balance as well as innovative investments to meet the challenges of the future. All the efforts with as only aim to constantly offer our quality services and professionalize our company.
What are the major challenges for skeyes in 2019?
Johan Decuyper: To meet the growth in air traffic, recruitment remains one of our top priorities. This will also allow us to work on a better work-life balance for our employees – an issue that is particularly high on our agenda. In addition, we will be focusing on a number of major projects in 2019: firstly, our droneguide.be app is going to be expanded. A version reserved for professional drone pilots will be introduced. We are also working on integrating drones into air traffic. Next, civil and military air traffic control is going to be co-located on the main skeyes site at the end of 2019. For the first time in Belgium, civil and military air traffic controllers will work in the same operations room, making our airspace more flexible. With EUROCONTROL and Belgian Defence, we are also working on a single air traffic management system in Belgian airspace.
Digital control towers are another major area that we will be focusing on. Not forgetting the huge investments in our technical infrastructure – in five years, we will have invested almost EUR 100 million.
Renaud Lorand: As well as these operational challenges, we will also be turning our attention to strategic and social challenges: changes in the aviation sector, our social role and sustainability. We are developing a Corporate Social Responsibility program with many concrete actions throughout our company. We are also implementing new working methods and a building will be dedicated to the “New Way of Working”. In addition, we work closely with a wide range of partners, including the airlines and airports, to reduce the environmental footprint of our company and our sector, whether by collaborative forums or through continuous improvement of procedures such as green landings.