Episode #6 of the Humans of Kiwi.com series was quite an experience. We spent some time with Pedro, our Airline Business Development Manager. He shared lots of insights into his Kiwi.com life, his favourite travels, and his personal story. If you want to know more (and we think you should), check out our interview with him!
What is your current state of mind?
I’ve recently got back from my holidays in Peru, and I was having the holiday blues, but the job here makes you come back to the matrix real fast. And I’m also happy because I’ve just got back from Miami, where I attended an aviation conference. Almost 1,000 attendees took part in the event, lots of airlines and airports. I went with a few other Kiwi.com people, we had a stall, and I was very happy to represent the company there.
What’s more, for a Latin American, Miami is almost like home. We call it the capital of Latin America! Everybody speaks Spanish and they have Peruvian restaurants all around, even more than Cuban restaurants. Then you go to Fort Lauderdale, and you’re in the US, and everybody speaks English.
But it’s okay, I like this feeling. To me, my family in Peru is very important. When I go home (and I do spend most of my holidays at home), I don’t just want to go home because I miss it. I also do it for my family. You see, my parents are in their 70s, so it’s not that they’re ‘ancient’, but they are elderly. So when I go to Lima I don’t just do that because I’m dying to go home, but also to infect them with life, and I can see it on their faces. It’s an act of love.
When did you join Kiwi.com and what brought you here?
I joined Kiwi.com in December 2017. Actually, I arrived in the Czech Republic seven years ago, and it was because of my wife, who has brought me everything in the last 10 years.
We met at my university in Lima. She was an exchange student there. I wanted to take part in an exchange programme myself, so I went to this seminar where you’d have incoming students from all over the world. And I saw this blonde, blue-eyed girl — you know the kind of Czech eyes, deep blue. She was complaining a lot about public transport, but she said she was also enjoying the experience. I was fascinated: it was love at first sight. And I only had four months to convince her that she was the love of my life!
The first month she hated me, she didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Then, because we were both smokers (and at that time you could still smoke on campus), every now and then we would ask each other for a cigarette, we’d go for a beer before classes. I soon learnt when she’d have which class and where, and one of her teachers was my former teacher. And I had always been a very good student, so teachers liked me. And this teacher played a role in our relationship.
My now wife and I were still only kind of dating, but I didn’t see anything happen for real. One day I went and waited for her in the classroom where she was having a lesson with this one teacher. But the teacher told me: “You know, Jana’s not coming today. She sent me an email saying she’s sick. Why don’t you go and visit her?” So I did.
I missed a class and an exam. At the time I was an intern at one of the largest banks in Peru, and it was one day before getting paid, so it was the poorest day of the month. I met a friend on the way, he lent me some money, and I bought chicken soup and orange juice. I went to her place, and her Polish flatmate (who liked me) put on a film, and said: “Hey guys, I’m watching a film, why don’t you go upstairs?” And we kissed. That’s how everything started.
Our relationship was long distance for three years. It was really tough. We made plans to make it work, and we agreed that, if it was not going to work, it had to be because of “natural” causes, like different personalities, but not because of the distance. We’d see each other every three or six months, so all my money went into travelling to Europe.
In this kind of relationships, though, you have to know that at some point one of the two will move to be close to the other. I’d wanted to propose for a while by then, but I was afraid she’d turn me down. In fact, she was very explicit about it, saying that she wanted to know where we were going. So I bought a ring on Amazon, sent it to her place and, when it was delivered, I proposed via Skype!
I finished the one university course I had, bought my ticket, and left Peru without thinking twice. I was so excited that I wasn’t quite realising I was really leaving my country, family and friends.
These seven years in the Czech Republic have been quite demanding. I had to find my own way and learn the language (because if I had to live in the Czech Republic, I wanted to be a part of society). I did my master’s here, and then I had several jobs, first in Ostrava, then in Prague.
When my wife got a managerial position here in Brno, we had to move again. By then I had already worked in the travel industry (for Latam and Smartwings), and I’d liked it, but I was a bit worried because I didn’t know what I’d find in Brno. After all, Brno isn’t Prague.
One day, even before I knew I’d move to Brno, I was talking about Kiwi.com with a friend of mine, and I asked her about a vacancy I had seen. And she told me it was her own position that was opening up because she was leaving.
So I applied, I had three interviews, and I got the job. And I was very happy because it was the third time I’d applied to Kiwi.com! The first time I was still in Ostrava, and Kiwi.com was still Skypicker. I applied, but never got a reply. The second time was the year I moved to Brno. I tried joining the GDS team, but they turned down my application. Finally, I applied for BizDev, and I got the position.
One thing about your position you dislike or struggle with
I love my position because it’s very challenging and demanding, and I love the world of airlines. It’s good to be on the OTA [online travel agency] part of the equation. I have 85 airlines under my responsibility, and they’re from all over the world: Latin America, Europe, Australia, even Africa. I’m proud to be helping our company become a true global player in this industry, and I am honoured to represent it overseas.
Some aspects of my job require more patience than others. The way airlines work is sometimes quite repetitive: they ask the same questions, they take their time to reply, or at times they might react in unexpected ways. Once I was in Patagonia, and a passenger got my phone from an airline representative to complain about an issue with his flight. Or it may happen that I have to call the ground personnel at the airport because they’re denying boarding to a passenger due to their own mistake.
On the one hand, it’s kind of cool: solving a problem. Knowing that thanks to my reaction a passenger managed to get on board their plane gives me such peace of mind. On the other hand, it’s tough because you have to fight a lot to get things done, because there are misconceptions about our job or our role in the Airline team, and you have to take responsibility for things you shouldn’t.
But hey, it’s a wicked game. If you want to do business you have to discuss and argue, and you have to understand that at the end of the day it’s the passengers who pay for our salary, so our role is to make sure that everything goes smoothly, and maintain good relations with the airlines that want to work with you.
Now we know that we don’t have to woo the airlines, especially in Latin America not anymore. When I joined the company, it was still virgin territory. In my first year at Kiwi.com we closed 27 direct partnerships with Latin American airlines, and Latin America has fewer airlines than Europe. There are fewer companies covering larger areas, and the airline market is more consolidated, so we’re doing really well, I’d say.
What we need to improve is how we communicate with airlines, how we design systems that automatically help us and the airlines prevent flight disruptions, and spare our customers any distress. But in Latin America, every airline knows Kiwi.com, and they know that the account manager here is a friend who is listening to them, but ultimately also doing his best for Kiwi.com and the aviation industry. You know, the other distribution teams have salespeople and account managers, while in the Airline Partnerships team we cover both roles, so we have a lot to do.
We have a very special team here, and we’re trying to recruit the best people because the airlines are our main input to make business. Without flight content, there is no Kiwi.com, so it’s also good for the airlines to know what we do. Often, especially in developing countries, they don’t understand it, and to explain the concept of Virtual Interlining you have to speak their language, and explain Virtual Interlining by using easy, almost elementary examples, or sometimes even dancing!
So, this is pretty much what we do.
What department or position at Kiwi.com would you apply to if you weren’t at your current department or position?
For somebody working in BizDev I think it’s always very good to work in CS [Customer Support] first. After all, CS is the main “combat line”: that’s when you really understand how our customers are perceiving our product. I would have loved to start in CS. I tried, but it just didn’t happen.
If I weren’t in the Airline team, I’d probably like to work in the Airport Partnerships team, even Distribution team or, in the content alliance, I love everything that has to do with airlines and business making. I certainly don’t see myself in a position that does not involve business making, because I’m a business animal.
As a matter of fact, I did request to have the CS training, and I’m happy I did it: I gained so much knowledge, and it was a great insight. Sometimes I still visit the floor and shadow this or that Guarantee or Complaints agent.
For BizDev, it’s very important for our CS colleagues to feel that we’re close, and that we care about them. It’s also a way to show them that they can advance in their career. I have worked in several companies in the Czech Republic, and Kiwi.com is actually much better than the average at this level.
I want our CS colleagues to see and feel that there is someone from BizDev who is going through the same challenges they have to experience on a daily basis.
What do you like most about Kiwi.com?
I would say the fact that Kiwi.com lets me be 100 percent myself. They understand that, in order for me to do business successfully, I need to be myself — and I am a very particular person. I have my own way to express myself, make jokes, sing, and the like. The company encourages me to be myself, and that is the best thing I can think of (aside from the job itself).
I believe that the fact that I never felt constrained has also helped me lose weight. I’ve already lost 35 kilos in less than one year. One day I met my friend Martin downstairs during a break. He’d had a similar experience with weight, so I asked him more about it, and I started working on it myself. And I’m still working on it.
All I can say is that Kiwi.com gave me the opportunity to grow in the company, but also to be myself. Thanks to the peace of mind I’d gained, I’ve then been able to devote part of my time to losing weight, which was something I had been dragging along since I was 12. As a result of all that, I have also gained more life. So, in a way, Kiwi.com has given me my life back.
Can you think of a Kiwi.com-related anecdote you would like to share?
I went to a conference in Panama last year, and we became friends with the organisers of the event. This year on our way back from ITB Berlin to Brno, we met one of the girls from Panama in the airport queue! It had never happened to me, and it happened in a large airport like Berlin.
I say travel, you say… ? Three things maximum
Peru, Peru, Peru! That’s actually the chant we sing in stadiums when Peru plays international matches.
What’s one thing you love and one thing you hate about your country?
One thing I love is definitely the food. To me, it’s a Unesco-heritage level! And also, my family, and the people in general. Peruvians are very warm people. And the landscape is mindblowing. It’s so beautiful.
As for what I don’t like… It’s a difficult question. The fact is that we don’t realise the country we have, and sometimes we are not doing enough about it. I mean, Peruvians are hard-working people, but there is a general attitude that does not enable us to take the decisive step into the so-called First World.
Peru is quite a modern country by Latin American standards. It’s more about the Latin American culture of jumping the queue, which we’ve inherited from Spain and Italy.
If I had to summarise it, I’d call it lack of respect for the common things. People don’t respect the guy next door. In the Czech Republic, you can say many things about the people, but they are very civilised. They respect the guy next door, like letting an ambulance go when it drives by. For me, things like this are very important for society. Antonio Raimondi said that Peru was like a beggar sitting on a golden chair, implying that Peruvians don’t value what they have. That’s how I feel about my country.
Name one place (city or country) you’ve visited which blew your mind
[Thinks about it] Apart from Lima, I’d say Miami and Dubai. I’m a coastal guy, you see.
I said Miami because it was much more Latin American than I’d expected. It was smaller than I’d thought, but the amount of products and kinds of colas they have is great. And the portion sizes in the US are outrageous. I loved Miami.
As for Dubai, it’s mindblowing how they built such a city — a city-state, actually — in 20 years. And they’re so tolerant for a Muslim country. You see gay people holding hands in the street, even though you wouldn’t expect it. Plus, everything is in excess: food, glamour, buildings, offices, cars. You’re stuck in traffic, and you see a Maserati.
Name one thing you couldn’t leave out of your luggage when travelling
[Thinks about it] Additional underwear. You don’t know how your intestinal flora is going to react to different countries, so just in case, I prefer to have an extra pair!
Name one place you haven’t visited (city or country) you believe / expect / know will blow your mind when you go there
I think Málaga in Spain and Jakarta in Indonesia. I recognise my Italian and Spanish heritage, and gastronomy plays a key role in everything I do and am.
In Indonesia, they have such a diverse cuisine, and kinds of street food, and spices. Also, with Indonesia, we’re talking about gastronomy that has yet to be discovered. The same applies to Peru. I mean, Peru has two restaurants in the top ten best restaurants in the world, and it’s the only Latin American country you see there. Indonesia is very interesting for me at that level, and it does have yet to be discovered.
As for Málaga, I was told that it has a beautiful coastline. I have a deep connection with the ocean because Lima is the only South American capital by the ocean. I was born in the Miraflores district, which lies literally next to the ocean.
Places by the sea or by the ocean, and with good gastronomy are the best for me. That applies to Lima, Miami, and also Málaga. I’d say the same about Sardinia in Italy. I’ve been to Bari. It was nice, but the beaches were very rocky, while Sardinia is said to be the Caribbean of Italy.
Do you remember the first time you travelled by plane?
Yes. It was in 1989. I was three years old, and we were travelling from Lima to Tacna, the border city between Peru and Chile. I flew on a Boeing 737 with Faucett Perú, which was the first Peruvian airline. Peruvians call it the second best airline in the history of Peruvian aviation.
In those days they’d still give you a lot of food on the plane. I think I ate eight orange cakes during that flight. I still remember the plastic wrap with a little orange, which echoed the logo the airline had at some point: a plane with an orange face. I will never forget that!
We went to Tacna, and then we crossed the border by taxi. At that time, Chile was more developed than Peru. Today the tables have turned, at least in the border area: many Chileans go to Peru because it’s cheaper, we have better food, and Tacna is more developed than Arica — the city on the Chilean side of the border.
In those days, Peru had issues like high inflation and terrorism, people were not travelling much. We were lucky enough to go, and we stayed in a hotel with a pool in Arica. I was travelling with my family, and we met another family, also from Lima. I still have flashbacks of that trip.
I loved travelling by plane from the very first time. I remember that it took me around ten years to fly again. I promised myself I’d never let that happen again. You see, I wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid, but I couldn’t, because it’s very expensive, and because I don’t have perfect vision, I’m slightly colour blind.
I love travelling by plane because it makes me feel free. Even though I’m not the one controlling the plane, I get this feeling of absolute freedom. I’m surfing through the sky, and having a very good time.
Name one thing that annoys you when travelling
Kids crying on the plane.
Name one airline you like and why
I like KLM because they are very, very warm and hospitable. It’s easy to expect it from a Southern European airline, maybe not from a Dutch one. And they are extremely professional, you can see that they pay great attention to detail, even in economy class.
They also have very modern planes, and a wide choice of inflight entertainment options, like a broad selection of movies. They’re extremely active at the level of social networks, and that’s something I love. You can even receive your boarding pass via Whatsapp or Messenger!
I also like Latam a lot. It’s the largest Latin American carrier, and it was my first job. It’s another very professional airline.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grow up?
I wanted to become the president of Peru at some point. I still haven’t discarded the idea, maybe it will happen. I have my speech ready, just in case!
Where would you go if you could time-travel?
[Thinks about it for a while] I could maybe tell you that I would like to go back to the 1970s and 1980s, because Peru had the best football team.
But if I could time-travel, I think I would travel to the future, because you don’t know what’s there. We know a lot about the past, so it’s easy to say that you want to go back to see what it was like. But for me it’s all about new things, why not go to the future?
What’s your first memory?
Somebody asking me how old I was. I wanted to say three, but with the hand I was showing two. I think I was at home.
Name one thing you like and one thing you don’t like about yourself
I love being who I am, I love being a showman, entertaining people. What I don’t like is that sometimes I don’t finish the things I’ve started. For example, if I’m watching a documentary on Netflix, and I leave it halfway through, I don’t go back to it.
What’s your favourite place in Brno?
My house. And, if I have to name a place outside my house, [the cafeteria] Sorry — pečeme jinak, because they used to have one type of pralines named after me. Although, now they’ve changed the name!
What’s your favourite question from this questionnaire?
‘What is your current state of mind right now?’