Rex CIO ascends to head new airline

In an ascendancy that shows CIOs and IT managers really can scale the corporate ladder to claim the CEO's chair, the former CIO of airline Regional Express (Rex) Hans Van Pelt, has taken out the top job at upstart and business-class only airline OzJet.

Armed with a fleet of 10 luxuriously appointed, medium-size jets, the full-service airline will target Qantas' lucrative business class passengers with economy class fares on metropolitan runs and intends to take to the air within weeks - as soon as it gains regulatory approval from aviation authorities - with Van Pelt at the controls.

Van Pelt put his ascendancy to the CEO's role of the new airline down to hard work, commercial savvy and a keen awareness of how IT can deliver value to businesses confronted with large overheads.

"During the last 12 to 18 months at Rex I was really [as much] the commercial manager [as CIO]," Van Pelt said, adding his former airline gone from a $30 million per year loss maker to a $1 million-plus profit in around 12 months.

During that time Van Pelt instituted a ground-up IT refresh of the airline's IT systems which included the introduction of a Web-based booking system. This lets support staff guide customers through online bookings via a chat room built on technology from US-based ASP Right Now technologies.

Van Pelt will also oversee much of OzJet's technology strategy to get the airline up and running including deployment of a booking engine from local software developer Vedaleon Technologies - which was formed from staff drawn from Ansett's information technology division and several other large Australian companies.

Ironically, Van Pelt himself was once also the head of Ansett's e-commerce division which set up Internet bookings.

OzJet will use Sabre, the airline industry's global distribution system, to link in to travel agencies and interline bookings from other airlines.

Owned by Paul Stoddart of Formula One Team Minardi fame, the new airline will fly between Sydney, Melbourne Canberra Brisabane and Adelaide with a combination of Boeing 737 and BAE 146 jets fitted to seat 60 rather than 130 people.

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