If you’ve taken a flight anywhere this year, chances are it was fueled by Skytanking. Each year, the aviation services provider refuels two million aircraft at 92 airports across the globe. Yet, influenced by tightening demands for sustainability in the sector, the company is steering a significant change in its flightpath.
“Skytanking was historically an aviation fueling company, so we were serving a very specific niche within the aviation sector,” says Amir Ibrahim, Skytanking’s Global Managing Director.
While into-plane fueling is just one of many activities that still fall under the banner of Skytanking’s aviation services, its offerings now also encompass the plethora of operations that occur within an airport – from running first-class lounges to baggage handling and fuel storage services.
“The journey is to move Skytanking from a fueling company to operating as a full aviation services provider, all while keeping an eye on sustainability, which is becoming so important, given the climate challenges that we have,” Ibrahim explains.
Ibrahim began his role in October 2022, the latest step in a self-described ‘global career’. His current spell in aviation follows 25 years in the energy sector, which included leading the development of sustainable biofuels for BP in Indonesia.
His approach to leadership illustrates an understanding of how important creating positive cultural change is to achieving growth.
“Servant leadership is really everything I’m about,” Ibrahim reveals. “We’re here to support, to provide direction. You’re not there to serve yourself or your own goals or needs.
“What drives me is people. I love nurturing talent. I get satisfaction out of seeing other people succeed.”
What drives me is people. I love nurturing talent. I get satisfaction out of seeing other people succeed.
Ibrahim details the importance of creating a business culture where employees are happy, feel valued and are given the opportunity to grow. This has become especially significant in light of the obstacles to growth Skytanking has faced post-pandemic.
“It’s been very difficult,” Ibrahim concedes. “Challenge number one has been labor shortages. People left the sector permanently and don’t want to come back.”
In total, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the loss of 2.3 million jobs in the commercial aviation industry. Ibrahim plans to both retain and regain talent by ensuring that Skytanking employees are sharing in the success of the company.
Although wary that this is often a corporate cliche, Ibrahim insists that shared growth and efficiency gains from strategic partnerships prove that the old adage ‘one plus one equals three’ really does hold true.
“We’re working with a company called Minova on innovation and technology,” Ibrahim says. “They are the partner who are really helping us with this digitalization of the airfield.”
Together with Skytanking, Minova recently launched the AFIS Mobile Star system, which has created significant improvements in the invoicing process.
Ibrahim’s vision for growth isn’t limited to expanding Skytanking’s portfolio of services. Targeting untapped regions, specifically in the Middle East and Asia, is a leading priority.
“In terms of establishing that strong brand presence in new geographies, partnerships have proven to be a key success factor,” he says.
Such partnerships in India and South Africa with Indian Oil and Calulo have already produced impressive growth. Skytanking now holds a market leadership position in India and, says Ibrahim, supplies 100 percent of the fueling services to all airline customers in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Back to basics
Ibrahim doesn’t want to overcomplicate the process of scaling Skytanking’s strong European brand presence into new geographies and aviation services.
“You need to get the basics right. The core of any business is the product and the service,” he says. “You have to ask if you are delivering a positive experience to your customer every day.”
Despite all the frills of the modern-day airport experience, Ibrahim keeps sight of his customers’ fundamental needs.
“Listen to the voice of the customer and what they’re telling you about what you can do better,” he stresses. “In aviation, punctuality is key. For an airline, their number one goal for their customer is to be on time and that their luggage arrives.
“So as long as we can have a strong KPI performance punctuality of around 99.9 percent, that will drive our brand forward.”
You need to get the basics right. The core of any business is the product and the service.
Ibrahim’s unyielding commitment to self-improvement and customer service is epitomized by his focus on sustainability, which he believes sets Skytanking apart from its competitors.
“When we go into any new airport, we come with a 100 percent green offer, which means Skytanking’s operations produce zero emissions,” he says proudly.
Despite their impressive progress on sustainability, Ibrahim won’t allow the organization to rest on its laurels. He has his sights set on a green future for the whole sector.
“We’re working extensively with airport operators and fuel companies to create the infrastructure and the logistics that can enable sustainable aviation fuels to become a reality,” he explains.
“Future air travel should mean that passengers won’t have to feel ashamed to be taking a long-haul flight because their aircraft will be fueled by sustainable aviation fuel. That’s the ultimate goal.”