Bill Dolny became CEO of MedAire in 2014, taking on the responsibility for the strategic direction, growth, and expansion of the international SOS services provider’s global aviation and luxury yacht businesses. He joined MedAire in 2011 as COO and had overseen the growth of the company’s interests in the Americas as well as in Brazil and China. He previously has held management roles with CAE in Dallas, Texas, and also has served with GE Capital. MedAire provides remote medical, security, and operational support to clients in the air, on land, and at sea.
Dolny recently discussed the evolving security concerns that have arisen as the Covid pandemic eases.
Q. What are you seeing in the Covid environment?
A. It is evolving, especially at this moment, which is a unique one where people are traveling more and more. They're getting out there and traveling internationally again, which is great. I'm glad to see that come back. it's been a crazy couple of years. In this environment, what we're seeing is that there's still Covid and we're living with Covid. We’re going to deal with different countries having different elements of that and different entry requirements and still testing positive. We've spent a lot of time helping a lot of business aviation operators when they get in those situations. How do they get through that?
But the bigger one right now, actually, is our clients are really looking at us for help with security preparation. They're going to some of these locations that they used to think they knew, but now realize they need to reassess everything: “Where do I stay, what do I do with the airplane?” The safety and security aspect of traveling internationally is so uncertain right now. That's actually the stuff that we're spending a lot of time with a lot of customers on. It's that kind of preparation.
Q. What’s going on that makes it so uncertain right now?
A. What we are watching is the fact that when you have the Covid situation, economies are on the brink in many countries. That's ripe for crime. Americans coming in on a business jet are a target. Anybody coming in on a business jet is a target. So how do you make sure you do the right precaution, know where it's safe and where it's not, and what to do in an emergency? We've seen, even in the U.S., times where the safest parts of the world become the biggest crisis in the world. And you have got to be ready. And so, I think everybody's antenna is up right now and they're concerned. They're realizing if you go to some places they used to go to a lot, it's not the same place.
Q. Is the Ukraine/Russia conflict playing a role?
A. We're seeing a lot of activity right now. And, Ukraine is part of that equation, obviously, but it's not the only piece. It's actually more the world coming out of this economic challenge of Covid. Some parts of Asia are just opening. We’re still coming out of that. It's definitely an uncertain time, but that doesn’t mean you can't travel the world safely and that's what we want to make sure people do.
Q. What are your clients most frequently seeking information on when they access your MedAire360 web portal [which provides a range of travel intelligence, services, and support]? Are they looking at security needs, Covid research, or other safety or medical questions?
A. The most common thing people are looking for is Covid entry requirements and what they need to do to comply. The other one is security brief requests in Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East.
Q, Are you seeing a difference in your clients and how they approach travel since Covid?
A. Actually, I think these last few years have shown the resilience of the business aviation industry. I've personally been incredibly amazed at how many flight departments have adjusted to ensure their companies were getting the full benefit of the business jet during the crisis. You saw that with many flight departments, people who had never used to fly in the business jets were now flying in them. I hear these stories all the time about how “we used to not carry the sales guy to this meeting, but now we do that.” I think it's phenomenal that this crisis has shown the asset of a business jet in an operation and what it can do for you and how it can help you do business more effectively. That’s probably the biggest thing I've seen. The users have changed.
Q. Is there a general skittishness of travel or are people over it?
A. I think people are trying to [move beyond Covid], but it's very different in different parts of the world. We have about 4,000-plus business jets that are our clients. We have them in the U.S., Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia. And some of these places [have been] still locked down.
Q. But the bigger concerns have moved past Covid to the economic instability and the security concerns it has brought?
A. Yes. Our security guys [cover] this quite regularly. This has been their message for a while because the reality is we see it. We work in a lot of segments. Our biggest business is business aviation and commercial aviation. We also do yachting and commercial maritime. In all of them, one of the things we've noticed is as soon as people start traveling—and they are excited to travel, especially internationally—then they realize that that there are all these new questions they have got to ask that they’ve never asked before. And that brings stress and that's the last thing a lot of people want on these kinds of trips. It’s really what we try to [alleviate].
[For example], a client mentioned a European location, saying, “We typically stay at this hotel. We typically do [a certain plan].” We talked to them about their trip plan and we actually recommended they not stay in that hotel. They called us after the trip and they said, “you know, we passed by the hotel we typically stay at, I can't believe how happy I was that we were not there based on what was going on outside that hotel.”
That's just a small example. We talk about airspace, humanitarian flights, and areas where there’s military drone activity. Globally we are seeing all these weapons deals, the biggest amount of weapons going to civilians. We will be looking back on this and talking about aviation safety for a long time because we're not a hundred percent sure what's going happen in the future with all this.
Q. What do you mean when you say the biggest amount of weapons?
A. We’ve monitored the Middle East for a long time. Weapons like shoulder-mounted activity that are a threat to aviation. We monitor that and we warn against that all the time. Those kinds of weapons are now being provided and used.
This interview has been edited and condensed.