Although Valerio Ferro didn't’ set out to work in the aviation sector, his love of travel and experience of living and working in different countries means he is perfectly suited to his current role. He was appointed Air bp’s VP sales and marketing in January 2021.
Currently based in Madrid, Spain where he lives with his wife and two daughters, Valerio was born in Rome, Italy. It was here that he joined bp Marine in their customer service department in 1997. He then relocated to Milan followed by the UK and then Spain, before transitioning to the aviation sector in 2006, when he was appointed Air bp’s country manager, Canada. He returned to Madrid in 2008.
“I thrive on challenging myself, trying different things and continuously learning,” Valerio says. “Working in a global business has afforded me the opportunity to combine travel and new cultural experiences with my career,” he continues.
With the global pandemic putting a stop on most foreign travel plans over the last 12 months, Valerio admits it has been an adjustment not being able to get out and about and meet with colleagues and customers in person. However, working from home has presented opportunities too. “It’s been good to refocus my work-life balance and to spend more time with my family. Although it can be tricky keeping up with colleagues and customers in different time zones around the world,” he adds.
To complement his love of travel, Valerio admits he’s very much a people person. “Some of the biggest highs in my career have stemmed from the people I work with, mentoring them, seeing them succeed and being part of that journey. I am also fortunate that the nature of my job is about collaborating closely with our customers to help them achieve their goals and add value to their business.”
As for the impact of the global pandemic on the aviation fuelling sector and how Valerio and his team have managed customer expectations, he notes that like stakeholders across the industry Air bp has been significantly impacted.
“The economic effect of the drop in fuel volumes has been severe and we were very exposed in the beginning with customers not flying and therefore cutting volumes on fuel that had already been purchased,” he says. “Now, we’re working with customers to better understand their forecast and when demand will pick up, so that we can scale our supply and operations accordingly,” he adds. “It’s about being flexible so that we can control costs but also bring back capacity as and when it’s needed.”
With vaccinations now being rolled out around the world, Valerio is cautiously optimistic about what the future holds. “It’s tricky because the roll out of vaccinations varies from country to country, but overall, I’m optimistic about the recovery of air travel. Although we won’t see air traffic return to 2019 levels for another few years at least, I think we will see a definite uptick in movements in the latter half of this year. The desire to visit friends and family is strong and the business and general aviation sector has certainly shown its resilience. Those that can afford it are choosing to fly privately because it’s easier to monitor passenger wellbeing and hygiene. In addition, business and general aviation customers travel through smaller airports and FBO facilities and in smaller aircraft with fewer touch points and less passenger traffic.”
The lack of aviation activity has also presented an opportunity in terms of Air bp being able to carry out maintenance programmes and service its fuelling vehicles without interrupting ground operations and turnaround times. Referencing Air bp’s Airfield Automation safe2go technology, Valerio says, “we’ve been able to accelerate the digitisation of our into-plane operations, which is all about making the refuelling process safer and more efficient. Our latest innovation seamlessly connects pilot with operator, providing instant visibility of refuelling operations and helps to reduce turnaround times. We’re continuing to roll this innovative technology out in countries around the world.”
Ensuring Air bp continues to navigate its way out of the pandemic as a sustainable business fit for the future is integral to global operations. Valerio explains there are three key areas which support the company’s overall low carbon approach: sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), carbon offsets and carbon neutral fuelling operations.
“We were involved in fuelling the first SAF flight by an airline in 2008 and since then have continued to play a vital role in increasing the supply and demand of SAF. To date we have supplied SAF to 18 locations across three continents and counting, as this month we are making our first delivery of SAF in the UK to the Centreline FBO at Bristol Airport. Air bp’s aim is to supply 20% of global SAF demand by 2030.”
He also underlines that Air bp is also supporting customers in compliance offsetting through bp’s trading organisation and voluntary offsetting programme, bp Target Neutral. bp’s carbon offsetting programme provides offsetting credits from projects around the globe that create real benefits for local communities.
And having retained carbon neutral accreditation across all its global operated airport into-plane fuel facilities since 2016, Valerio adds: “Already the start of this year has seen the roll out of our start-stop technology on fuel hydrant dispensers across our operated locations in Portugal. The carbon emissions reducing technology saves 3.5 tonnes of CO2 per vehicle per year and reduces carbon emissions by an average of 25%.”
Valerio also highlights that in line with bp’s mission to ‘reimagine energy’, the wider company’s aim is to have a broader spectrum and more integrated approach.
“It’s about looking at the bigger picture beyond aviation refuelling and leveraging expertise across the company. We’re exploring things such as how we can deploy EV charging points at airports and how we can help airlines reduce carbon emissions and achieve their sustainability goals,” he says. He cites bp’s recent collaboration with Qantas to advance net zero emissions in Australia, as an example.
With the aviation sector transitioning to a more sustainable industry, Valerio believes there is plenty to look forward to when it comes to the flights of the future. “My greatest wish is for more leg room for passengers,” says Valerio laughing. Joking aside, he reveals that he sees the whole passenger journey becoming more personalised with contactless technologies and automated solutions delivering a more seamless experience. In terms of aircraft, faster, more efficient, cleaner, greener aircraft powered by renewable fuels will be key. In addition, Air bp is keen to work with operators and manufacturers to gain a better understanding of how the needs of aircraft in the future could affect airport infrastructure and ground handling services.
As for Air bp’s role in the future of flight? “Whether it's the digitisation of airports, the wider use of robotics in refuelling, the evolution of SAF, or new power sources such as hydrogen or electricity, we will continue to play a big role in tomorrow’s world of aviation. Aircraft will always need some form of energy in order to fly, so we will continue to contribute to this transformation. Air bp has a lot to bring and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve in my lifetime,” concludes Valerio. “But most of all, I’m just looking forward to flying again!”
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