Virgin America exec thinks globally at APEX

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Ensuring that the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) becomes more global and diverse is among the goals of Virgin America manager of IFE and partnerships Alfy Veretto, who has been named president of the organization.

APEX is a network of some of the world’s leading airlines, suppliers and related companies committed to elevating the level of the airline passenger experience. “When I first got into the association we were on a bit of a cycle where we would have three or four [annual] EXPOs in the North America region and take it international in the fourth or fifth year, but we kind of went away from that when airlines weren’t as strong in the industry. But we’re starting to see the industry build back up and be strong again,” says Veretto in an interview with Runway Girl Network.

The EXPO, he adds, “is our jewel of the year” – the organization’s big event. “I’ve heard feedback of members that they’d like it to go international [outside of North America].” To wit, APEX is in the process of negotiations right now to bring its EXPO to Asia in the fall of 2016.

In the nearer term, next month in fact, APEX will host a two-day educational program in Sydney, Australia. The co-called APEX Australasia Conference will provide “fascinating interactive discussions on the future of the passenger experience” and “an in-depth look at the regional market”, says Veretto.

In April, APEX’s highly popular TV Market conference will take place in Dublin. TV Market is where IFE content buyers are paired with the leading worldwide distributors of short-subject and TV movie programming. The conference has been expanded to include movies, apps, GUIs and gaming companies, and “it’s such a huge success”, says the Virgin America executive. “Our association – a lot of it is about networking and there is fun in getting to travel somewhere where you’ve never been personally so this is work and play all combined together.”

Later this year, APEX will return to Asia for its Asia Conference in Hong Kong. Last year’s regional conference in Shanghai was quite successful, despite the fact that inflight magazine publisher Ink held an inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC)-focused conference one month before the APEX event. Veretto says he believes there is room for both conferences. “In the past, we’ve co-located with certain events. We debated about doing something similar with Ink and their presence there; it’s still under consideration for future events, but we discussed and strategized about our own Asia conference. There are lots of different conferences, not just in Asia, look at our industry and how many organizations are competing in that space.”

See APEX’s full calendar of events here.

Meanwhile, APEX is also eager to deepen its collaboration with the aircraft interiors side of the industry. “We’ve been talking to them [interiors firms] for a couple of years; a few were at the EXPO [in 2013]. Some didn’t have a booth, but were there to look around, so we’ll continue to work with them and eventually we’ll come to a determination on whether it’s something that we continue to pursue as our own venture, or if it’s better served to collaborate with an Aircraft Interiors Expo, Americas conference or something like that. We’re dipping our toes into the waters to see what happens and continue to make a determination as we proceed.”

Additionally, APEX sees opportunities to expand into the airport services arena. “I think there is room to grow especially with our relationship with the International Flight Services Association (IFSA): they have some reputation that deals with ground services so that’s our stepping stone to that,” says Veretto. He says he’s impressed with the unaffiliated Future Travel Experience (FTE) Global conference in Vegas, and is curious to see and hear how the event is growing.

One area where Veretto would like to see APEX improve is in social media. “I’ve been a big believer that we need more full time positions at the association. The board is voluntary positions, and we get together at events, but something like social media, I could see us hiring our own staff, and have someone lead that. That’s really where we need to grow.”

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