We had the pleasure to get in touch with Lukas Jankauskas, owner and principal developer at vAMSYS, the very famous application for virtual airlines management which is and has been a huge game changer in this sector.
In our chat we spoke about the new vAMSYS that Lukas and his team are developing, which brings lots of improvements and features.
What makes vAMSYS better than other similar systems?
I think we first need to establish what vAMSYS is and what is not, as there seems to be some pre-conceptions and unfair comparisons on both sides. vAMSYS is a platform to create a Virtual Airline. We do not run any of VAs using our system and have almost no influence as to how they are run, managed or what their policies are. We are not a bunch of VAs ran by a single person.
We are also very different to logbooks, think SimToolkitPro. It’s a great piece of software, but it and vAMSYS are operating under different philosophies. At the end of the day – we all track flights – granted,
but how you come about booking a flight is very different.
vAMSYS is a Virtual Airline platform where VAs choose to use our system, our booking engine, our scoring system. They take all that and create incredible VAs: leisure flying oriented vRYR and as-real-as-it-gets
vCLX. I am very happy that there can be two diametrically opposed virtual airlines using the same system and that we can offer virtual pilots that choice.
Every Virtual Airline using our system sets up their route network and keep an updated network of routes, airports and fleet. Not just route pairs (A to B) but actual routings – staff of each and every VA go over
their routes very frequently, some even more frequently than AIRAC releases in order to ensure their routes are as current and reflecting those of the simulated airline as much as possible. There is no route
generation, all routes entered are verified by VA team before they go live for pilots of that VA to book.
vAMSYS provides tools for VA owners to focus on what matters most: their engagement with their pilots. We want to remove as much stress as possible. To that end, vAMSYS has 3 subsystems:
- Orwell: where VA Owner and staff set up their VA settings, including PIREP scorers based on aircraft type
- VDS: Virtual Dispatch System where served airports, pairs and routes are managed, as well as aircraft and stands
- Phoenix: where pilots log in to enjoy the fruits of the labour: book flights, take part in events, read documentation. Not to mention, there is no hosting overhead, we take care of that as well.
In general, I am struggling to find comparisons to what we offer.
Yes: phpVMS exists and it’s open-source, but codebase is php5.4 and most of the modules do not work on php7.x which vAMSYS uses and that allows for increased speeds throughout. There is VAM, but I think the development has been abandoned there. I am sure there are other systems I could reference, but none of them are using the latest technologies.
One big difference between phpVMS and vAMSYS – as this is the fairest comparison in terms of what we both try to enable – we take care of the hosting, undertake active development of our system and do not charge for extra functionality. Not a single member of Virtual Airline staff has to even think about writing a line of code or securing a server to host their code to enable Virtual Airline itself.
Have a feature you think your VA could make use of? Let us know and we’ll write it free of charge and make it available for everyone else. There are no ‘modules’ to purchase or code to wrangle with. We are yet to turn down an offer for a feature and have implemented many. The customisation possibilities available on vAMSYS are a testament as to why you can have two very different VAs I mentioned previously on the same system.
We are a platform which is over 5 years old, initially released to provide a backbone for vRYR, we have since expanded to allow vAMSYS to facilitate vEZY and BEE. We have gone through 2 major code re-writes
are now a platform of choice for 16 Virtual Airlines, with 2 more very exciting offerings coming up in the pipeline by the end of September.
There is a huge interest from prospective VA owners to launch new VAs powered by vAMSYS and we cannot wait to welcome them.
Which improvements are you looking forward to add to the already well done platform?
First and foremost: our in-house ACARS system. It’s something we though we would never have and accepted the reality of having to wrangle with smartCARS. Nonetheless, I count our lucky stars to have Anna onboard: she is handling Pegasus (our ACARS app) and it is showing tremendous progress.
By the end of the year we hope to discard smartCARS and hope all VAs will transition to our Phoenix client. It will be included in vAMSYS monthly subscription: so no more money to be spent elsewhere, not to mention the fact that it is built to work with our system.
It is currently in alpha stage and we were lucky enough to be in a position where we can leverage a very dedicated community and use their experience to discover issues or improvements to make to our tracker.
Once released, I am sure all the pilots will welcome it due to a very seamless interaction with any vAMSYS VA using it – one client, one platform, all the Virtual Airlines you could wish for.
The debut of Phoenix, v3 version of vAMSYS, was mostly focused on staff ability to manage their VAs and we made major strides in that regard.
Custom pages, custom scorers, editing staff team and many others were the tasks in v2 where you would have to involve Team vAMSYS to set it up for you. These things, and many more, are now changeable by the staff on-the-fly.
Nonetheless, we changed a lot of things from a pilot perspective as well: new look, new way to book flights, new event system, new PIREP scorers, better statistics… you name it. We made an effort to ensure
pilots are happy as well.
With Phoenix release, we feel the admin-section is maturing and we want to refocus our efforts on the pilot experience once again and have some ideas in the works already. Again – none of them are decided by us – we run a suggestions site where VA Staff and pilots can propose ideas. We discuss them and implement them as soon as possible.
Generally, all vAMSYS development, other than a few personal ideas we still have is driven by users if the system – be it VA staff or pilots.
One big change coming up shortly is the ability to export statistics even as far back as day 1 of the VA. That includes pilot activity, PIREPs filed, bookings made, popular routes, etc. We wish to leverage the data we hold to allow VA staff to make best decisions on where to take their VA based on the performance. We hope to add some eye candy stuff too and leverage over 1 billion position reports in our system to create visually striking flight maps drawn using position reports of each flight flown.
With that – we will also add data imports. Several VAs have told us they keep master spreadsheets of routes/pairs and would like to quickly import them… we are very happy to add this option. It will not be
limited to routes only: VAs will be able to import aircraft and airports, even add events via upload.
Are you planning to welcome more new airlines, if so, can you tell us a bit more about them?
Allowing new Virtual Airlines to join vAMSYS family is a fundamental goal for us. We accepted VAs in the past, but stopped new applications when we felt the system was lacking. Since then, we have redoubled our efforts and released new and updated vAMSYS. We hope to be able to invite new Virtual Airlines by the end of August. If not early September.
There are several VAs in the works, which, I think covers the entire spectrum: we have one new VA planning to start soon, we have 2 VAs transitioning over from their own legacy VA System to vAMSYS, one of whom is a certified virtual operator of the parent airline. We are thrilled to have them all on vAMSYS, as we will with any future VAs wishing to use the system.
Again, I must caveat: none of Virtual Airlines using vAMSYS are owned by vAMSYS. People seem to think vAMSYS is a Virtual Airline group where the group of staff behind it add new VAs based on popular demand, that cannot be further from the truth. The team of 4 behind vAMSYS are busy developing the system which VA owners use to create their own VAs.
The Virtual Airlines market is very busy, what would be, in your
opinion, the best mission and attitude to get into this market for new airlines?
Having not started a Virtual Airline myself and having not participated in running one for quite a while, I have asked vAMSYS customers for input.
And this is what they had to say: at the end of the day, it is a commitment. Whether you have 10, 100 or
1000 active pilots, they have joined your Virtual Airline with expectations. Be it up-to-date route network or interesting events.
All owners I spoke with have told me that it was not the easiest decision they had to make to run a VA. And it is really not suited for school-age pupils as a hobby for the summer.
You need to have a concept and a plan of what your VA is. Bring enough time and patience to see it through. Not every Virtual Airline starts with 100s of pilots, it takes a lot of time to recruit membership, years in a lot of cases where you see the results.
You need to have that time and that sort of long-term outlook. Being ‘CEO’ or a ‘Director’ isnot just “cool“. You will often have to deal with things you did not even think about or worry about things you delegated.
Of course, check the legal situation and seek permission of parent airline if you want to simulate them. Having a well-prepared plan with some visuals and, frankly, not being 16, will help with that.
Lastly, have something unique to offer to your pilots. Just a VA with a bulk of routes will not attract people. Yes, a famous name will drag some in, but you have to focus more on retention than recruitment. The
virtual pilots I spoke with all said the same: they picked a VA to fly for instead of STP or PF because of sense of belonging and community the Virtual Airlines have offered via their forums and Discord.
Being a new VA start-up is not easy, but I am sure the veteran airlines of vAMSYS will be happy to give some tips on our Discord.