We last spoke to Aviation Professional Adrian Keating in 2020, when he was the Commercial Director of Air Transat. Since then, Adrian has gone on to become the Vice President of Sales, Marketing & Distribution at the newly founded, Norse Atlantic Airways.
We caught up with Adrian to hear more about his new role and journey with the start-up airline.
Could you give us an insight into your role as VP of Sales, Marketing & Distribution?
I drive brand awareness and generate revenue across as many sales channels as possible. My goal is to action this in each country we operate in and at the lowest cost possible. After all, Norse is a low-cost, long-haul airline.
It has taken time to get here but now that the airline is operating in a normal trading environment, our focus is on acquiring our customers digitally and ensuring that our website is optimised for conversion.
We are also striving to be innovators in the business-to-business space. Meaning I need to ensure we have the best technology to distribute our content at scale and for no cost.
What has the journey of building a new airline been like?
I have loved it and it has been an incredible journey. I’ve always worked in aviation. I love the industry and I love to travel. I have been with the airline for over a year now, and not once have I regretted saying yes. Being a part of aviation history is remarkable. It has been the highlight of my career to date.
We have started an airline in one of the toughest economic times, coming out of a pandemic. But it was one of the most opportunistic times too. We've had the chance to analyse the behaviour of well-known low-cost airlines and leverage this to our advantage.
Many of our team have low-cost carrier backgrounds, with a mixture of legacy carriers. We have blended this and established an unproven business model. Low-cost and long-haul.
The blend of experience combined with the conditions of leaving the pandemic has served us well. There was less competition, and many airlines retired their 747 and larger aircraft.
Of course, it’s not been easy but the demand for travel is still there. If not even greater. Yet, many airlines are struggling with infrastructure. At Norse, we have entered an environment with a tremendous amount of opportunity and leveraged it in such a short time frame.
What are the challenges and learnings you have faced in your new role?
In my previous role, managing an airline through the pandemic was the perfect training ground for working at Norse. In a start-up, there are more unknowns than knowns. Like with the pandemic, there was no blueprint, and nobody could second guess what would happen.
I’ve had to embrace my entrepreneurial spirit and push myself out of my comfort zone. It’s how you make things happen, even during the most turbulent times.
I have quickly learnt that unstructured working environments are not for everyone. However, if you put your mind to it, you can achieve remarkable things.
How have you had to adapt?
I have become a better leader by broadening my knowledge in a diverse number of areas. I’ve been able to put in place countless initiatives across many disciplines at scale. I could never do this before.
I’ve had to push myself with limited resources and little time. I’m proud of the results we’ve achieved.
In an established business, you have various department heads managing different objectives. In a start-up, you have a title, but the reality is you are doing everything.
What skills do you believe it takes to be at the forefront of starting a new airline?
You need to be bold, nimble, collaborative, and composed. There are many people involved to start a new airline from scratch, and everyone at Norse holds these qualities.
The term inspirational also comes to mind when I reflect on the Norse journey. The people in our team are all inspirational and without them, we would not have the success we have had. People are at the core of any business.
As a leader, you need to cultivate a genuine workplace culture with a collaborative and passionate team.
What was your motivation for leaving a comfortable career and joining a start-up?
I have always thrived on a challenge. When the rare opportunity came to join a start-up; in an industry that I love there was only one answer, which was yes.
The main attraction factor was the people that I would be working with. Including, Andy Hodges, Chief Commercial Officer at Norse. He is one of the most entrepreneurial and knowledgeable people in the industry. He had a vision of building a team of the most in-demand people working in aviation. Being a part of a team like that was an opportunity that I could not turn down.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting a new airline?
Knowing that behind the media headlines there was a dedicated team, who gave it their all to get Norse to where it is today. Anyone who has worked in a start-up will know that there are countless challenges and late nights. Our team pulled through and made great things happen. I cannot even describe how rewarding it is to be a part of something thing this.
Could you describe Norse Atlantic Airlines in three words?
Low-cost: This is our model. We know we can open more travel choices across the Atlantic; for a much lower cost than any of our competitors. We aim to provide people with the freedom to travel. Especially in a world with higher costs and reduced availability post-COVID.
Bold: We have established a new airline in uncertain times. In an extremely competitive market, with an unproven model. I’m sure many people would agree it was a bold move.
Nimble: As a start-up, we have had to be quick to adapt and react. Particularly due to global economic challenges. This is a trait we will carry into the future of our business culture.
Where do you see the growth of your career and the airline heading in the next three years?
I have loved every second of start-up life. From building something new to implementing an unproven business model. All whilst leveraging the latest innovations in aviation technology. I can’t imagine myself not working in a start-up. In the future, I would love to be involved in turning around underperforming airlines.
For now, I am loving life at Norse. We have big plans, and the best is yet to come. Our mission is to ensure the low-cost long-haul model is executed with absolute precision. Guaranteeing its success for years to come.
Has your mentality changed working in a start-up airline?
I know that anything is possible with the right mindset and a great team behind you.
The bureaucracy of an organisation can be a limitation to innovation and change. Having a group of change leaders in the right positions is crucial for staying ahead of the competition.
I’ve learnt not to be afraid of trying things that haven’t been done before. You need to be an innovator, not a follower. My daily mantra is to stay focused on the goal and make things happen.
Looking back on what you know now, would you do it again?
Without a doubt, 100%. I am a better person professionally and personally. If you are offered an opportunity like this, take it. Say yes and embrace the unknown. It could change your life for the better.
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You can hear more from Adrian here.