Our CEO Ciaran Connolly sat down for a Zoom chat with Jon Howell, Founder of high-profile aviation events company AviaDev.

AviaDev – short for ‘aviation develop’ – is an African aviation events company. It is known best for hosting a leading air service development conference for industry specialists to connect, inform, network and strategise.

In Africa, the aviation industry supports 7.7 million jobs and $63 billion in African economic activity. For the last four years, AviaDev has focused on bringing the industry together to develop relationships and strengthen the future of the industry.

Check out our ProfileTree TV interview with Jon below and read on to learn more.

The Journey of AviaDev

In the interview, Jon talks us through his journey of bringing AviaDev to life.

Understanding Aviation with Jon Howell, AviaDev

Four years ago, the Manchester-born entrepreneur saw a special gap in the market – and decided to take action.

“I graduated about 15 years ago from Newcastle University with a marketing and management degree. I spent time living abroad doing various tourism jobs.

“I came back to the UK in 2012 and fell into an events company that happened to work in aviation, and caught the bug as my family was heavily involved in the aviation industry.

“From there, I’ve developed the concept.”

Catching the aviation bug was no overstatement. Throughout his time building AviaDev, avid networker Jon has also built key relationships with some of the biggest industry-leading names in aviation. One of them being event sponsor Embraer, the world’s third-largest commercial jet builder, who specially designed a plane to promote AviaDev.

What AviaDev Involves

AviaDev is an annual event that takes place in different parts of Africa – however industry professionals travel from across the globe to attend. When discussing the groundbreaking event AviaDev proudly offers within their sector, Jon explains how it is delivered.

“Once a year we bring the stakeholders in the industry together.

“This year’s event in Cape Town will be our fourth African event, the first two were in Rwanda and last year we were also in Cape Town.

“We provide a platform for the airports, airlines and tourism authorities to talk together about how to develop air services.

“The format of the day is that we start in the morning with a conference. We’ll talk about the industry and what’s happening day-to-day and then in the afternoon we move into one-to-one meeting sessions.

“In the evening, we have networking receptions, wine tasting and music and all that sort of stuff.

“The idea is that it’s all about building relationships supported by an ecosystem of content through the year as well.”

The Only Way Is Up for AviaDev

From its conception, AviaDev has only grown in popularity across the industry.

However, despite the event’s increasing demand, AviaDev Founder adds that the event is deliberately kept to a specific size and level to keep the event as compact and valuable as possible.

“This year, we’re expecting probably about 250 delegates, so we keep it quite niche but high-level. So it’s CEOs of airlines, heads of civil aviation authorities and airports and then the ecosystem that surrounds that, so we have people like Embraer, ATR, Bombardier, Airbus, Boeing and those kind of companies.

“Then all of the infrastructure as well, so the guys who sell the engines on the aircraft and the people who sell the data products.”

Off the back of the Africa event’s success, AviaDev have now branched out into organising an event in Europe, with the first event being held in Vienna, Austria.

“In bustling aviation hubs, like those spotlighted at AviaDev, seamless transportation solutions are imperative. Airport taxis, a quintessential part of the passenger journey, play a pivotal role in connecting travelers to their destinations. According to a report by ProfileTree, a leading source in aviation insights, airport taxi services are not just about mobility; they’re a cornerstone of the airport experience” Travel expert of Airport Taxis website, Steve Co

Marketing in the Aviation Industry

No business can succeed without a marketing strategy – especially when you are trying to connect on a global scale. For AviaDev in terms of digital strategies, LinkedIn and content marketing have played a major part in how Jon has boosted his company’s network.

“When I started the business four years ago I had very few resources.

“To run an event on a different continent, you aren’t going to be able to just nip over there to talk to people, so I was looking for a solution that would allow me to engage. More than that, when I started to search for content around the African aviation market there wasn’t anything.

“So I saw an opportunity to fill that void. I was looking for it, so there must be other people looking for it.

“I also used to invest an hour, or an hour and a half, every day prospecting for people who would be interesting to have in my network and now my network is very valuable to sponsors.

“The business works, but it takes a heck of a long time is probably the honest truth.”

From initiating the idea only four years ago – AviaDev has come a long way. From dedicated digital networking to creating specialist content, Jon now has two major industry events under AviaDev’s wing. One in Africa and the other in Europe.

This not only proves how a niche market can become a soaring success, but how an industry can unite from across the globe to focus on the future.

To discover more insights from Jon, including examples of successful aviation sector marketing, you can watch our full Business Leaders interview.

You can also find out more about upcoming events at AviaDev.

We hope you enjoy!

Benefits of Industry Events for Aviation

In the dynamic world of aviation, staying ahead of the curve requires more than just jet fuel. Industry events serve as vital launchpads, igniting innovation, facilitating connection, and propelling businesses towards new heights. Let’s explore the key benefits that elevate these gatherings beyond mere conferences:

1. Sky-High Networking:

  • Forming Enduring Bonds: Aviation events bring together stakeholders from diverse sectors, from established airlines to rising startups. These interactions forge valuable connections, fostering collaboration and building long-term relationships that fuel future success.
  • Finding Synergy: Networking isn’t just about collecting business cards; it’s about discovering the missing puzzle pieces. Events provide fertile ground for identifying potential partners, suppliers, and even mentors, propelling ventures towards mutually beneficial collaborations.
  • Strengthening Existing Ties: Even for established players, events offer opportunities to solidify existing partnerships and deepen professional relationships. Face-to-face interactions foster trust, strengthen communication, and pave the way for even greater collaboration in the future.

2. Unveiling the Cutting Edge:

  • Innovation Unveiled: Aviation events act as runways for the latest technologies and advancements. Exhibit booths showcase groundbreaking solutions, from fuel-efficient engines to immersive passenger experiences, offering first-hand access to the future of the industry.
  • Knowledge Takeoff: Seminars and workshops led by industry experts delve into the technical intricacies of emerging technologies. These insights equip attendees with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of aviation.
  • Future Vision: Keynote speeches and panel discussions offer glimpses into the industry’s trajectory. Experts from diverse fields share their visions for the future, sparking new ideas and inspiring participants to embrace the transformative potential of innovation.

3. Wisdom from the Sky’s Best:

  • Navigating the Clouds: Industry leaders and seasoned professionals share their invaluable insights and experiences, guiding attendees through the challenges and opportunities unique to the aviation sector. These lessons learned from pioneers and veterans prove invaluable for both established businesses and aspiring newcomers.
  • Market Intelligence: Experts dissect industry trends, analyze market data, and forecast future developments. This access to cutting-edge knowledge empowers attendees to make informed decisions, adapt to changing landscapes, and stay ahead of the competition.
  • Mentorship in the Midst of Clouds: Aviation events foster connections with industry leaders who can serve as mentors and advisors. These invaluable exchanges provide guidance, support, and encouragement, propelling individuals and businesses towards their full potential.

4. Deals Take Flight:

  • Closing the Deal: Many aviation events facilitate business development through dedicated meeting zones, pitch sessions, and networking opportunities. These platforms allow companies to showcase their offerings, engage with potential clients and investors, and ultimately secure lucrative deals that propel their growth.
  • Unlocking New Markets: Events attract participants from across the globe, opening doors to new markets and potential partnerships. This global reach enables businesses to expand their horizons, diversify their clientele, and secure international collaborations that fuel their expansion.
  • Strengthening Supply Chains: Events allow suppliers and service providers to connect directly with airlines and manufacturers, forging partnerships that strengthen the aviation ecosystem as a whole. This enhanced collaboration optimizes processes, improves efficiency, and ultimately translates into a smoother, more seamless air travel experience for everyone.

Beyond the Horizon:

Attending industry events is not just about ticking a box; it’s about investing in the future of your business and the entire aviation ecosystem. The networking opportunities, access to innovation, insights from experts, and potential for transformative deals make these gatherings essential fuel for anyone seeking to soar above the competition in the ever-evolving world of aviation.

Sustainability – Taking Flight with Green Wings: Deep Dive

Decarbonization Strategies:

  • Alternative Fuels:
    • Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs): Exploring the production, distribution, and economic viability of SAFs derived from renewable sources like biomass and waste materials. Discussing challenges like scalability and infrastructure requirements.
    • Hydrogen-powered aircraft: Examining the potential of hydrogen fuel cells for powering short-haul and regional flights, delving into technological advancements and infrastructure needs.
    • Electric and hybrid aircraft: Exploring the development of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft for short-distance routes, focusing on battery technology, charging infrastructure, and operational considerations.
  • Operational Efficiency:
    • Air traffic management optimization: Discussing new technologies and airspace management strategies to reduce fuel consumption and emissions during flight.
    • Aircraft modernization: Exploring the role of lighter materials, aerodynamic improvements, and fuel-efficient engines in reducing the environmental footprint of aircraft.
    • Route optimization: Optimizing flight paths and schedules to minimize fuel burn and emissions.
  • Market-based Mechanisms:
    • Carbon offsetting: Analyzing the effectiveness of carbon offset programs in mitigating aviation emissions, discussing best practices and potential challenges.
    • Emissions trading schemes: Exploring the potential of international emissions trading schemes for the aviation sector, considering equity and economic implications.
    • Aviation taxes and incentives: Discussing the role of taxes and incentives in promoting the adoption of sustainable technologies and practices by airlines.

Green Airport Operations:

  • Sustainable Infrastructure:
    • Renewable energy sources: Exploring the use of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources to power airport operations, reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
    • Energy-efficient buildings and systems: Discussing the implementation of energy-efficient technologies in airport terminals and infrastructure.
    • Electric ground vehicles: Promoting the use of electric vehicles for ground handling and other airport operations.
  • Ground Handling Practices:
    • Optimized taxiing and fueling procedures: Implementing efficient taxiing and fueling procedures to reduce emissions on the ground.
    • Waste management initiatives: Discussing strategies for reducing, recycling, and composting waste generated at airports.
  • Passenger Awareness and Engagement:
  • Transparency and communication: Providing passengers with clear information about the environmental impact of their flights and the steps airlines are taking to reduce emissions.
  • Carbon offsetting options: Making carbon offsetting programs easily accessible and transparent for passengers.
  • Promoting eco-conscious travel choices: Encouraging passengers to choose direct flights, travel during off-peak hours, and pack light to reduce their environmental impact.

Passenger Experience – Soaring Above Expectations: A Deep Dive

1. Personalized Journeys:

  • Dynamic Pricing and Route Recommendations:
    • Utilizing AI-powered algorithms to personalize ticket prices based on individual preferences, travel history, and real-time market factors.
    • Recommending optimal routes based on travel dates, budget, carbon footprint, and preferred amenities.
    • Integrating travel preferences like dietary restrictions, entertainment choices, and desired seating arrangements into the booking process.
  • Tailored In-Flight Entertainment:
    • Curating personalized content libraries based on passenger demographics, travel history, and real-time engagement data.
    • Utilizing AR/VR experiences to offer immersive travel destinations or virtual tours within the cabin.
    • Interactive games and personalized learning tools catering to different age groups and interests.
  • Seamless Travel Management:
    • Smart luggage tags providing real-time tracking and notifications.
    • Simplified boarding processes with biometric identification and mobile boarding passes.
    • Integration with personal travel apps and calendars for seamless itinerary management.

2. Cabin Innovations:

  • Transformative Seats:
    • Adjustable seats adapting to individual preferences for comfort and relaxation.
    • Integrated sleep pods or convertible seating arrangements for optimal comfort during long journeys.
    • Interactive features like personalized mood lighting and adjustable noise cancellation.
  • Next-Gen In-Flight Entertainment:
    • High-resolution screens and immersive audio systems for enhanced entertainment experiences.
    • Interactive gaming platforms and virtual reality experiences for families and tech-savvy travelers.
    • Collaborative workspaces and virtual meeting rooms for business travelers.
  • Enhanced Amenities:
    • Biometric sensors monitoring passenger health and well-being, offering personalized recommendations for comfort and hydration.
    • Advanced air purification systems and personalized climate control for optimal comfort.
    • Self-service kiosks for food and beverage orders, offering a wider selection and personalized dietary options.

3. Mental and Physical Wellness:

  • Addressing Passenger Anxieties:
    • Soothing cabin design elements and ambient lighting to reduce stress and anxiety.
    • Virtual reality relaxation experiences and guided meditation programs.
    • In-flight exercise routines and on-demand stretching videos to promote physical well-being.
  • Crew Mental Health Initiatives:
    • Training programs and support services for crew members to manage stress and fatigue.
    • Flexible work schedules and rest breaks to promote crew well-being and passenger safety.
    • Open communication channels and support groups for crew members.

Seamless Skies and Boundless Entertainment: Diving Deep

1. High-Speed In-Flight WiFi: Untangling the Knots

  • Challenges:
    • Satellite technology limitations: Latency, limited bandwidth, and high costs pose hurdles to delivering consistent, high-speed internet access at 30,000 feet.
    • Infrastructure complexities: Installing and maintaining antennas on diverse aircraft models and navigating regulatory frameworks add layers of complexity.
    • Pricing models and affordability: Striking a balance between revenue generation and making in-flight WiFi accessible to all passengers can be challenging.
  • Advancements:
    • New satellite constellations: Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite networks promise shorter latency and higher bandwidth, potentially revolutionizing in-flight connectivity.
    • Hybrid connectivity solutions: Combining satellite with ground-based networks like ATG (Air-to-Ground) and LEO for optimal coverage and performance.
    • Advanced compression technologies: Optimizing data transfer and reducing bandwidth requirements for smoother internet access.

2. Next-Generation Entertainment: Beyond Blockbusters

  • VR Headsets:
    • Exploring virtual destinations, playing immersive games, and experiencing in-flight movies in a whole new dimension.
    • Challenges: Ensuring comfort, addressing motion sickness, and providing content suitable for all ages and sensitivities.
  • Personalized Content Streaming:
    • Curating individual entertainment libraries based on passenger preferences, travel history, and real-time data.
    • Offering live TV, educational content, interactive learning tools, and personalized music playlists.
    • Balancing personalization with data privacy concerns and ensuring inclusive content options for diverse audiences.
  • Interactive Gaming:
    • Multiplayer VR experiences, collaborative games, and individual challenges to cater to diverse interests.
    • Integrating augmented reality with the cabin environment for interactive games and educational experiences.
    • Addressing potential distractions and ensuring responsible gaming practices onboard.

3. Bridging the Digital Divide: Ensuring Everyone Takes Flight

  • Solutions for Marginalized Communities:
    • Partnering with governments and NGOs to provide subsidized or free in-flight connectivity in underserved regions.
    • Developing educational resources and digital literacy programs to bridge the gap for passengers with limited internet access.
    • Exploring alternative technology solutions, like ground-based WiFi hotspots near airports, for improved connectivity in remote areas.
  • Addressing Infrastructure Challenges:
    • Investing in ground infrastructure expansion, particularly in developing regions, to support seamless transitions between satellite and terrestrial networks.
    • Collaborating with national regulatory bodies to streamline licensing procedures and encourage infrastructure development.

Additional Considerations:

  • Cybersecurity and data privacy: Implementing robust security measures and building trust with passengers regarding data collection and usage.
  • Digital detox options: Providing designated quiet zones and offline entertainment choices for passengers seeking a disconnected experience.
  • Accessibility for all: Ensuring interfaces and technologies are accessible for passengers with disabilities and diverse needs.


Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today?

A: The aviation industry faces numerous challenges, including climate change, cybersecurity threats, emerging technology risks, supply chain disruptions, and ensuring passenger safety and well-being. This article explores some of these challenges and proposes potential solutions.

Q: How can airlines improve the passenger experience?

A: Airlines can leverage several strategies to improve the passenger experience, such as personalization based on big data and AI, innovative cabin design and entertainment systems, and a focus on mental and physical well-being. This article delves into these concepts and offers examples of how airlines can implement them.

Q: What are the latest advancements in aircraft technology?

A: From sustainable fuels and electric aircraft to automated loading systems and real-time tracking technologies, the aviation industry is embracing innovation to improve efficiency, safety, and passenger comfort. This article highlights some of the most promising technological advancements currently in development.

Q: How can air cargo be made more sustainable?

A: Reducing packaging waste, utilizing fuel-efficient aircraft, exploring alternative fuels, and optimizing logistics networks are all crucial steps towards making air cargo more sustainable. This article discusses these strategies and their potential impact.

Q: What is the future of air travel?

A: The future of air travel promises to be exciting, with advancements in technology leading to more sustainable, efficient, and personalized experiences for passengers and a more resilient and environmentally conscious cargo industry. This article offers a glimpse into what the future may hold for aviation.


The aviation industry plays a vital role in connecting people and economies worldwide. However, it faces several challenges that demand innovative solutions and collaborative efforts. The aviation industry can navigate the present and soar towards a brighter future by focusing on sustainability, passenger experience, technological advancements, and safety. By embracing new technologies, fostering international cooperation, and prioritizing well-being and environmental responsibility, the aviation industry can ensure that the sky remains the limit for the global community.

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