Eagle’s Wings Air Meeting the Challenges of Yesterday and Today

By: Frank Kaiser and Dave McComb
Monday, September 26, 2022

To say times continue to be challenging in managing the air transportation of human remains on behalf of their funeral service customers would be an understatement. Those profound, historic challenges began with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about a prolonged, dramatic reduction in flights and overall airline capacity, as well as a reduction and / or furloughing of airline staff.

These challenges continue today – even as much of the world returned to “normal” this year, the airline industry was anything but. Airlines began increasing flights earlier this year, but quickly found that their inability to staff those flights led to a significant amount of flight delays and cancellations, further impacting the strain on both the consumer-flight and air cargo industries. 

Through it all, however, the EWA team has risen to Eagle’s Wings Air Meeting the Challenges of Yesterday and Today by Frank Kaiser and Dave McComb the occasion and met these challenges head-on. Their incredible commitment, dedication and resolve are the reasons they have been able to continue ensuring those they serve and their clients were still getting loved ones home for ceremony on time. Their team’s willingness to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances has been critical, as has their expertise and commitment to service.

EWA has continued to support its team in several key ways. they’re investing significantly in talent, for example, to ensure they continue having the best team in the industry – and they know they have their back, and that their airline partners know they have the resources and capacity to serve them no matter what. 

This includes the hiring late last year of Robert Wilkinson as EWA’s Director of Client Care. Wilkerson brings almost 30 years of extensive experience in hospitality, corporate management and customer service to this new role at EWA, including more than 25 years at Hilton Worldwide across a number of key roles. Most recently, he served as the company’s Reservation Sales Director, where he led a front-line team of 500-plus employees to deliver a world-class reservation experience. Since joining EWA, Wilkerson has taken the reins of EWA’s growing customer care team to ensure a similar world-class experience to funeral homes around the world. At the same time, EWA continues to invest in technology to ensure its team has the best tools available as well. As you can imagine, technology is very important to a company managing the air transportation of loved ones; indeed, a company can have the best team in the world, but if it doesn’t provide them the technology and tools to do their best, their ability to perform and be as productive as they can be is severely impacted. This is why EWA continues to invest in making sure its team has the tools and software it needs to succeed. This includes comprehensive new contact center software with a broad range of capabilities and innovative support services that enables EWA to provide end-to-end solutions for its customers. 

For EWA, investing in both its team and its technology is critical in helping the company enhance the service it provides to their funeral service clients – especially in times of upheaval in the airline industry like now. Indeed, where many companies – including airline partners – were laying off or furloughing staff, EWA continued to add to their team throughout 2022. The company prides itself on never taking the role it plays for its customers – or their standing in this profession – for granted. And EWA knows its investment in people and products shows that. 

And even as much around the company changes, EWA’s leadership remains steady – and that has made a sizable difference. Indeed, EWA’s success is built from the foundational leadership provided by its co-founders and co-owners, Dave McComb and Frank Kaiser. Their unique backgrounds – McComb as a fourth-generation independent funeral home owner and Kaiser as an expert in logistics and transportation management – have combined to create a unified vision for a better way to manage air transportation of human remains in the funeral service community. 

In addition to the combined strength of their respective backgrounds, their ability to adapt to changes and evolve with the industry has played no small part in the continued success of EWA. Today, the company has firmly established itself as the nation’s leading logistics provider of air transportation management services to funeral homes and shipping services. Through a centralized customer service center, EWA leverages proprietary software and their knowledge of airline operations to find the best flight itinerary, secure space on the aircraft, and proactively monitor status of transfer from start to finish, delivering time-savings and peaceof-mind to its funeral service clients. To date, EWA has proactively managed more than 260,000 transfers of loved ones home for ceremony. 

Like most successful, well-run companies, of course, EWA sees opportunity where others see peril. Indeed, McComb and Kaiser believe the challenges discussed above present companies that are smart, efficient and aggressive the opportunity to strengthen their industry position and grow their market share – and that’s their expectation for the rest of 2022 and into 2023. By continuing to invest in technology and talent, they’re confident about their ability to meet these challenges head on and strengthen their role as an industry leader.

Initially, and even with their extensive experience, neither McComb or Kaiser (or the rest of their EWA team, for that matter) were prepared for how the funeral service profession would be turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than two years later, the duo are proud of how their team has adapted to this “new normal” of the seemingly endless array of challenges when it comes to helping funeral homes get loved ones home for ceremony. Both McComb and Kaiser like to point out that EWA’s customer care team of [xx] people is now larger than those of the cargo-reservation teams at the major airlines. As for where they see logistics and transportation management within funeral service going, Kaiser sees the value of partnerships and people only growing – and the “proactive” part of their approach only becoming more important. With an airline industry that seems as though it will be in flux for the foreseeable future, providing truly proactive management of ship-outs – and, as a result, peace of mind – to funeral service professionals through a strong team and strong partnerships will continue to be the name of the game. And the foundation of EWA’s success. 

David McComb

David McComb offers Eagle’s Wings Air experience in the death care industry since 1986. He was the President and 4th generation to operate D.O. McComb and Sons Funeral Homes which is the 2nd largest funeral home in Indiana. David is a licensed Funeral Director in Indiana and Ohio, COC and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business from Indiana University as well as an Associates of Arts degree in Mortuary Science from Mid America College of funeral Service. Mr. McComb is a successful entrepreneur purchasing and creating several businesses including Birkmeier Monument Company, Terra Services, Premier Preneed, Estate Security, Eagles Wings Air and Fort Wayne Financial. David has been very active in representing death care professionals as a member of Indiana State Board of Funeral and Cemetery Service and acts as Liaison to the Attorney General for 14 years. He is also a Board member and contributor to the Funeral Service Foundation.

Frank Kaiser

Frank Kaiser is a founding partner and President of Eagle’s Wings Air. He has over 25 years of aviation and airline related experience and has served death care professionals from an air transportation perspective for over ten years. Frank earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois and successfully completed Professional Pilot Training at Flight Safety International in Vero Beach, Florida. He also served four years in the U.S. Navy, which included duty aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. America (CV-66).

Frank began his career at UPS holding a number of positions in air operations and sales. Later, he went on to serve as a corporate department head for an air transportation company with annual revenues in excess of $200M. Most recently, Frank was responsible for customer service and quality assurance at an airline serving North America. While in this role, Frank became involved with the death care community, and developed the airline’s program to manage human remains. In the four years leading up to the birth of Eagle’s Wings Air, he was directly responsible for the operational oversight and service delivery associated with meeting the needs of death care professionals. Today, he is honored to play an integral role in such an innovative solution for air transportation serving the death care community.

 

 

 

 

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