John Burbidge is the CFO of Sky Bird Travel and Tours. In his capacity of CFO, John directs Sky Bird’s fiscal functions and oversees its entire financial operations. He manages 13 offices in North America for Sky Bird.
John has been with the company for over 30 years and has seen massive changes in the travel industry. His biggest challenges are balancing cash flow along with developing new revenue streams. He sees technological advances as both blessing and challenge in the day-to-day work environment.
He holds BA and MBA degrees from Wayne State University. John lives in Michigan with his wife. They have one daughter who is a junior at the University of Alabama. He enjoys visiting MLB stadiums and rooting for his favorite teams. the Detroit Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi, John. How are you today?
John Burbidge Jr. (JB): I am doing well. How are you?
TRO: Doing well, thank you. You’ve been with Sky Bird for about 30 years now. What about Sky Bird has kept you there for all these years?
JB: In this day and age, employees tend to move around and do not stick with their employers for 30 years. With Sky Bird, even though we are a company with over 200 people, it very much is still a family atmosphere which has been there since I first started. When I began with Sky Bird, I was basically a gofer running errands and helping out with filing in the finance department. I was going to night school at Wayne State University at the time and earned my MBA. I continued to work in Finance Department and gradually moved up the ladder through the years. The company’s ownership has also treated me very well and recognizes achievement and hard work, which goes a long way in retaining talented employees.
TRO: How would you say Sky Bird uses technology to keep ahead of the curve in today’s travel industry?
JB: For sales side, we try to reach the maximum number of customers as possible through our state-of-the-art booking engine. On finance side, we are using analytics to measure our sales and revenue progress on each of the carriers. We are also diving deeper into the data to see where better we can increase market share for various destinations as this is what the carriers are looking at now. You also have to watch technology, as fraud is becoming more prevalent in our industry especially with credit cards. You really need to watch your backyard and make sure you know your customers and what they are buying. We are using technology to measure risk in this area by looking at originations and dates of departure.
TRO: Were you always a Crimson Tide fan, or was this because your daughter is currently attending University of Alabama?
JB: My fandom for Alabama was not inherited. I became a fan because of my daughter. I went to a game during her campus visit and am a big fan ever since. For a sports fan, seeing the Tide win the title with my daughter last year will always be a lasting memory for me.
TRO: From your position as CFO, how does Sky Bird work with travel agents to ensure the relationship between agent and company are a win/win?
JB: We want our agent partners to earn profit and improve their bottom lines. When they win, Sky Bird wins. We offer our clients access to fares on over 100 carriers to all worldwide destinations. Sky Bird settles all commission payments on weekly basis as well. We also have offices located nationwide to insure 24 hour service for our clients.
TRO: Can you let us in on any plans that Sky Bird has for the near future?
JB: I think we are pretty well saturated in the USA. We are looking to expand our service in Canada and are also thinking about Europe down the road.
TRO: Thank you for taking time to this interview, John. Have a great day.
JB: Have a wonderful day as well.