Combining airline industry with wine: the adventures of alumnus Timothy Keip

Written by Răzvan Dumitru.

Today, we are glad to check in with one of our more recent Hotelschool graduates: Timothy Keip. Despite graduating only recently in 2019, he has kickstarted awesome adventures abroad and is today a Revenue Delivery Executive at British Airways. In addition to his passion for the airline industry, for which he is doing a master’s degree, he is also eager to join the wine industry. This week, we invite you to learn more about the perspectives of this part Dutch, part New Zealander alumnus.

Did you have a plan after graduating?

I always have a plan! Even though things do not go as planned, I still have a backup. However, after graduating I just planned to dive straight into the job market. Luckily, while I was doing my second internship for Radisson Hotel Group in Belgium, I was able to secure my current position with British Airways as an Inventory Analyst.

Even though my title might sound confusing for some people, it basically entails the duties and responsibilities of a hotel’s Revenue Manager. Needless to say, the scale and centrality of British Airways require specific tasks to be carried out by me. As an example, I handle a series of nine daily departures between London and numerous cities in the United States. I am ultimately responsible for the type of seats that we sell and the rates for each and every one of them. Thus, my position necessitates taking into account multiple factors, such as sales, reactions of demand, trends, benchmarking, etc. These parameters allow me to come up with the best strategy that eventually boosts optimisation and profitability.

From your point of view, what did the pandemic change most in your  industry?

This period was all about finding new methods of carrying out our tasks. As you might have guessed already, the airline industry heavily relies on historical data in planning. Since the data of previous years suddenly became irrelevant, we were faced with the need of searching for new methods of forecasting and we are still adapting to the new business circumstances now. The unprecedented number of cancellations and levels of demand also contributed to the challenge, making anticipation even more difficult. However, I think the workforce felt the heaviest impact of this unfortunate pandemic, with around a third of our colleagues losing their jobs throughout this period and an entire Boeing 747 fleet not operating anymore.

The effort that we made to better our situation translated into having the right “set-up” in welcoming travelers again, encouraging them to book flights with us again, and suggesting new methods of coping with this period to the authorities. Personally, I consider that optimism needs to be combined with being realistic, especially in planning and scheduling, my domain. We know that people do want to travel, and airlines are more than ready to cater to their demand as soon as traveling will not be impeded by restrictions anymore.

How do you deal with bottlenecks in your job?

Unexpected events can be both negative and positive for our business. The demand, for instance, can drastically vary from one month to the next, having weeks with increased demand and others that are not so lucrative. Nevertheless, the airline industry is just as modernised as any other industry in this century, and we have many information systems in place that allow us to monitor events that might affect us in any way and plan ahead of them. Dealing with unforeseen circumstances also means being able to rely on your team and reports, but the pandemic has taught us how important decision-making is. I believe that this period helped us become more effective in reacting to disruptions, either positive or negative.

We heard that you would like to join the wine industry. Is this true?

Ever since I was in high school, I enjoyed working in wineries and restaurants. The various origins of wines triggered my curiosity and so it gradually became a passion for which I have obtained WSET qualifications, reaching level three. Throughout the course, I gained many aptitudes, from the professional ability to describe the characteristics of key wines from the principal regions of the world and explain the reasons for their style to knowing how the aspects of grape-growing, winemaking, law, and commerce contribute to the wines’ style, quality and price. My dream would be to collaborate with a large-scale winery farm operation, enabling myself to grow and find new ways of making use of my interest and qualifications.

How do you balance work with your master’s degree studies?

I was inspired enough to opt for a program that is designed to work around a full-time job. I think this choice was crucial as they understand the work pressure we are under, and designed the program to account for that. The flexibility of classes and assignments allows me to make a realistic schedule for myself and focus on my career while still taking care of my studies. My motivation lies behind the fact that my study is another passion of mine and it is connected to my job. My belief is that being passionate about a topic turns the process of studying or writing assignments into something pleasant and enjoyable.

How do you see the future of the airline industry?

During the pandemic, many airline companies had the time to refocus on other aspects than customers and so they started to tackle the topic of sustainability more deeply for example. This year, I attended the World Aviation Forum and discovered that the opinions about the recovery of airline companies are varied and mixed. Nonetheless, I could notice a shift towards sustainability and friendliness towards the environment. Many big names in the industry announced great developments towards sustainable aviation during the pandemic, exploring the possibilities of having fuel-efficient aircrafts which operate on hydrogen or even electricity. I consider that these initiatives will become requirements in the future as travelers become more and more environmentally conscious from one day to another.

What is your greatest achievement?

I highly appreciate the place where I am now. I take pride in the combination of what I am doing, how I got here and what I am aiming to do next. Revenue management is something that I saw myself doing while I was studying at Hotelschool The Hague so practicing it within such a renowned multinational is a milestone for me. For instance, becoming a leader and getting involved in making changes enabled me to grow and learn a lot about myself. I am really excited about what is on the horizon.

What is your biggest failure?

Sometimes I underestimate the scope of a task or challenge that I am taking on. My eagerness and openness sometimes cause me to overlook the difficulties of starting something completely new, preventing me from realising the complex process of achieving that objective. Therefore, I recommend diving into the challenge completely, getting to know the whole picture, before trying to plan, act or commit to taking on that challenge.

As it is customary in UNFILTERED, we asked Timothy to reveal some of his passions, hobbies and personal choices to enable you to better get to know the Inventory Analyst behind the desk. Here's what we found out:

What is your biggest dream in a few words? 

Own a hospitality concept that comprises of an organic vineyard and/or a farm. By combining these, it can benefit both people and the environment.

What is the next  thing  on your bucket list? 

Bringing what I just told you previously into existence! I am very enthusiastic when it comes to entrepreneurship.

What is your  advice for students graduating in 2021? 

Have a plan for yourself while still being flexible! Knowing what you want gives you something to aim for. Try to be as pliable as possible in your planning, making room for recalibrating or even switching to a new plan!