OAG, which has played an integral role in the history of commercial aviation, is marking its 80th anniversary this year. For decades, the Official Airline Guide, its flagship product, was essential for travel agents, tour operators, interlining carriers--anyone who needed to know which airline flew where and when.
The OAG brand is venerable. That's a nice word for "old." In May, OAG's parent company, United Business Media Ltd., appointed Peter von Moltke chief executive officer of its UBM Aviation division.
His avowed goal is to reinvigorate the company, giving it not only a new lease on life, complete with a relaunch under a new OAG banner, but fourfold growth over the next five years as well. "It will be an entirely new company," he said.
It's an ambitious endeavor, undertaken in the toughest economic climate in decades, but von Moltke has tangible backing from the parent company. "I have access to funds to buy businesses," he said, and indicated that an announcement along those lines may be imminent.
The digital revolution had eroded OAG's sense of identity; this was, after all, a company that produces a print product that resembles a telephone directory. Von Moltke wants to restore its mission. "Our fundamental philosophy is to provide pure information, rather than systems," he said. The goal is to be the undisputed global leader in providing aviation information, data and analytics to anyone who needs it. Von Moltke envisions it as strictly B2B. Along the way, OAG may acquire some partners in order to provide a complete spectrum of information. "We don't have to own the whole pie," von Moltke said. "OAG had gone to sleep for many years," he said. "For five to 10 years, nobody knew what it was up to. It didn't have enough engagement with the industry." And in terms of technology and trends, he said, "it had stalled."
As someone who has seen the aviation industry from the inside (American Airlines) and out (Amadeus, Lufthansa Systems), von Moltke also determined that OAG had some excellent resources, including fleet and cargo databases that he believes are unrivaled. It also sells tools such as "marketed connections," allowing an airline to display a connection with another carrier's flight in the OAG Travel Planner, even if there is no code-sharing or other interline agreement, to help users build itineraries. "It's a pretty strong marketing tool," von Moltke said.
OAG's travel planning tool is "very detailed, with much richer schedule access than an online agency's," he said. Government agencies and global corporations such as Coca Cola like its capabilities, he said, and the company is working on a new suite of products that will build on its strengths. Part of OAG's core business is providing airline schedules and other data to the GDSs, a field that it dominated for decades. But shortly after von Moltke took up his new post, Sabre announced that it was replacing OAG with Innovata, an 11-year-old company based in Buford, Ga. It came as a jolt, but von Moltke thinks it came with a silver lining. "It gave us a new energy. We are much more determined to compete on quality and price rather than on our legacy," he said.
The biggest challenge, he said, is how to deal with the original product. Revenues in nearly all print businesses have declined in the Internet age, yet users in some countries cling to the print edition. The company is exploring a number of solutions and combinations of products that will meet the needs of users in the most remote areas of the world--even if that means providing them with e-readers.