“We have a great future ahead of us,” declared Arvin Shah, Chairman & President of SKY BIRD TRAVEL & TOURS, one of the largest national Airline Consolidators in the United States during his address to hundreds of airline industry executives at Sky Bird’s gala 40th anniversary and Holiday party celebration at the prestigious St. Regis Hotel in New York City on Wednesday, December 6th.
With total dedication, hard work, solid customer base, and visionary ideals, Sky Bird Travel & Tours is recognized as a world renowned award winning Airfare Consolidator working with more than 90 airlines around the globe. “We have been in business for over 40 years. We can truly say that we are your global partner. We value your needs. Our customer service team makes sure you come first,” Arvin confidently stated to the party’s attendees.
Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, served by nearly 300 employees, with 12 satellite offices in the US and many abroad, Sky Bird Travel & Tours has come a long way since Arvin and his wife, Jaya, first started their travel agency, Jaya Travel Inc., in 1974 in Windsor, Canada, working from home. “We literally worked from the kitchen table,” he recalls.
In 1976, the Shah family established Sky Bird Travel & Tours, Inc., alongside with Jaya Travel, in Southfield, Michigan, to cater to the growing South Asian ethnic community throughout the US and Canada by developing a full service leisure travel agency which offers airline tickets, hotels, car rentals and customized tour packages to valued customers.
In 1982, Raj Patel joined the family business as its Vice President. From there, the company was able to grow with its wisdom and experience coupled with innovative and creative ideas which became the hallmark of the success story of Sky Bird Travel & Tours. According to Raj, “We believe there are two elements vital to every company’s success: a great product and great service. Since our founding in 1976, Sky Bird has amassed active contracts with over 90 airlines which has given us the ability to offer you a wide range of options for our clients.”
Arvin’s son Akshay joined the business after his college graduation. Together father and son are working to build and grow more business, challenging all the negatives in the industry. “With Sky Bird Travel, it’s not just about maximizing profits—it’s about becoming a part of our team where we value your needs,” Akshay, while giving an overview of the company’s 40 years of journey through a beautifully made visual presentation, told the airline executives who had come in to celebrate the success story of Sky Bird. “Our customer service is the reason for our success,” he said.
Within the first decade, Sky Bird Travel & Tours gained a reputation for quality and dependability and continues to provide its clientele with professional quality services along a diversified array of travel destinations, with the highest standards of excellence.
“We did not want to limit ourselves in business and wanted to handle the complete international airline ticketing to India and China, as well as Europe, the Middle East and Far East, Africa, Asia, South Pacific and Latin America from all major cities of origin in the USA”, said Akshay. From there, the Shah’s made the idea feasible and started to manage the task of expanding Sky Bird into the major global travel management business.
Not satisfied with handling just issuing tickets and making reservations, the company created its own tour company Sky Vacations. Sky Vacations has formed preferred alliances with partners in destination management companies all over the world. It provides a “local presence” and infrastructure within various regions. “Our clients get the advantage of established land package rates combined with our competitive airfares which makes for a very well-priced experience for our customers. This has made us a one-stop-shop for virtually any type of travel program we wish to provide,” Akshay says.
Sky Bird Travel has grown with the changing times and the needs of the tech savvy customers and industry. Its fares database is updated daily to make it easy for travel agencies to provide their clients with instant quotes and to give them the flexibility of adding one’s own markup.
In order to constantly grow in the business, the company concentrated on new challenges in the new technology during a period of major upheaval in the travel business in the late 1990s. Sky Bird became a SolarNet LiveLinx client, which hosts a travel vendor’s database and information search capabilities and accessibility on the Internet as well as four Global Distribution System (GDS) networks: Sabre, Apollo/Galileo, Worldspan and Amadeus and online through its business-to-business web portals. By embracing technology at an early stage, Sky Bird was well positioned to handle a greater amount and variety of business as well as serve customers worldwide.
With a view to better serve his large clientele and offer a competitive advantage through its customer-driven advanced technology solutions to optimize travel agents’ needs, Arvin and his management staff continue to make technology accessible and affordable to the greatest number of users, by delivering innovative, popular fare distribution systems that are easy to use and access for travel agents. Sky Bird offers fares less than 40-70 percent than most of the competitors, and its tickets are less restrictive than published and/ or web fares. .
With Sky Bird, travel agents also get access to ‘Wings’, their in-house booking system which searches the major GDS systems to give instant net fares on over 90 airlines. With the latest in technology along with a pure passion for helping travel agents, Sky Bird Travel Tours remains one of the top Airfare consolidators in the US.
As a first generation immigrant from the sub-continent of India, Arvin Shah and his company Sky Bird are a true story of the American Dream achieved through determination, hard work and persistence. “It was no easy task and demanded grit, self-confidence and vision. It also meant working under a heavy load of management skills and taking financial risks to gamble in the unpredictable travel business”, he said. “We had our share of ups and downs, until we started thinking more seriously about taking a different approach in the competitive travel industry, while exploring other alternatives like the travel consolidator market. It was an expensive move and involved a lot of risk-taking challenges.”
“Whether it’s dealing with global events, changing economies, or even weather-related difficulties, Sky Bird has managed to consistently provide top-tier customer service, low net fares, and commission checks to travel agents on time. Our commitment to excellence, unparalleled customer support, and travel industry wisdom has undoubtedly helped take their
Arvin feels that Sky Bird success is more like the success of a travel management organization than a travel agency, with all of its various departments IT, customer services, analytics, finance, sales, marketing etc. working in sync. Arvin says, with a sense of joy and pride, “Thank God I came to America – this is the right place. The land of opportunities. I had nothing when I came here. If you work hard, you can achieve anything you desire.”
Arvin’s vision for Sky Bird is to make it into a Billion Dollar Company. “I am confident with the kind of dedicated staff we have and the continued support from our customers, airlines, and tours, Sky Bird will soon be a Billion Dollar Company.” business to new heights in recent years,” Arvin says with a sense of pride and optimism.
Arvin and his company have won the praises and laurels from across the travel industry. “Congratulation to Mr. Arvin Shah on the success of Skybird Travel excellent customer service and its 40th year celebration,” stated Daryl Yu, Manager of Eva Air. “Standing strong against the competition and by the sides of its cherished partner – EVA Air, Skybird under the leadership of Arvin Shah has set a benchmark on travel experience with customized packages and tours. A true consolidator that combines fares and savings in one. We are very pleased to have Skybird Travel as our partner.”
Throughout its 40 years, Sky Bird Travel has been bestowed with hundreds of national and international awards by numerous airlines and leading travel industry platforms. This high standard was recognized early and rewarded by various segments of the travel industry, involving major awards and citations from numerous international airlines. Air India, Lufthansa, British Airways, Delta Airlines, Air France, Singapore Airlines are just a handful of the many carriers who have recognized Sky Bird as one of the world’s best serviced for reaching their annual sales target consistently.
In addition to managing Sky Bird Travel and its entities, Arvin and his family are extremely active in the community. The family has been in the forefront supporting numerous community events in Detroit. Whether it be natural calamities or man-made, they have spent substantial amount of resources to ease the needs of the South Asian as wells the larger society through its non-profit charitable organization, Jaya Foundation.
Jaya Foundation has been a major donor for the Jaya Rehabilitation Institute and Research Center at Bidada Sarvodaya Trust in Bidada, Gujarat in India has been doing amazing work in helping with the rehab process of thousands of people in the region. Jaya Rehabilitation Institute was awarded the Best Rebab Center Award by the President of India for its innovative and dedicated services to its customers.
Since 2005, Jaya Foundation has supported a Maternity Clinic in one of the most remote rural areas, providing much needed healthcare services to the local community. There are numerous other causes across the United States, the Shah family has promoted, including education, training and leadership.