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Air Transportation & Travel

Our experts support clients (including large global airlines) in resolving their most urgent issues, from deregulation to increased price consciousness.

Air transportation

McKinsey’s air transportation service line supports all industries along the air value chain. We serve more than half of the world’s top 25 airlines, and work with both full-service and low-cost carriers. In addition, we serve many of the world’s leading airport operators, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MROs), suppliers, and air cargo players.

We bring deep industry expertise and local market insights to help our clients solve their most important challenges in strategy, commercial, operations and other topics. Our team of over 50 dedicated air transportation consultants is supported by a global network of colleagues, many of whom have previously worked in the industry; we have dedicated airline research teams in Amsterdam, Shanghai and Atlanta. Our work with airlines includes:

  • Strategy. We advise companies on how to position and differentiate themselves to yield the best returns. Using proprietary tools, we help airlines test the likely impact of their current business plans—and then refine and optimize them. We help lead industry thinking on mergers, including developing creative structures to enable successful cross-border mergers.
  • Commercial. We have worked with over 25 carriers globally on commercial topics, including revenue management, pricing and sales. Even with top-performing carriers, we typically help increase revenue per available seat-kilometer (RASK) by 3-8 percent, by focusing not just on technical levers, but also management infrastructure and people development.
  • Network. Our network tools model the impact of network changes, and have helped us improve carrier hub structures. These tools provide insight into the value brought by alliances, and we have supported several carriers to make the right alliance and joint venture decisions.
  • Operations. To help our airline clients improve their cost-efficiency, we work across all available levers—including fuel consumption, third-party procurement, labor productivity, and product definition. Our airline colleagues also partner with our Operations Practice to bring cutting-edge lean approaches to MRO, aircraft turnarounds and back-office processes.
  • Advanced analytics. Airlines can access a wealth of information from their passenger databases and frequent flier programs. We help them translate this data into actionable insights to drive additional sales uplift and third-party revenue, while improving customer experience by anticipating customer needs.

For airports, we bring expertise in regulation management, and help boost non-aeronautical revenues, especially in retail. Our proprietary “Retail Value Generator” tool benchmarks over 50 leading airports globally, and pinpoints opportunities for improvement.

Our client work is backed by extensive knowledge investments. Our recent research includes focus on how airlines can maximize the value from advanced analytics, the economics of airline competition, China’s growing market and air cargo trends. We regularly work with the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) to track and analyze the performance of the industry.

Travel and tourism

The tourism industry is in the midst of a vast transformation. As with many sectors, several factors are in play. Advances in technology are creating new opportunities for communication and sales. Customers are picking up on these quickly, thereby generating new demand patterns. At the same time, deregulation is paving the way for new competition.

These factors are forcing the tourism companies—from travel agencies to tour operators, hotels, and airlines—to review their business models. Flexibility and a clearly differentiated offering are keys to success. Additional potential lies in fully harnessing the power of the internet.

Our deep expertise enables us to assist tourism clients in developing programs for a new future. We use innovative approaches to tailor offers precisely to customer requirements and to align process flows and organization structures with new strategies. We also support regional projects aimed at developing tourism. Our work spans the globe and touches on topics such as planning and investing in infrastructure, product design, and branding.

Featured experts

Stefano Napoletano

Senior Partner, Milan

Tom Barkin

Senior Partner, Atlanta

Alex Dichter

Senior Partner, London

Robert Palter

Senior Partner, Toronto

Steve Saxon

Expert Partner, Shanghai

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