From Aces to Avianca

INDUSTRY-INTERVIEW

Ten years on, Jose Manuel Guzman, Sales & Marketing Manager at Avianca Services, unfolds the story of this Latin American handling enterprise.

In the beginning, there were two aviation companies: Aerolíneas Centrales de Colombia (Aces) and Avianca Airlines. When, in 2002, par merged, it was clear that duplicate ground handling teams were not required. Each airline had its own handling division so logic dictated a centralized ground handling function. A working team of seven Avianca executives led the start up of a Business Unit called Avianca Services, which implemented a business model focused on satisfying other airline customers in the ground handling market in Colombia. They pooled resources with the aim of delivering a consistent service. Early customers included Delta, Mexicana, Copa, Taca, Cubana and Iberia.

Jose takes up the story:

“Since 2002, Avianca Services has seen a sustainable growth, supported by its very active commercial and customer services focus, and has tried to over-deliver in terms of market expectations. Our aim has been to stand out as an excellent independent airline ground handler. Illustrating growth is easy by comparing the number of staff and revenues from other airlines customers from 2002 to 2012. Back in 2002 we had around 120 people and revenues of US$1m; this year the staff number 290 and revenues are forecast to be around US$10m.”

The figures, then, speak for themselves. Avianca is able to supply virtually the whole range of ground services, ranging from passenger services and ramp handling to operational dispatch: in a typical year, more than 16,000 flights are catered for. It almost goes without saying that the handler has enlarged its operation and increased its market share. As Jose notes, “comparing 2011 and 2012, we have experienced a sales increase of nearly 7%.”

 

A changing canvas

He is aware, though, of the changing face of the industry sector.

“There are major competitors coming to the region,” he says, “and this requires Avianca Services to strengthen its expertise in the provision of services with both warmth and kindness, and continue its research in technology and improvements that contribute to the optimization of time and results for our customers.

“We think that we are facing two main challenges at present: these are the airport facilities in Colombia and our competitors’ business practices. In this latter area, we are seeing, for example, lower prices, which do not always translate into the best service levels. As for airports, the airport facilities across Colombia are being restructured and rebuilt but not at an adequate pace, which in many ways is having a negative impact on our operations. On the other hand, some of our competitors are offering low fares, based on some legal, but not quite orthodox, methods that they have arranged with their employees, which puts them in a better position when it comes the matter of costs.”

Jose reveals that his operation has been pro-active in terms of making the handling operation as green as possible and the reduction of the company’s carbon footprint has been a priority.

“Environmental issues are a must and are a very significant factor for us. We are currently using electric-powered GSE, such as conveyor belts and tow tractors. We are now trying to migrate all our GSE fleet to electric-powered units, endorsing our environmental responsibility whilst trying to counter the high cost of fuel. In short, we are moving towards a greener ramp.”

All of Avianca’s employees are currently receiving a representative part of their Avianca Services Training through AVANCEMOS, which is an on-line training site belonging to Avianca. This, he declares, has made a great impact on his staff. There has been a decrease in the time spent in formal training with a concomitant better training coverage for the employees.

 

GSE and its importance

“On the other side of the coin, Avianca Services has implemented a yearly renewal program for its GSE. This assists our labor force and ensures that the ground handling service provided to our clients comprises state-of-the-art equipment.

“It is also worth mentioning something about the human resources policies adopted by Avianca Services, which have a very positive effect on our employees insofar as their motivation and health levels are concerned. Of course, this is reflected in the good work, low turnover and the service level commitment we provide to our airline customers. In summary, each of our employees has the benefits of being an airline employee.”

In closing, we asked Jose for a tip or two for anyone reading this who might be thinking of breaking into the ground handling sector. What, in his view, were the key requirements of making an operation work satisfactorily?

“Be responsible with your employees,” says Jose, “and with your clients and with your equipment. All of these require maintenance of some sort to keep you on the right track. A good operation consists of a smooth combination of people, equipment, tools – and heart.”

A greener ramp?

AIRPORTS-&-ENVIRONMENT-denver-solar

In an ideal world, aviation stakeholders are all working hard towards a greener future. But just how quickly is that dream being realised?

Most readers are aware that the so-called green movement has its roots in the West Coast where, for many years, pollution has been a daily problem. It’s no surprise to learn, then, that in this area more than mere lip service has been paid to the concept of cleaner air. Progress has been steady and much has been written about the initiatives and developments that have occurred to improve the quality of life within the region.

However, such progress is reliant on many factors. For certain, airlines and handlers have been pushing for change, but what about the airports themselves? Do they have much of a contribution to make to the overall scene? And can they call the shots, if required? In this feature we talk to them, as well as the other stakeholders, to try and gain an overview of the status quo.

The funding factor

According to Roger Hooson, Senior Planner, Landside Operations at San Francisco airport, a lack of funding in recent years has slowed down the pace of the green movement somewhat. But, arrested though it has been, the process is continuing.

“Ramp equipment decisions are down to airlines and handlers,” he admits, “and this tends to be the situation at most airports. At San Francisco, we have a clean vehicle policy in operation although there are no specific mandates when it comes to airside operations. In this area, it is rather a voluntary decision. Diesel power is, of course, a factor in California and there has been a big move towards cleaner, alternative power.”

A question of quality At San Diego, it is a slightly different story.

“Airports have started to go green but mostly it has been the carriers that have led the way,” declares Brett Caldwell, Airport Planner at San Diego airport. That said, the airport authority conducts an annual inventory of all ground support equipment, which is part of the station’s overall Air Quality Management Plan. Brett takes up the story.

“The Air Quality Management Plan identified and evaluated specific aircraft ground movement emission reduction measures. Some of those measures included assessing aircraft taxi-in and taxi-out times, single-engine taxi-ing procedures and other ground-based greenhouse gas emission reduction measures.

“In addition, Southwest Airline gates at San Diego all have 400 hertz at-gate power and pre-conditioned air units. The airport is also installing 400 hertz at-gate power and pre-conditioned air at an additional 19 gates. Having these power and pre-conditioned air units reduces the air emissions associated with aircraft parked at the gates.

“Approximately 13.5% of the fleet here. which entails some 71 units of GSE, is electric. There is also an extensive system of GSE electric charging infrastructure in place. We also have about 17% of our GSE powered by alternative fuel: that’s just over 90 items of equipment.”

He adds that San Diego International currently has 41 gates, a figure that is set to increase to 51 gates by the summer of 2013.The airport will also be trying to acquire additional funding for projects to reduce the air emissions associated with its ramp operations. It’s worth noting, too, in this context that both the airport and its airlines do have recycling policies. In fact, the airport authority has won the City of San Diego Recycler of the Year Award for the last six consecutive years: that would be overwhelming proof of its ongoing commitment to the environment.

“The airport authority has a Green House Gas Memorandum of Understanding with the California Attorney General to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The commitments in the memorandum specifically address emissions reduction measures for airside activity, including the ramp, as well as landside ground transportation activity.”

 

Breath of fresh air at Seattle

Sea-Tac’s work in the environmental area really got a fillip in 2010: that was the year when the airport authority received some US$18.3m from the Federal Aviation Administration for a project expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Voluntary Airport Low Emissions grant was aimed at funding the construction of a pre-conditioned air project that would make Sea-Tac one of the nation’s few airports with a centralized system, one that covered the entire airport.

It was a landmark moment and scientists had calculated that such an initiative would cut down on CO2 emissions by up to 50,000 tonnes a year. In addition, airlines were expected to save up to 5m gallons of fuel annually, which equated to some US$10m a year.

Aircraft on stand would have the facility for hooking up to the pre-conditioned air units on the gates. Their usage allowed aircraft to dispense with auxiliary power units, the use of which generates pollutants; moreover, the aircraft would not expend fuel on running their on systems. To get the cool air aboard, piping was introduced – and an estimated ten miles of piping was to be used to complete the project.

In all, the cost of the entire project was estimated to be just over US$33m. Of this sum, the US$18.3m grant was to cover the first phase of the project that would encompass 53 of Sea-Tac’s 81 gates. The remaining cost was to be paid through Airport Development Funds, which would come directly from fees charged to airlines. Indeed, the carriers have been a useful driving force in this initiative. It was calculated that these fees would be more than offset by decreased airline operating costs that were put at US$10m per year for airlines at Sea-Tac. Although the end of 2011 was set as the target date for the completion of phase one, that date has since moved to the autumn of 2012, with the entire project due to be completed by the end of this year.

According to the airport’s spokesman, this is no small undertaking.

“The size of this project is unusual for an airport in a temperate climate like ours, but we’ve shown this can make a tremendous impact on our environmental footprint, one of our key goals,” says Mark Reis, Sea-Tac Airport’s Managing Director. “The positive effects also include reduced noise from aircraft while they are parked at the gates.”

Overall, the project’s main objectives were to decrease the amount of energy used to heat and cool the aircraft and shift the energy demand from fossil fuels to low carbon, electrical sources. Less CO2, minimized life-cycle costs, lower fuel consumption and less noise on the ramp were all useful gains to be found within the framework of the exercise.

The first phase of the PC Air project has seen the construction of the Central Plant, portions of the Chilled and Heated Water Distribution System, the purchase of the gate delivery equipment and installation of the gate delivery equipment at approximately 50 of the 73 gates.

Another project getting underway relates to the use of electric GSE. Currently being put together is a pilot project for chargers on the ramp that is expected to spread to all areas. This is scheduled to be up and running in October.

The airport has a 25 year plan when it comes to environmental matters. Since 2005, for example, it has been using underground hydrants to transfer fuel to passenger gates, obviating the requirement for bowsers, which obviously cause pollution. Annually, this measure has reduced levels of CO2 by 42,000 pounds a year whilst 64,000 pounds of nitrous oxides have been saved.

In October 2011, the Port of Seattle Commission adopted a number of policies, all of which were aimed at pushing Sea-Tac to the forefront of US ports for environmental stewardship and energy efficiency. Measures mooted included reducing air pollutant emissions by 50% compared to 2005 levels; reducing aircraft-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25%; and cutting carbon emissions by 50%, based on 2005 data.

 

 

 

Let it snow…

Denver airport’s background is an enviable one in terms of sustainability and environmental concern. In fact, the airport’s environmental management has chalked up many accolades over the last few years, both in the US and on the international stage.

In 2004 it was accepted into Colorado’s environmental leadership program as a Gold level member. It was also, inter alia, the first airport in the US to join the EPA’s National Environmental Performance Track Program: that was back in 2006. A year later it received the FAA’s Environmental Stewardship Award. Today, the airport recycles or reuses 21 different types of materials, including around 71% of collected aircraft de-icing fluids, something that should be elaborated on here.

The fifth busiest station within the US is known for its winter ski-ing season which of course infers that there is plenty of snowfall – and because of this fact, de-icing procedures are an important element of ramp activity during the winter months. Whilst airlines and handlers take responsibility for much of the green movements on the ramp, nonetheless the airport authority has its say when talk turns to safe operation and keeping the environment clean.

Much, but not all, of the de-icing takes place at remote pads at the airport and the authority has seen fit to introduce various rules about moving aircraft safely off stand to these remote pads. An initial spray at the gate entails the employment of Type 1 undiluted fluid, which is restricted to 25 gallons in total per application. A simple trench system around the gates ensures the spent fluid is collected but because it’s a large area, so the fluid becomes very diluted. Where the glycol content falls below 1% it is not worth (in economic terms, at least) recycling.

Interestingly, Great Lakes turbo-props are de-iced on the stands rather than out on the pads. Because these regional jets are small, it’s deemed better to treat them separately: in that way, the bigger carriers experience no hold ups on the remote pads. Great Lakes has a busy schedule at Denver and so the fleet’s run-off accumulates in an average day. An underground pan catches the spent fluid and this can be considered a customised solution for the carrier.

Nevertheless, Denver airport runs an efficient glycol recycling operation, which dates back a couple of decades. This was vastly upgraded in 2004, thanks to a new contract that saw the introduction of mechanical vapour recompression units, amongst other features, which have since more effectively addressed the separation of glycol from waste water.

But what about those remote pads? Having a dedicated area (or in this case, areas) means that with the huge volume of traffic that passes daily in the winter months there is a proportionately large quantity of spent glycol to recover. In all, about 71% of its used glycol is reclaimed and recycled. When the strategy got underway back in 2004, that season saw 306,785 gallons recouped. Since then, around 558,000 gallons has been the annual average, which equates close to US$3m in terms of value.

Greenprint Denver, the City’s Sustainability Initiative, includes a goal of 69% total collected of applied aircraft de-icing fluid. The percent collected comprises three components, namely volume of glycol reclaimed, volume of glycol sent to the wastewater treatment plant, and the volume of glycol waste sent to landfill. The airport has met or exceeded the 69% goal for the past eight years and the spokesperson says that it is always striving to increase its collection efficiency for both environmental and economic reasons.

However, it’s not all about de-icing. Keith Pass, the airport’s Environmental Program Administrator, says that the authority encourages the adoption of greener GSE, too. Compressed natural gas is used extensively around the site and indeed, Denver’s fleet of CNG-powered vehicles is amongst the largest that you’ll find in the country. Currently there are in excess of 300 vehicles that rely on alternatives to diesel: a good number of these (over 100) are battery powered whilst some are running on a combination of battery and hybrid power. Helping the electric side of the equation has been ongoing work on solar panel arrays: Denver International currently has no fewer than three solar array systems that produce approximately 6% of the airport’s total power requirements. Such output makes the airport the largest distributed generation photovoltaic energy producer in the state of Colorado. Whilst bio-diesel has also been trialled here it was found that performance was impaired by the very cold weather that can be a feature of this particular station.

The greener GSE fleets are augmented every year and Keith notes that handlers are generally receptive to this ongoing change; handlers are also looking at other stations for materials and leads that could be useful to their operations at Denver.

The other big news at the station has been the installation of pre-conditioned air units on jetbridges, which has the positive effect of cutting down aircraft engine use whilst on stand: all stands are thus equipped, with commensurate benefits.

And the future?

“When the next runway is built,” concludes Keith, “we shall certainly incorporate a de-icing recovery system. Concourse expansion will also allow for pre-conditioned air. We are engaged on a sustainability master plan, so we are certainly looking ahead.”

 

Oakland: on a charge

According to Susan Fizzell, who is Environmental Planner at Oakland International airport, the authority is engaged in a number of initiatives to make the ramp more environmentally-friendly.

“We recently completed a project that provides 400Hz at all our gates, as well as remote parking locations that will reduce the amount of jet fuel burn at gates,” she reveals. “Pre-conditioned air is provided at most gates now and we are working to complete its installation on our remaining gates, again with a view to reducing jet and diesel fuel burn. Aside from this, we have installed bridge power managers that allow GSE to be charged from the bridge traction power supply when the bridge is not in use.

“Though the airport itself does not own any GSE, we have encouraged our tenants to convert to battery-powered GSE by providing the necessary electrical infrastructure.”

On a slightly different note, in April this year the airport hosted an AOA Spring Cleaning event which targeted the airfield and ramp areas. A staggering total of 20.4 tonnes of débris was collected, of which 18.6 tonnes was recycled. Similar events are due to be held on a semi-annual basis, with the next one planned for October this year.

Food for thought?

 

Massport: more electric GSE

At Massport, the situation is a little more complicated. According to Stewart Dalzell, who is Deputy Director Environmental Planning and Permitting, nearly all of the station’s ramp areas are managed by individual airlines and/or FBOs. As such, there would seem to be many different procedures in place and there is no one individual at Massport that directly manages these ramp practices.

“However,” he notes, “Massport has implemented some measures to improve ramp environmental performance. This would include 400 Hz power and/or pre-conditioned air at all 98 contact gates. There are a few that don’t have both right now, but we have a project to complete those locations. In addition, we are proceeding with adding GSE electrification rampside. Most notably, Massport recently provided a low-cost loan to Delta Air Lines to provide electric charge stations and to purchase 50 electric GSE: so we are slowly extending the GSE infrastructure as opportunities arise.”

 

 

Airlines: the key to the equation?

Whilst airports, as landlords, understandably take more than a passing interest in their environment, most of the time it is the airline that is prompting change for the better.

Southwest is just one example in this context, and it boasts an industry-leading electric ground support equipment program, which covers both conversion and new purchase.

Marilee McInnis, as spokeswoman for the carrier, says that Southwest has committed to entering new markets such as Charleston, Greenville-Spartanburg and Newark markets with new electric beltloaders and baggage tractors.

“With these new markets, we added 21 cleaner-burning units of GSE in 2011, yielding reductions in both fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions,” she confirms.

“Many of our original GSE have reached the end of their useful life, and in 2011, a large number of GSE were replaced with new, cleaner-burning diesel equipment. These new GSE, combined with the continuation of our GSE diesel-to-electric conversion program, brought the total number of cleaner-burning GSE in our fleet to more than 1,300 at the end of 2011.

“Using electric equipment in new markets is an opportunity to build a sustainable foundation from the beginning of our operations in new locations,” she adds, “and we will continue to fulfill our commitment to making environmentally responsible decisions with the use of cleaner-burning GSE.”

Modifying gates to provide power is another strategy that Southwest has embraced.

“Over the past few years, we have worked both internally and with airports to install gate electrification equipment. Now available in all cities where Southwest Airlines operates with bridge-based boarding, gate electrification allows our aircraft to be powered by electricity instead of jet fuel while parked at the gate: this represents a potential savings of more than 46,000 gallons of fuel in a single day. We continue our focus on immediate hookup, typically within 90 seconds of parking at the gate, to gate electrification equipment to maximize fuel savings.

With a 28 minute average turn time and a conservative estimate of six minutes to hookup and unhook gate electrification, this focus on immediate hookup can result in 22 minutes of avoided auxiliary power unit use, which in turn means a saving of approximately 15 gallons of fuel per event. However, gate electrification cannot be used in all circumstances, such as ground boarding, quick turnarounds, or in extremely windy conditions,” she concludes.

 

Beyond the Frontier

Frontier is also working to reduce its impact on the environment, specifically in terms of its airport operations.

When it comes to APU usage reduction, Frontier utilizes alternative terminal power systems or ground power units to reduce fuel consumption and emissions where possible. Recent efforts have focussed on reducing the time taken to power off an aircraft’s auxiliary power unit.

Single engine taxi–ing has been another feature, and this expedient has been followed for several years, where safe and feasible. In so doing, Frontier pilots have been taxi-ing using a single engine, cutting down on emissions and fuel consumption.

GSE materials recycling has been another measure: Frontier’s ground support maintenance facilities work hard to recycle any recyclable materials which are used to help power and run the carrier’s GSE. In 2011, approximately 33,000 pounds of metal and aluminum was recycled from Frontier’s Denver maintenance facility, for example.

Back in 2006, Frontier replaced all of its GSE pneumatic tires with webbed tires that not only last significantly longer than pneumatic tires, but are also made completely of rubber, making them 100% recyclable. And glycol recycling shouldn’t be omitted, either: in Denver, more than 70% of Frontier’s glycol fluid fused at the airport is recycled.

 

United effort

Meanwhile, United hasn’t been slow off the blocks.

Where possible, the carrier provides aircraft parked at the gate with air conditioning and electric power sourced through alternative, emissions-reducing methods. This is in place of an aircraft utilizing its own auxiliary power unit. As other carriers have noted, it’s a cost saving exercise: United reckons that an auxiliary power unit uses 40 to 100 or more gallons of fuel per hour, compared to terminal-sourced power or cooling systems or ground power units, which use, by comparison, under than five gallons per hour.

Wherever possible, the carrier also makes use of only one engine whilst taxi-ing

and it tries to ensure that GSE instead of aircraft engines is used to tow aircraft to and from and between gates.

Moreover, United’s interest in fuel economy extends well beyond its aircraft fleet: combined, United and Continental operate more than 3,600 alternatively-fueled (or zero-emission) ground service equipment vehicles.

In its Denver hub (which has already come in for a lot of environmental plaudits) United relies upon solar power to operate its fuel system. The fuel system relies on nine acres of solar panels which produce 1.6 megawatts of power. This application is sized to provide all the energy required for pumping fuel from the storage tanks to the waiting aircraft. Helpfully, during off-peak periods, United is able to sell power back to the grid, whilst at night and on overcast days, it buys power back from the grid.

All in all, it’s an illustration of just what can be achieved if a carrier has the necessary vision and determination.

 

Focussing on cleaner energy

From carriers to the raw materials. If you’re setting out to run a company, the main aim in life of which is to preach the gospel according to the environment, then Clean Energy would seem to be a highly apposite title for that entity.

This California-based enterprise is fully focussed on the ground side of the power equation, both on and off airport, although currently, the bulk of its work revolves around landside operations. Chad Lindholm is Vice President for the Western Region and he says that interest in the concept of alternative power, more precisely that of CNG, is growing year on year.

“There are several segments at an airport where we see the benefits. Taxi-cabs and shuttles are prime candidates; then there are courtesy buses, which can include rental transport, hotel cars and off-airport parking lots. Shared ride packages are also of interest.”

At the present time he underlines the fact that Clean Energy is not doing very much in connection with GSE. That’s not because there is no interest in CNG as a means of propulsion: the US is a rich source for this fuel and indeed, Chad notes that his company was behind the extensive infrastructure that enabled Denver airport to exploit this means of locomotion, as mentioned earlier in this feature. No, the overriding factor tends to be that of volumes used: in general, where GSE is involved, the relatively small quantities of CNG employed means that economies of scale are slower to be realized. “You need a significant amount of GSE to justify the adoption of CNG,” he says.

“Ultimately, the airport needs to be able to see a return on investment,” he explains. “Once that becomes visible, then things start moving. CNG has much to recommend it: it’s the cleanest fuel around, it’s readily available domestically, it’s abundant and there’s no greenhouse gases to worry about. If you’re using it correctly, in the right places, it can result in savings of up to US$2 a gallon at the pump.

“Today, we’ve brought this technology to 30 airports, so it’s no longer just a West Coast thing. At our older installations, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where we have 12 or 13 years’ experience, we’ve a 50% penetration, which means there is lots more potential. In fact, a second facility is due to be built at Los Angeles. These sites, plus Dallas Fort Worth, really showcase what we’ve been able to achieve.

“We’ve crossed the US with this technology: Las Vegas and Chicago are just two examples, and with new airports coming through, this technology has a rôle to play. After all, sustainability goals are being set by governments.

“In the earlier days, engines weren’t as technically advanced as they are now but all that has changed. We don’t necessarily advocate grants – in some respects, they are not needed, although funding is out there – since the return on investment is proven.

“As for the next few years, I am certain that our presence will continue to grow: we’ve a further 12 airports lined up for this technology.”

 

Bridging the gap

Finally, a word from JBT AeroTech, a specialist whose extensive GSE portfolio includes the design, manufacture and installation of jetways. In acknowledging the level of interest in the company’s airbridge products, Jim Cherrett, the company’s Marketing Manager Operations, points out that today, bridges are rarely ordered in isolation, but rather are supplied with pre-conditioned air and 400 Hertz power attached.

A sign of the times?

Main News September 14 2012

 

Latest Sky Club open for business

Delta Air Lines has opened a new Sky Club in Terminal C at New York’s LaGuardia airport: this takes the carrier’s total to 54 in its network.
The latest club is actually Delta’s third at LaGuardia. Around 7,600 square feet in size, it incorporates a wall of glazing which overlooks the runway. Amenities include a full service bar, providing complimentary beverages and snacks throughout the day, as well as Delta’s Luxury Bar program. The décor includes aerial landscapes of the region.
In addition to opening the new club in Terminal C, Delta is shortly due to enlarge and renovate LaGuardia’s Terminal D South Sky Club. This should be completed by next spring, and will comprise over 10,000 square feet of facilities in all.

 

 

Bad news at American Airlines

The latest cuts to affect the Chapter 11 protected airline concern some of its maintenance staff.American Airline executives have said that the company must lose 10,400 jobs as well as reduce its labor costs by US$1.06bn a year if it is to emerge from bankruptcy in good shape. Amongst other cost-saving measures, American’s latest proposals include the outsourcing of up to 35% of its aircraft maintenance function, which is currently executed in house. To that end, American has said that it will be closing its Dallas/Fort Worth maintenance base by the end of the year, which will entail laying off over 800 mechanics. It will subsequently consolidate its major aircraft maintenance operations in Tulsa and at Dallas/Fort Worth International. More than 1,700 mechanics and sundry other workers at American’s three aircraft overhaul bases will be laid off in December and February, officials have revealed. Additional reductions of mechanics and related positions at the Tulsa maintenance base have not been ruled out.

 

 

Jazz in tune with its staff

Jazz Aviation has announced that its flight dispatchers, who are represented by the Canadian Air Line Dispatchers Association, have ratified a tentative agreement which was reached on August 31, 2012. The agreement will be in place for a six year period. CALDA represents approximately 67 flight dispatchers employed at Jazz.

Jolene Mahody, Chief Operating Officer of Jazz, congratulated the staff on reaching this milestone and expressed the hope that this agreement would strengthen the company’s profile within the aviation marketplace.

 

 

Aviation employment figures remain firm

US scheduled passenger airlines employed 1.4% more workers in June 2012 than they did in June 2011, according to a recent study from the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. This actually represents the nineteenth consecutive month that full-time equivalent employee (or FTE) levels for scheduled passenger carriers have been higher than the equivalent month of the previous year.

In June, an FTE total of 390,923 for scheduled passenger carriers equated to 5,540 more than the total for June 2011. This year-on-year growth rate, although down from the growth rates achieved during the last half of 2011, reveals that there has been a gradual increase in the sector’s employment in the wake of the declines that occurred back in mid-2008.

Interestingly, virtually all the low cost airline segment reported an increase in their FTEs. Frontier Airlines was the exception, reporting fewer FTEs. Southwest Airlines reported 46,128 FTEs in June 2012, in a joint report following its merger with AirTran Airways. The combined report was 1,729 more FTEs (or 3.9% more) than the 44,399 FTEs the two airlines reported separately in June 2011.

It was a case of mixed results amongst the regional carriers: out of the 15 regionals, six reported reduced employment levels, compared to 2011 figures.

 

Third lounge for Dallas airport

At Dallas/Fort Worth airport, the airport board’s concessions committee has approved a seven year lease with American Express to operate a VIP lounge. The decision has been met with disappointment by American Airlines, which runs the Admirals Club within the same terminal. In fact, there is also a third lounge available to travelers with time on their hands: this is called The Club, for which there is no membership requirement.

For American Express cardholders (and non-cardholders), access to the lounge is via a daily pass, which ranges in cost from US$40 to US$75.

 

Main News August 31 2012

Commuters to lose out?

Delta, the largest operator of 50-seat aircraft in the US, will be closing the hangar doors on Comair by October. Moreover, other carriers with subsidiaries, such as Pinnacle and AMR, have filed for Chapter 11 in the recent past. Faced with the cold wind of change blowing through the economic corridors, the big names have had to reassess their regional offshoots – and so cutting out certain regional routes to focus on those that are more lucrative becomes par for the course.

The 50-seater has become synonymous with the type of aircraft serving the smaller community, often one in a remote location. Making those remote routes pay, though, has become less and less easy for the big carriers. Delta, for instance, is clipping its fleet of 350 or so commuter jets by over 200 units over the coming years. And if Delta’s example is followed, would-be flyers are going to be facing longer drives to the nearest airport.

The big carriers are all citing the same reasons for the cut-backs. Budgetary restraints have put the brakes on new investment and the price of fuel continues to test the hedging experts. Allied to this is the reality of ageing aircraft: maintenance costs are on the rise and every extra aircraft in a fleet represents another cash drain on the already straitened coffers. The difficulty involved in making the small aircraft viable will, analysts believe, ultimately lead to drastically reduced numbers of these aircraft circulating in years to come.

 

Backscatter X-ray machines: transparent technology?

There has been growing concern over the country’s 250 or so X-ray scanners that rely on so-called backscatter technology. These machines utilize a narrowly focused beam of high-intensity radiation for scanning passengers. Whilst this beam moves quickly across the passenger, the potential threat posed by the technology is little understood, in part because it is a secret process. At least one professor has said that he believes the radiation dose to be up to 45 times as high as that disclosed by the TSA.

Currently, the use of these machines is banned in Europe, a fact that has been noted as significant by those who feel the technology requires more study. To that end Congressman Steve Israel has called upon the TSA to conduct a thorough investigation into the use of this particular type of X-ray machine.

 

 

Environmental pledge from United

United Airlines is to further strengthen its commitment to sustainability and the environment by joining the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group. This is an industry working group whose objective is to accelerate the development and commercialization of aviation biofuels.

“We are excited to collaborate with other industry leaders in our shared quest to advance sustainable biofuels,” said Jimmy Samartzis, Managing Director of Global Environmental Affairs and Sustainability for United, in a statement. “We will all benefit from our collective work to find solutions to make alternative fuel available at commercial scale and secure a sustainable future for aviation.”

Overall, the group’s members represent around 32% of commercial aviation fuel demand.

 

 

Cheaper with CHEP

Air Canada has selected CHEP Aerospace Solutions to supply and manage its fleet of unit load devices.

CHEP Aerospace Solutions will be acquiring Air Canada’s existing fleet of ULDs (which numbers more than 8,000 airline containers and pallets) and will migrate them into its shared ULD fleet over time, taking CHEP’s total ULD pool to in excess of 53,000 items. Outsourcing its ULD management to CHEP will thus enable Air Canada to eliminate the administration element whilst reducing the cost of positioning, maintaining and managing its own ULD fleet.

Air Canada’s decision to outsource this critical operational activity to CHEP Aerospace Solutions comes in the wake of an in-depth, due diligence process on the capabilities and value of outsourcing. Key to Air Canada’s decision was CHEP’s extensive ground service support team and its global maintenance and repair network that covers 50 stations worldwide; as well, the synergies and cost savings available from sharing assets with other CHEP airline customers was deemed a significant factor.

Air Canada’s Vice President, Cargo, Lise-Marie Turpin, said that the decision to partner with CHEP Aerospace Solutions had come after a lengthy and detailed analysis conducted by the Air Canada team. The results of the analysis revealed that CHEP was the best provider to deliver the requisite cost-savings and efficiencies.

In turn, CHEP Aerospace Solutions’ President, Dr Ludwig Bertsch, added that he was proud to have Air Canada as a business partner.

 

 

Delta to cut subsidiary by end of year

Delta Air Lines has announced that it will be shutting down Regional Elite Airline Services. This is the subsidiary that performs ground handling and customer service for its regional carrier flights. The subsidiary musters about 4,000 employees around the US and its operations are likely to be taken over by the end of the year by other companies, including another subsidiary, that of Delta Global Services. Delta hopes to be able to provide job opportunities at the same locations for the vast majority of affected workers.

 

 

Main News August 17 2012

 

Getting smart with used cooking oil

AIRMALL USA, concessions developer and operator of the AIRMALL at Cleveland Hopkins airport, has formed a partnership with Bradford Airport Logistics. The venture will see the developer implement an environmentally-friendly solution that is aimed at recycling waste cooking oil from tenants in the airport’s concessions program.

To this end, Bradford has worked with AIRMALL to install a system of customized retrieval carts that collect the spent cooking oil from the fryers of food outlets at the airport. The collected grease is subsequently recycled to make environmentally friendly products, amongst which is the production of B-100 biofuel for vehicular usage.

 

Outsourcing or insourcing?

The wind of change, it seems, continues to blow down the economic corridors of the airline sector.

The latest carrier to look at changes to the status quo is United Airlines, which has announced that it is to outsource some of its cargo operations. Part of the reason for the change in operations stems from the ongoing merger with Continental: and a spokesperson has admitted that the initiative was in line with cutting cost and forging a more efficient operation.

Houston has been cited as one of the stations that will see the changes although others are also on the cards. The carrier has gone on to say that ramp cargo handling will still be performed in-house, however.

Whilst the number of affected workers has not been disclosed, it is known that United is still working with the union that represents cargo workers in order to relocate those involved or offer end of contract inducements. If all goes according to plan, the strategy should be effected by November this year. This isn’t the first time United has looked at its staff balance sheet, though: in all, since the merger got underway, some 15 stations have been involved in in-sourcing labor. Clearly, then, there is no one single solution here, for United is weighing up the situation on a station-by-station basis.

 

Big order for Florida manufacturer

JBT AeroTech has been awarded orders in excess of US$10m by a freighter airline, which the GSE specialist declined to name. This contract will see the manufacturer furnish cargo loaders, de-icing vehicles and pushback tractors. In addition to this it has undertaken to refurbish and upgrade the carrier’s existing cargo loaders. This new and refurbished GSE will in turn be used to support the airline in its global operations.

“We are pleased to continue supporting the cargo handling and ground support needs of the air freight industry,” commented John Lee, Vice President for JBT AeroTech Division. “This order represents the ongoing commitment of cargo air carriers to invest both in new products and in the upgrade of their GSE fleets to improve operating efficiency.”

According to JBT, delivery of the equipment is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year.

 

Emissions policy hits a brick wall

A Senate panel has voted to prevent US airlines from paying fees to Europe for their fleet emissions. The vote effectively means that the Transportation Secretary now has authority to stop carriers participating in the much-debated EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Predictably, the outcome was a disappointment to environmental groups who are keen to see the EU scheme adopted on a global basis. Calling the bill short-sighted, the international counsel at Environmental Defense Fund admitted that the result would set back any worldwide consensus, something that is badly needed to give the scheme full credibility. However, the US is not alone in its bullish stance: Russia, China and India have also long opposed the credits trading scheme, calling it unfair.

Readers will know that the European scheme issues permits to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide; it then charges any airline which generates more than its share. EU officials have assured the airline sector that the cost overall will lead to a slight increase in ticket prices. Nonetheless, US carriers estimate that the initiative will cost them some US$3.1bn by 2020.

The International Civil Aviation Organization has yet to be approached directly on the matter although EU officials have been contacted with the aim of securing some sort of compromise.

The Golden Crown

From-the-Workshop

Tim Rane, JBT AeroTech’s Region Manager, North Europe, ME, Russia & Africa, brings a fable to the table – and talks safety.

He may not have been the first person in history to have a sudden flash of inspiration, but Archimedes is the man who made the word Eureka famous. It all started when King Hiero II grew skeptical about his new laurel leaf-shaped crown. The king wanted to know whether the crown was solid gold, or if some other metal had been added. It was up to Archimedes to figure this out, only there was one catch: he couldn’t destroy the crown.

It seems to me that the same conundrum exists in preventing aircraft damage. Most probably, no operator wakes up in the morning with a plan to hit an aircraft with their GSE; and most certainly, no GSE manufacturer plans to design their product with the intent of hitting an aircraft; and of course no airline buys its aircraft with “Kiss me quick, I’m looking for ramp rash” stickers emblazoned all over its livery.

Looking for solutions

Early last year I was called by David Roberts, Corporate Safety Manager, Aircraft Ground Damage, at British Airways. He asked us to participate, along with other GSE manufacturers and stakeholders, in a five-day working group which had one aim: to stop 3.5 tonne container loaders from hitting its A319-320 fleet at all BA’s stations. The team was assembled at 7am every morning for a full week airside, along with BA operators, maintenance providers, trainers, aircraft damage repairers and GSE manufacturers. We set to work to establish the root cause of failure. We looked at the GSE, its operating procedures, the units in operation, the new technology presently available for aircraft collision avoidance, the interface with the aircraft, the containers, the dollies and the way they repaired the aircraft damage. No stone was left unturned. But still we couldn’t replicate why operators hit the aircraft consistently in the same zone. But then, out of nowhere on day three, we observed an accident about to happen: it was our Eureka moment!

An AKH container was stuck, half in, half out of the rear hold of an A319. It was full of suitcases, and therefore too heavy to manhandle. The way the operator was trying to un-stick it was platform up and down, loader wheels turning left and right, and driving forwards and backwards. He was under time pressure so he was trying to do this simultaneously. The loader lurched forwards, almost putting the bed inside the hold.

Root cause of failure? It was clear that the interface alignment is critical for loading containers without them sticking on the A319, but nobody released how critical. We all profess to be excellent drivers, but if you were asked to park your car 40 times per day, five days per week in the same spot with a parallel positioning accuracy of plus or minus one inch, could you do it? I guess not. So why should we expect GSE operators to do so? Also, on inspection of every A319, the in-hold entry pallet drive motor was completely worn down to the bare metal. No wonder containers were getting locked between the load guides: they were unable to pull containers in, relying only on the loader pushing them in.

Corrective action:

Short term quick fix: Focused driver training on the importance of perfect alignment and paint a red stripe on the loader to help line up accurately with a red mark on their aircraft.

Medium term fix: Fit a load bed extension to the loader with a powered roller to move the loader drive station further away from the aircraft body and fit soft rubber buffers to the cab. Also, get aircraft maintenance to replace the in-hold pallet drive rubber wheel more regularly, before it gets worn down to bare metal.

Long term fix: Get Airbus to consider changing its in-plane container guide design on all new aircraft to a better container lead-in design, preventing container lock up and allowing less accuracy of the loader operator.

In summary, that Eureka moment has allowed BA to engineer out the chances of repeating this particular incident, but only by working together with Airbus, with their operators and with the GSE manufacturers to solve seemingly impossible problems. If this partnership is well managed by the airline, as it was by British Airways, we can start to make a (metaphorical) dent in reducing the aircraft damage bills.

Main News August 3 2012

 

New lounge at Tom Bradley

Star Alliance member carrier Air New Zealand has been selected to design and manage the Alliance’s new lounge at Los Angeles International. The facility is the result of a US$1.7bn investment that has seen the redevelopment of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which was commissioned by Los Angeles Worldwide Airports.
The Los Angeles Lounge becomes the first Star Alliance branded lounge to feature a new design concept aimed at satisfying the needs of today’s traveler. Designed by the Gensler company of architects, this facility owes much to a contemporary interpretation of modernist Los Angeles architecture dating from the 1950s and the 1960s. To that end, it incorporates predefined spaces to suit a wide range of passenger requirements. Read more

Main News July 20 2012

 

Baggage fees not seen as a deterrent

Rising baggage fees have not stopped travelers checking in their luggage when they fly. According to the latest Department of Transportation data, US airlines collected more in checked baggage fees in the first three months of this year than in the previous three months.

Between them, the 17 largest airlines collected a total of US$815.8m for baggage fees during the initial quarter of this year. This total was up from US$792m posted in the fourth quarter of 2011. The increase comes in the face of a 4% drop in traffic this quarter, according to Associated Press reports.

Delta Air Lines was prominent, collecting the most (US$198m). United, American and US Airways were all runners-up, with each banking more than US$100m in terms of check-in fees.

Airlines also collected US$631m in changed reservation fees for the first three months of the year: this compares with US$567.1m earned in the fourth quarter of 2011 and US$597.8m garnered during the first quarter of 2011.

Once again, Delta outshone other airlines, banking some US$192.3m from this service.

 

 

IAM ratifies fresh contract

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 142 has confirmed that the ramp and stores agents at Alaska Airlines have ratified a new, six year contract. This latest agreement concerns some 600 workforce members and the deal was approved by 91% of those voting.

Various elements are covered under the terms of the document. A phased-in pay rise of 10% is now on the cards and employees can look forward to enhanced merger and job protection, as well as signing bonuses. Other emoluments include increased premium pay and improved benefits and working regulations.

“Both committees are to be commended for their no-nonsense approach to this round of negotiations, which enabled a full and complete agreement to be negotiated and ratified prior to the amendable date of July 19, 2012,” commented the District 142 President, Tom Higginbotham, in a statement. “Such an accomplishment is a rare occurrence in this industry.”

 

Better baggage handling results welcomed

More on bags: baggage handling results from May this year have shown that, for the eighth month in a row, US airlines have improved their on-time performance.

According to the Department of Transportation and an Air Travel Consumer Report, 83.4% of flights arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time in May this year, which was a 6% improvement when compared to the same month in 2011. in fact, the industry has posted year on year gains for on-time arrivals for each of the past eight months.
In May, 99.72% of all US airline passengers had their bags properly delivered, an all-time record for any May since records began; the previous record was set in May 2010. The May baggage handling performance also represented the twelfth consecutive month of year on year improvement.

 

Lost – but not always found

According to yet another new survey, airports are an ideal environment in which to lose personal belongings. During 2011, statistics show that, for example, over 8,000 mobile devices were left at seven of the largest airports around the US.

What is more worrying is that only one of those airports reported handing the lost devices over to the authorities. Six out of seven airports said that they were in the habit of donating mobile devices to charity or transferring them to another location.

Portable computers topped the bill, with a total of 3,576 misplaced, equating to 44.6% of all lost devices. Smartphones and tablets were close behind (3,444 lost or 43.0%), whilst USB drives accounted for the remaining 12.4%.

Five out of seven airports stated that most mobile devices were being left behind at Transportation Security Administration’s checkpoints whilst two declared (perhaps unsurprisingly) that they discovered most of the missing devices in restrooms.

Even more alarming was the sheer size of some of lost items, which have included vehicle tires and even microwaves.

 

Main News July 6 2012

 

Screening investment perhaps not enough

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan on the US airport screening technologies market has found that during 2011, the TSA spent approximately US$437.1m in contract obligations toward airport screening technologies.

The Transportation Security Agency is responsible for preventing knives, guns and other weapons from being taken on board aircraft. Despite these precautions, more than 800 guns were detected on board aircraft last year. These findings have highlighted the need for more stringent screening methods.

 

 

Facing up to the question of CO2

ICAO has said that it will focus on three options in addressing greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve this, it will look to eliminate the baseline and credit system, which allowed the trade in baseline increases or decreases.

It was felt that this initiative was broadly similar in scope to global carbon offsetting and as such, represented unnecessary duplication. Remaining options include offsets (with a revenue-generating mechanism) and the tried and trusted cap and trade scheme.

There is ongoing resistance from the US and China (and some other countries) towards the EU’s emissions trading scheme, which has put the International Civil Aviation Organization under pressure to come up with a workable alternative.

ICAO’s Secretary General, Raymond Benjamin, has said that he expected the council to have a draft plan in place by March 2013, effectively extending the proposed 2012 deadline that had been anticipated. But coming up with a scheme that will be acceptable to all of the organization’s airlines, that number close on 200, could well prove elusive.

And so the debate over permit purchase for flights into and out of Europe continues, with no obvious solution on the horizon.

 

 

Growth on the cards at BBA

BBA Aviation has committed to a seven-year lease extension and expansion of its Orlando corporate headquarters offices to accommodate anticipated growth.

Signature Flight Support and ASIG, together with their parent company BBA Aviation, collectively have more than 1,000 employees in 12 Florida cities, with almost 200 based in Orlando. The expansion will support the future anticipated growth of the business and the creation of new, high-earning jobs over the course of the next three years.

“We are delighted to commit to our ongoing presence in Orlando.” commented S Michael Scheeringa, President Signature Flight Support and member of BBA Aviation’s Executive Committee. “We found the partnership with both the state and city to be conducive to both retention and growth.”

 

 

LAN acquisition goes through

History was made on June 22, when Chile’s LAN Airlines completed a takeover of Brazilian rival TAM, thereby creating the world’s second-largest airline by market value, in a deal that analysts confidently predict will yield up to US$700m in annual cost savings within a period of four years.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the new carrier, called LATAM Airlines Group, will be flying into the teeth of a recession: indeed, currently there is a slow-down in economic growth and demand for air travel in Brazil. But those significant cost savings could save the day. The airline will be focussing on improving performance in Brazil and it is hoped that during the merger, there will be little in the way of redundancies.

 

 

Volaris fined for misleading website

Recently, the US Department of Transportation fined Volaris US$130,000 for failing to disclose to consumers that they might have to pay baggage fees when buying a ticket.
“We adopted our rule on baggage fees to make sure that consumers have complete and accurate information about how much they will have to pay when they book a flight,” confirmed the US Transportation Secretary. “We will continue to take enforcement action when carriers fail to comply with our rules.”
According to the DOT’s latest regulations, carriers must clearly and prominently disclose on the first PC window that offers a fare for a customer’s itinerary whether or not additional fees for baggage may apply. Moreover, it is obliged to direct travelers to where they can view applicable baggage fees. This regulation applies to all airlines selling air transportation in the US, including foreign carriers.

 

 

Oiling the wheels – but not everybody’s

Delta Air Lines, which in a recent, well-publicized report decided to buy an oil refinery in an attempt to gain more control over its aviation fuel costs, has stated that it will not be selling jet fuel on the open market.

The carrier’s subsidiary, Monroe Energy, is to invest some USD$100m to convert the 185,000 barrels per day refinery in Pennsylvania in an attempt to increase its jet fuel output to 52,000 barrels per day, which represents about 32% of its output. Monroe Energy, which has been specifically set up to own the refinery, will then sell the fuel back to Delta.

 

 

Airports set to gain in the Philippines

Cebu Pacific has unveiled its self check-in kiosks at eight airports across the Philippines, enabling passengers to check in more quickly for any domestic Airbus flight during this coming summer’s peak travel period.

“We hope our guests take advantage of this added convenience, so they can breeze through the check-in process this summer. This is similar to our Web check-in service, which CEB also pioneered in the Philippines,” explained Candice Iyog, CEB’s VP for Marketing and Distribution.

CEB was the first Philippines carrier to offer self check-in (this occurred last December), using computer terminals in Ninoy Aquino International airport Terminal 3. CEB’s self check-in kiosks have now been deployed to a range of airports including Manila, Cebu, Clark, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Tacloban, Kalibo and Puerto Princesa. This service is available for check-in on all Airbus flights, ranging from eight hours to an hour and a half before the flight.
Earlier, the carrier announced that it would be mounting additional flights, in time for the summer, with the arrival of two brand new Airbus A320 aircraft. This includes flight frequency increases to Kalibo, Caticlan (Boracay), Puerto Princesa, Bacolod, Davao, Siargao, Cebu, Iloilo, Pagadian and Dipolog, to accommodate travel demand.

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