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December 31, 2013

Meet the Doogie Howser M.D. of the Airline Industry

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Written by: Eric Auxier
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Aditya PalnitkarAditya Palnitkar is one amazing airline CEO. For starters, he’s traveled the world, visiting 33 countries in the process. He speaks six languages, and has started his own company along with another organization that seeks to fight corruption. He has even started his own website and authored his own book on airlines. But if you were to meet him, he would come across as a star-struck avgeek, squinting into the sky at every airplane noise and jumping at every chance to take a flight. You might describe him as affable, gregarious, even childlike.

That’s because he still is a child.

OK, so Mr. Palnitkar is not the CEO of an airline quite yet. But if his list of past accomplishments are any indicator, the smart money would be to not bet against his future success. At age 13, upon finding no books in the library for teens about airlines, he went amaz9224580_origoff and began to write one. At age 15, he published Amazing Airlines, now available on Amazon ($8.99 paperback, $5.99 Kindle). Aimed at the teen market, the book is very readable by any audience. It comes complete with photos, esoteric anecdotes and tidbits, and—most wonderful of all—humorous and sage quotes from airline pioneers, pilots and other airline folks. And the story gets even better! At age 12, disturbed by the stories of corruption plaguing the headlines in his family’s homeland of India, Aditya started an organization called, “Corruption-Free India.” Multiple TV stations in India interviewed him about it, including CNN-IBN.

Born in California, USA, Aditya currently lives with his family in India. NYCAviation finally caught up with our country-hopping teen entrepreneur via email, and had the chance to ask him a few questions.

 

NYCA: How do you pronounce your name?

AP: “Aah-dit-yuh” is how it is pronounced in India, but for everybody else it’s usually “Aah-dee-ti-ya)

NYCA: How old are you now?

AP: I just turned seventeen in December.

NYCA: I notice that your interest in aviation is more on the human side. “Bridging the gap of distance via aviation,” as you say in your book and website. How, exactly do you envision that happening?

Aditya stands with the landing gear for a 747-8 during a VIP factory tour.

Aditya stands with the landing gear for a 747-8 during a VIP factory tour.

AP: I would say I’m equally interested in both the technical and human side of aviation. Although I comprehend the basics of the science of flight, I prefer instead to appreciate the magical ability of air transportation to take me anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. The mind-boggling logistics of running an airline efficiently and the incredible technology that permits an aircraft to fly safely never fails to amaze me. As for bridging gaps via aviation, I think that new airplanes (the 777-9X and the A350 for example) that can fly non-stop around the world will become very important for airlines in the next 5-10 years and will revolutionize the aviation industry. Middle eastern and Asian airlines are already utilizing this strategy of ultra-long haul flights using wide bodies, because there is a lot of demand for these markets as they join two opposite sides of the globe.

NYCA: What have you learned about the airline business, so far? What would you like to change when you take the reins?

AP: In a word? Volatile. But a better word would be dynamic. There is always something new going on. I want to learn all about the industry during my undergraduate education.

NYCA: What are your thoughts about the recent airline mergers? Do you expect more in the future? What about opportunities for newer upstarts in the future?

AP: Airline mergers have both pros and cons. Airline consolidation can mean less congestion from reduced players in the market and fewer delays resulting in a better overall traveler experience. In that respect, mergers can mean that flights get to their destination on-time and that travelers enjoy more streamlined check-in procedures as compared to codeshares. Also, the larger a company, the more likely it is to survive tough times and bankruptcies, which is good for employees and customers both. Mergers are good for frequent fliers too because the can get an award ticket faster when their miles are pooled.

On the flip side, mergers will lead to reduced competition in dozens of markets and on routes where the two airlines currently compete for customers. Airlines get a dominant position that its competitors will have a very hard time challenging. Carriers will also have an even greater incentive to raise fares and fees because consumers will have fewer choices.

It’s hard to say if one side outweighs the other, but we’re going to see the results sooner or later. And yes, I think there we should expect more mergers in the future.

As for newer upstarts, mergers will give them a chance to enter some airports by making gates or takeoff and landing slots available. Newer airlines which have a much more limited network will ensure stronger price competition.

Aditya sits in the nacelle of a Pratt & Whitney JT8D

Aditya sits in the nacelle of a Pratt & Whitney JT8D

NYCA: What do you think of Richard Branson?

AP: I believe he is a pioneer and and epitomizes hard work because of his rags-to-riches story. His entrepreneurial spirit is inspiring. I’m very excited to see what he’s going to introduce next to the aviation industry after Virgin Galactic takes off.

NYCA: How do you expect to help other children pursue their dreams, aviation and otherwise?

AP: One of the main purposes of writing the book was to inspire others my age to explore the aviation world. However, I strongly hold that you can only go as far as you dream. I’m going to use a cliché here when I talk about the importance of persistence – if the key doesn’t fit, try another door (or even climb in through the window if that’s your style).

NYCA: How can you encourage other teens like yourself to dump the video games, go out there and discover the real world?

AP: It is important to pursue hobbies, whatever they are. If someone likes video games, well, the real world is effectively a video game too, with 7 billion+ active players and is just waiting to be explored. This “game” is run by the players and all in-game items and rules are determined by players, which means that whatever you want, nobody’s going to do it for you. It’s up to you to go out into the real world and do everything yourself.

Of course, there are some video games that are hard to resist (I’m looking at you, Flight Simulator)!

NYCA: If another teen like you has the same interest in aviation, what are ways for him/her to best experience flying?

Aditya standing in front of a Yakovlev Yak-42D

Aditya standing in front of a Yakovlev Yak-42D

AP: I’ve been lucky enough to travel to 33 countries so I have taken a lot of flights. I would suggest them to take flying lessons and grab every opportunity to travel on airplanes. Books, movies, and simulators are also a great way to experience flying without really being in the air.

NYCA: Are you taking flying lessons? What are your current and future formal studies along these lines?

AP: I am planning to take flying lessons next year, once I am done with my 12th grade final exam (which is a big thing here in India). I would like to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering while learning about the business and economical aspects of running an airline at the same time. I am currently in the process of applying to colleges to pursue this further.

NYCA: What do you think are the barriers to women and minorities?

AP: I can’t think of any, which is a testament to the fact that if you enjoy flight, the sky is the limit!

NYCA: What are some things you think most airlines could improve on?

AP: Airlines could improve on-time arrivals, fewer cancellations, delivering checked baggage, honoring reservations (not bumping passengers), and resolving customer complaints successfully. Of course, not all of these are practical in the real world.

NYCA: What are your thoughts on airline safety and security? Can they be improved upon?

AP: I’m no expert, but I believe airlines are doing their best to ensure passengers fly safely. Flight attendants and pilots are highly trained.  While there have been incidents of cutting corners in maintenance and otherwise, it is always in an airline’s best interest to offer a safe product due to today’s increased competition between carriers.

Aditya with his family.

Aditya with his family.

NYCA: At age twelve you started “Corruption-Free India.” Can you tell us a little about that?

AP: Corruption is a menace that has plagued India ever since independence. In September 2011, Anna Hazare, a social crusader, ignited a spark that motivated millions of citizens to fight against corruption. As the national movement gained momentum, I noticed that many people had experienced corruption firsthand but did not have a tool to report it to the authorities. I decided to create one. It’s the country’s first tool that allowed any citizen to report corruption anonymously via SMS.

NYCA: What’s the best airline you have flown on? Which is the worst? Why?

AP: I particularly enjoyed the experience on board Middle Eastern and Asian airlines like Emirates and Singapore airlines. And I don’t have specific “best” or “worst” airlines because I’m too busy with the other aspects of the flight to mind.

NYCA: What makes an “amazing” airline?

AP: An amazing airline is one that offers the right mixture of safety and passenger experience, which is very hard in today’s tough times. Most carriers today cut down on passenger experience to combat rising fuel prices and keep travelers safe—which, unfortunately, most people don’t see, or rather care about.

 

This incredibly accomplished and focused young man seems destined to achieve his dream of being an airline CEO. In fact, he’s already mapped out every step of his plan. Inside his amazing brain, he confesses, only one question remains: what to name his airline?

Aditya, to us that’s the easiest question of all to answer: Amazing Airlines!

Eric “Cap’n Aux” Auxier is an airline pilot by day, writer by night, and kid by choice. An A320 Captain for a major U.S. airline, he is also a freelance writer, novelist and blogger (capnaux.com). His second novel, The Last Bush Pilots, captured the coveted Amazon TOP 100 Breakthrough Novels in 2013. Mr. Auxier makes his home in Phoenix, Arizona.



About the Author

Eric Auxier





 
 

 

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  • Jared D.

    Wow! What an inspiring young man! I can’t wait to see what he does in the future!

    • capnaux

      ikr, Jared? When he contacted me about his book, I was just blown away by his accomplishments. I see so many kids his age wasting their lives away behind the XBOX and I worry…then I meet inspiring young kids like Aditya and my faith in humanity is restored! 🙂