Main News February 15 2013

Outsourcing at Frontier confirmed

Frontier Airlines has revealed that the jobs of around 700 of its employees are to be outsourced and that this will affect all of its destinations, save Denver International.

Currently some 60% of Frontier’s stations are staffed by employees from other companies. This latest announcement will have an impact on gate, ticket counter and ramp staff at 28 locations.

“We need to take every reasonable measure to ensure the future stability and viability of our company and to keep our costs low for our customers,” the airline’s spokesperson, Kate O’Malley, said in a statement. The outsourcing initiative is not expected to compromise customer service, and the replacement employees will receive the same Frontier training as current employees. Frontier has said that it will also work with other companies to help their employees apply for jobs with a new employer.

Having been through the bankruptcy process and relocated its headquarters from Indianapolis, the carrier has been looking hard at means whereby it can gain a competitive edge.

Load factors show promise for 2013

WestJet Airlines has revealed that its January load factor was a record 80.9%, which was slightly better than the comparable 2012 figure of 79.9%.

Traffic, as measured by revenue passenger miles, climbed by 7.7% year over year, while capacity, in available seat miles, was up 6.4% on the previous year.

The January load factor was the seventh consecutive monthly record for WestJet.

Similarly, Air Canada reported higher monthly passenger levels for January, as demand for air travel remained strong in the wake of the holiday season. Air Canada said that its load factor rose to 79.4%, again a record for January: this compares with 79.1% that was posted a year earlier.

On time delivery is getting even better

Airlines for America, which is the industry trade organization for the leading US carriers, has said that airlines are continuing to deliver a strong on-time performance. In particular, it notes the second best November on-time results that have ever been recorded. According to the latest Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report, airlines also had the best November on record for baggage handling performance.

The DOT Report records that 85.7% of flights arrived within 15 minutes of scheduled arrival time, which was second only to November 2009, which set a record of 88.6%. Encouragingly, these results are up from November 2011, which posted an on-time arrival rate of 85.3%. In addition, 99.7% of all US airline passengers had their bags correctly handled, yet another encouraging result.

As an update, United Airlines has just announced that it exceeded its 80% on-time arrival domestic and international performance goals for the month of January, and that it would be rewarding its eligible employees with a US$100 on-time bonus to recognize this fact. Despite challenging weather conditions across the system, the airline ended the month with an 82.8% domestic on-time arrival rate, and an 80.5% international on-time rate, resulting in the best combined domestic and international performance figures for the month in a decade.

On-time arrival rates are based on flights arriving within 14 minutes of scheduled arrival time.


United invests in static assets

Last month United Airlines unveiled its new United Club lounge in Terminal 2 at Chicago O’Hare International airport.

The carrier has said that this lounge will become the first of several new lounges that it will be introducing worldwide. The 13,300 square foot facility has an expansive bar and lounge area, redesigned furniture and additional workstations and power outlets. Members will receive complimentary snacks, beverages and free wi-fi use.

United has added that it plans to spend more than US$50m this year on the renovation of several of its 51 locations. This is in addition to over US$550m that it will be investing in fleet-wide changes.


FAA finds simple solution to airport efficiency

The Federal Aviation Administration reports that it has boosted overall efficiency at Memphis airport by more than 15%, all through the expedient of reducing time separation between the majority of FedEx’s aircraft.

These new standards, which were initially rolled out at Memphis late last year, are set to be expanded to other airports which feature concentrations of wide-body aircraft: these include San Francisco, Louisville and Atlanta. The changes will occur over the course of the next two years, says the FAA.

In order to effect the environmentally-friendly changes, minimum spacing between departing aircraft was reduced to 2.5-3 miles; latterly, this gap was typically 4 miles. Wake turbulence is the deciding factor here, for it is important that a following aircraft is not affected by the wake of the one in front. FedEx’s fleet comprises many MD-11, B767 and A300 types and it has managed to cut an average of three minutes off the taxi-ing time by having aircraft proceed directly from the stand to the runway. This translates into a time saving of 30 seconds in the run-up to takeoff clearance. The overall gains are apparent in the areas of fuel consumption, noise levels and emissions.

Perhaps best of all is the fact that this initiative has done away with any requirement for new runway areas or other airfield development. The scheme is just one part of the FAA’s long term plan that will see it overhaul the air traffic system with a combination of new technology, equipment and procedures that is known as NextGen.


Looking after one’s assets

On January 18, United Airlines opened the airline’s new employee health clinic at O’Hare International. The clinic, managed by Walgreens, will serve employees’ health needs, such as urgent care for routine illness, travel and other immunizations, including ’flu shots, prepackaged medications, job-related physical training and pre-employment physical check-ups, at no cost to the employee. These, and other health care services, are now available to all United employees, including more than 10,000 co-workers around the Chicago area.

“We’re continuing to make significant investments in United, including investments in our co-workers,” confirmed Jeff Smisek, United’s Chairman, President and CEO. “This clinic will offer convenient health services at no charge to keep our co-workers feeling and performing well.”

The 5,200 square foot facility is located in the airport’s Terminal 2 arrivals area, and is the only one of its kind for any airline at O’Hare.

In brief

Horizon Air passenger service agents in Vancouver and Victoria, who are represented by the Canadian Auto Workers, have announced that they have ratified a new three-year contract. All of the agents at the airports who participated in the ratification vote approved the contract, which expires on February 14, 2016.


Main News January 16 2013


United rewards employees and offers bag option

United Airlines has awarded US$125,000 to employees across the company for excellence in customer service as part of the company’s Outperform Recognition Program: a celebration was duly staged at George Bush Intercontinental airport in Houston.

Launched in June 2012, the Outperform Recognition Program invites customers who are MileagePlus members to nominate eligible employees for service at the airport, on the phone, on a flight or at any other stage of their travel with the carrier. Employees from all work groups, including pilots, flight attendants, ramp and customer service employees, may be nominated. The airline randomly selected 16 winners from more than 9,000 customer nominations submitted during the first four months of the program running.

Separately, United Airlines has launched a new baggage delivery option, enabling customers to have their checked bags delivered directly to their final destinations, within 100 miles of their arrival airport, thereby avoiding the baggage claim process. A single bag to be delivered within a 40 mile radius will cost just under US$30; an additional charge will apply for a more distant drop-off.

Baggage delivery by BagsVIP will initially be available to customers departing from any domestic airport and arriving in Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles and Orlando. The airline plans to expand the service to more than 190 domestic airports in the coming months.



Delta and Pinnacle: a joint future

The future of Pinnacle Airlines was up in the air at the start of the new year, when it was revealed that it could exit bankruptcy as a Delta Air Lines subsidiary. Delta’s potential ownership stake in this regional airline partner was simply one of several possibilities that had been suggested within agreements that currently await US Bankruptcy Court approval.

Some weeks later, Pinnacle Airlines confirmed that it would be emerging from bankruptcy as a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, based on a new agreement struck with the regional airline’s unsecured creditor’s committee, Delta and its pilot group.

“The reorganization plan will provide for Delta or an affiliate to acquire the equity in the reorganized Pinnacle Airlines Corp. after it emerges from bankruptcy,” Pinnacle stated in a press release. Although the new agreement is still pending court approval, the plan is for it to continue to fly under its own operating certificate.

Pinnacle has until mid-February to submit a reorganization strategy to the bankruptcy court. If all goes according to plan, the bankruptcy court could rule on Pinnacle’s reorganization scheme by May.

The whole of Pinnacle’s new common stock will be issued to Delta; indeed, Delta has served as Pinnacle’s debtor-in-possession lender throughout the entire reorganization process. The carrier agreed to issue US$74.3m in financing, a decision made last May, and has agreed to seek repayment in the form of exit financing and common stock to allow Pinnacle to emerge from bankruptcy.


Wildlife: a cause for concern?

The event last year at Tweed New Haven Regional airport has underlined once again the dangers posed by the environment immediately surrounding an airport.

In the case of Tweed, a deer bounded across the runway, just as a Lear Jet was taking off. Fortunately, the damage was limited to the aircraft and the deer, and the Lear’s occupants survived what could have been a fatal incident. The event has prompted the airport authority to erect fencing around the airport although it points out that there is a history of it working with the US Department of Agriculture in order to reduce the threat of wildlife colliding with aircraft.

The occurrence, though, is perhaps not so uncommon.

Bradley International, for example, had recorded 570 such incidents by the end of September 2012, whilst Denver International had logged a worrying total of 4,173.


Moving people in Florida

Orlando International has announced plans to build a new automated people mover system and parking garage to help cope with the growing levels of passenger traffic that it has been experiencing.

The new people mover system should be in operation by 2015 and will function as the terminal point for new passenger rail services into the airport. It will connect with a new parking garage, thereby providing the airport with additional capacity until the new south terminal is built in 2017.

The airport has said that this new people mover complex would allow private rail companies like All Aboard Florida to begin a passenger service between Orlando and Miami.

Gate catering for United

Late in 2012, gategroup announced contracts totaling more than CHF430m (US$462m) in revenues over the three-year life of the agreement signed with United Airlines. This award was part of a tender that covered the majority of United’s contracts with the gategroup brand, Gate Gourmet.

Gate Gourmet renewed more than 90% of its contracted revenue on tender. The contracts include extensions in catering and provisioning service at three of United’s core connecting hubs, at Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco and Washington Dulles, as well as further volumes in San Francisco and Washington Dulles.

In addition to the three hub locations, Gate Gourmet will continue to provide services to United in the following spoke cities, for which tenders were held: Columbus, Jacksonville, New Orleans and San Antonio. The agreements took effect in January this year and will run through to December 2015.


Guns: is the TSA over a barrel?

The Transportation Security Administration has revealed that it discovered more than 1,500 firearms at airport checkpoints in 2012, according to a report.

Despite the fact that travelers are forbidden to carry firearms on board aircraft (although they can be checked in, provided that counter staff are informed and that the weapons are unloaded and put into a secure, robust container), the 2012 figures exceed those of 2011, when just over 1,300 weapons were discovered.

The TSA spokesperson said that he assumed the vast majority were seized because people were unaware of the rules – a statement which seems to border on the naïve, given the high profile attached to guns in the wake of recent killing sprees in the US.

For the record, Atlanta came out with the worst statistics, with the number of guns found totaling 80 in all. Close behind in second place was Dallas.


Main News January 1st 2013



Dispatchers join up

The flight dispatchers at Allegiant Air have voted to join Teamsters Local 986, the Teamsters Airline Division has announced. The flight dispatchers at Allegiant, a subsidiary of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Company, are joining approximately 350 Allegiant pilots who voted to join the Teamsters back in August 2012.

In explaining the decision, dispatchers have said that they are looking for fair treatment, a strong voice relating to their work and the security of a Teamster contract.


No hassle endorsement

Airlines for America has firmly put its support behind the House of Representatives in its decision to pass the No-Hassle Flying Act (2012).

The act sets out to simplify and streamline the process of baggage security measures appertaining to international flights arriving in the US from Canada, Ireland and the Caribbean that already have US Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facilities.

The bill duly went before the White House to seek Presidential endorsement, giving the TSA the right to decide whether supplementary baggage inspection is due on items that have already been screened at the start of their journey. Currently all baggage entering the US is subject to a second screening, regardless of its origin. Gaining approval, this new proposal was made law on December 13.



Topping up the pot

Once again we can report that airlines are doing rather well when it comes to the topic of ancillary revenue.

Data released by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics has revealed that Delta Air Lines had the second-highest operational profit margin among US airlines in the third quarter of 2012; moreover, it also accrued most checked bag-fee revenue, at US$233.1m.

Interestingly, all the major carriers recorded an operating profit during the third quarter of 2012 and analysts point to bag fees, seat allocation charges and meals as prime contributors to the collective bottom line.

Top of the pile was Alaska Airlines, which pocketed more than US$44m from baggage fees. This performance outpaced that of Allegiant and Spirit, airlines that have been much in the news of late because of their controversial extra fees.

Whilst this has been encouraging for the carriers which continue to battle against a volatile fuel market, the story won’t end here. Southwest, for example, has stated that it is to further augment its ancillary fee structure as 2013 unfolds.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, over US$900m was collected in baggage fees by the industry in that third quarter, in addition to just over US$650m accrued from flight change fees. And all this doesn’t include other ancillary revenue which carriers are not obliged to report.



Fire detection a priority

The National Transportation Safety Board recently announced recommendations aimed at the reduction of harm caused by fires aboard cargo aircraft, a move that has been endorsed by a pilots’ union. The board urged the Federal Aviation Administration to require fire-suppression systems in all cargo compartments of aircraft and to improve fire detection within cargo containers and pallets. The recommendations follow three fire-related accidents worldwide during the last six years. One of these incidents involved a UPS freighter that crashed in the United Arab Emirates in 2010; on another occasion, a UPS aircraft caught fire in Philadelphia, back in 2006. A third example centered on an Asiana Cargo aircraft that was lost in the ocean off South Korea in 2011.


In brief

Signature Flight Support has announced that Airside FBO Operations, its second licensed location in Canada, has completed its transition to a full service fixed based operation as Signature Edmonton located at Edmonton International airport.



Main News December 4 2012


Self-service – from Canada

WestJet has introduced self-service baggage tagging for those flying to the US from Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. Having launched the same service in November in Calgary, WestJet becomes the first Canadian airline to introduce this bag tagging on non-stop trans border flights. Self-service baggage tagging allows WestJet flyers to use a mobile, the Web or a kiosk for checking in for their flight. They are then able to print their own baggage tags when they arrive at the airport. Those checking in via a kiosk may print their boarding passes and baggage tags at the same time; and once the tags have been attached, travellers simply drop the baggage off at the appropriate location.

In most Canadian airports, WestJet flyers have had the ability to print their own baggage tags for domestic flights since 2010.


Pollution not confined to the ramp

Average air pollution levels from secondhand smoke directly outside designated smoking areas in airports are five times higher than levels in smoke-free airports. This is one finding from a study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study was conducted around five large US airports, which revealed that air pollution levels inside designated smoking areas were up to 23 times higher than levels in smoke-free airports. In the study, designated smoking areas in airports included restaurants, bars and ventilated smoking rooms.

Overall, five out of the 29 largest airports tolerate smoking in designated areas that are accessible to the public. However, more than 110m passenger boardings (around 15% of all US air travel) occurred at these five airports during 2011.

Although smoking was actually banned on all US flights through a number of federal laws (from 1987 to 2000), as yet there is no federal policy that requires airports to be smoke-free.

Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer in non-smoking adults and it is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks. Even a mild exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger a heart attack.

Whether the findings will persuade the authorities to look anew at smoker provision remains to be seen.


Apps now becoming commonplace

The just-published 2012 ACI-NA (North America) Concessions benchmarking survey makes for interesting reading. Within its compass there is detail on the rise of the app, that useful item that allows travellers to quickly log on to all sorts of sites for updates and information. According to the survey, some 33% (that is, 32 out of 98 responding airports) now have a mobile application ready. It is also worth recording that of those airports that have a mobile application, over 70% promote concession offerings using these mobile platforms. In terms of how the app was developed, the most common route was that of a joint venture involving the airport and a third party: this accounted for 50% of responses. Close behind was the third party approach, with 44%.


Chaos in store at US Airways?

US Airways cabin crew have been threatening sudden strikes unless the airline management looks at agreeing new contracts for flights attendants.
Staff have the backing of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and have held protests around the US in the light of the airline’s failure to agree on contracts for its cabin crew. The association says that flight attendants continue to work under separate contracts, in separate operations, some seven years after the merger of US Airways with America West. It further suggests that US Airways’ proposed takeover of American ought to be put on hold until US Airways has completed its merger with America West, and agreed a single contract for all attendants.



On time statistics take a knock

Internal problems at American Airlines contributed to a slight fall in on-time departure statistics during the month of September. For the purposes of recording, to be on time flights have to arrive no more than 14 minutes behind schedule.

According to the Transportation Department, some 83.3% of all flights were on time although this was slightly down from the figure of 83.9% recorded during September 2011.

The best on-time performance statistic was recorded by Hawaiian Airlines, which totaled 96%. Runner-up was AirTran Airways, scoring 91%, whilst Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines rounded off the front runners with nearly 90% each.

There were no plaudits for American Airlines, which only managed to post on time figures of 58%. American blamed its poor performance on a work slowdown by pilots, who have been unhappy that the airline has used the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process to trim their pay and benefits package.

Concurrently, American Airlines also had the highest cancellation rate (3.1%), which represented a total of 1,304 flights. All the other major airlines submitting figures posted statistics below 1%. In all, American accounted for a third of all canceled flights during the month.

On the other side of the coin, passengers reported a slightly lower rate of lost or mishandled baggage: in this context, wayward bags were a bigger problem on regional airlines. Conversely, the chance of being bumped from one flight to another grew over the summer period: this was up by 38% from July through September, compared with the same period last year.


Main News November 6 2012


Bags of money for the big carriers

Reports suggest that major US airlines had a good second quarter in 2012. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the largest air carriers reported a 6% profit margin in this period, up from 5.3% from the same quarter in 2011. Once again, it was baggage fees that swelled the coffers. Overall, the industry set a record in the first half of this year, which saw in excess of US$1.7bn levied in such fees. Top of the tree was Delta Air Lines, which earned in over US$420m in the first six months of the year. United Continental was not too far behind.

In the final analysis, Delta’s revenues stood at US$429m, with United posting a total of US$351m. In third place was American Airlines, despite Chapter 11, with US$288m. US Airways took the fourth position on revenues of US$260m.

If these figures seem disproportionate, it is as well to point out that the fifth in the list, with a mere US$80m accruing from baggage fees, was Spirit Airlines. Whilst it has some way to go to start worrying the likes of US Airways, its latest initiatives (if that is the right word) will see it levy US$100 for a bag being checked in at the gate. That represents more than a doubling of the current fee of US$45. By doing this, Spirit is hoping that the new fee will persuade passengers to pay in advance instead of waiting until the day of travel. Within the carrier’s low cost, low service business model, current fees make up about 40% of its revenues.



Airport investment continues

Kansas City Aviation Department is moving forward with plans to replace the existing triple terminal design at Kansas City International airport with a newUS$1.2bn multi-storey building. According to a US$4m case study carried out by the agency, construction on the existing site of Terminal A will not involve major highway reconstruction and would be completed in a shorter time compared to construction on undeveloped land. The study also revealed that a replacement terminal would be preferable because of its proximity to the main runway, the fuel farm, the cargo facility and the de-icer area. The project will be funded through federal grants, fees received from airline passengers and carriers and remaining from a bond sale.

Separately, Port Columbus International airport is considering undertaking a three-year, US$80m terminal modernization program to increase its passenger handling capacity.

Expected to commence in November 2012, work on the 835,000 square foot multi-faceted terminal modernization program will include enhancement of the ticket lobby, baggage claim and concourses A, B and C, along with mechanical, technological and security advances.

Columbus Regional Airport Authority President and CEO, Elaine Roberts, said that some US$627m had been invested in airport enhancements, which included roadway, runway and baggage handling upgrades.



Ten years – a suitable time limit?

There was recently an unusual case at Charlotte Douglas International airport, where an employee was apprehended at work after it was discovered there had been a warrant out for his arrest. What was interesting in this instance was that the warrant for his arrest dated back to something that had occurred over a decade ago.

In 2000, the man was accused of stealing from his employer in Concord. That same year he began working at the airport and was with Delta at the time of his arrest. The accused stated that he thought that the case had been dismissed. In consequence, the question of background checks has come under the microscope. A representative from the airport confirmed that in addition to the checks performed by Delta Global Services, the airport also would have followed TSA standards. Inter alia, these standards outline what would disqualify an employee from having unescorted access into secure areas and a number of potential crimes are itemized. The standards also say that potential employees cannot be convicted of any of such crimes within the last ten years. That said, there appears to have been no correlation between those standards and being wanted by the police.

The case against this individual was actually dismissed because of its age and the fact that there was a lack of evidence.


Putting the personal touch back into flying

Whilst many bemoan the hard-nosed attitude that has come to typify the aviation sector, a few airlines, including US carriers, have been looking at ways and means whereby they can differentiate their product. Currently faced with competition from price comparison websites, they are trying to win back customers through a personalized service offering.

To that end, IATA has been promoting an experiment that involves customized ticket pricing to include such factors as baggage fees and seat assignments. However, travel agents are concerned that such a “personalized price product” will entail difficult comparisons – and might lead to concerns over customer privacy.

Under the terms of this new comparison plan, airlines could ask potential customers for personal information, which might include membership of frequent-flier programs, travel history or even credit card usage. Armed with this information, airlines could then tailor a ticket price to each passenger, one that would embrace, for example, meal choices, extra legroom requirements and seat preferences. Then, an intermediary would collect the prices offered by various airlines and furnish these to the customer.

Currently, airlines say that they are unable to offer regular customers a lower price or eliminate a bag fee on comparison sites, simply because those potential customers are anonymous.

IATA’s Tony Tyler sees this as a valuable opportunity for a revolution in airline retailing, and says that this plan would allow airlines to customize their offering, even through travel agents. The industry association has now agreed to move forward with what it terms a new distribution capability. This experiment is scheduled to begin early in 2013 and could be rolled out before 2016.

Currently, around 40% of tickets are sold through airline websites and it costs the industry’s carriers significant sums annually to market their wares through these Internet outlets.



Pinnacle decision finally made

On November 6, Pinnacle Airlines flight attendants, who were represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, ratified a six-year agreement that will see salary levels maintained, attendants in receipt of affordable healthcare provision and guaranteed job security for over 1,500 staff in all. The agreement includes US$6.4m in concessions demanded by the management through the Chapter 11 restructuring process.

The agreement was reached with the assistance of the National Mediation Board.

Main News October 22 2012


Southwest invests in Denver

Southwest Airlines has opened the carrier’s latest Pilot and Flight Attendant crew bases at Denver International. The new crew base, which represents the airline’s ninth, will become home to nearly 400 pilots and 400 flight attendants, with a potential to grow if necessary. These lounges will be located on the third level of concourse C at the airport and will effectively serve as offices on the ground for Southwest’s pilots and flight attendants. Flight crew personnel stationed in Denver may use these offices before and after trips to receive briefings, access required reading material, learn about changes in policies or schedules and catch up on Southwest news.

Southwest currently operates eight other Pilot and Flight Attendants bases nationwide, which are located in Baltimore/Washington, Chicago Midway, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Oakland, Orlando and Las Vegas. In addition to the crew bases, Southwest has also established a line maintenance operation at Denver: Southwest will staff this with six maintenance employees, who will perform routine maintenance as needed for flights flying to and from Denver.


Security screening not up to the mark?

According to an internal report, screeners at Newark’s Liberty International airport are correctly executing passenger pat-downs only 16% of the time. Moreover, the report has revealed that screeners identify and take appropriate action on prohibited items in only a quarter of all cases.

Despite these negative findings, the report also states that in numerous categories, including the removal of prohibited items found during physical searches and the exhibition of good listening skills, screeners have been performing their duties correctly for 100% of the time on their shifts.

(The report was compiled by a number of undercover teams of Transportation Security Administration employees from other airports, who observed the Newark Liberty screeners at work over a period of several months).



New Chair for Toronto

The Board of Directors of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority has announced the appointment of Vijay Jeet Kanwar as Chair of the Board of Directors with effect from January 1, 2013. Vijay Kanwar has been a member of the Board of Directors since May 2006. He was appointed by the Province of Ontario and has served on the Planning and Development Committee, Audit Committee and the Human Resources and Compensation Committee. He was also involved with the Board search committee for the GTAA’s new CEO.



ABM in Air Serv acquisition

ABM, a provider of integrated facility solutions, has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Air Serv Corporation for approximately US$158m in cash, subject to certain closing adjustments. Air Serv, when combined with ABM’s janitorial, facility solutions, security and parking airport businesses, will significantly expand ABM’s capabilities in servicing the end-to-end needs of the airlines and airport authorities, and ought to create an entity with in excess of US$650m in annual revenues.

Founded in 2002, Air Serv has around 12,000 employees worldwide and is a leading provider of integrated facility management services for the world’s leading airlines and freight companies, at airports throughout the US and the UK. This rapidly growing company provides a range of janitorial, passenger, security services and transportation services to over 50 airports, including 27 of the top 40 markets in the US and 12 of the top 30 airports worldwide; further, it is considered the global leader in terms of wheelchair, baggage handling and skycap services. Overall, Air Serv generates annual revenues in the region of US$300m.



Ultimate hedge goes into operation

In September, Delta Air Lines’ US refinery began producing jet fuel.

The refinery, which was shut in September 2011 by its previous owner, has recently been undergoing maintenance and upgrades. Delta bought the refinery last spring from Phillips 66 to control fuel costs. The Pennsylvania state government agreed to provide US$30m in assistance for job creation and infrastructural improvements whilst the purchase price (US$150m) was contributed by Monroe Energy, the owner of Delta Air Lines. Delta has said that it expects to invest about US$100m in the infrastructure to modify it for an increase in jet fuel production, and that it is aiming initially at an output of some 52,000 barrels a day.

Delta thus becomes the first US airline to buy an oil refinery in an attempt to better manage the vagaries of the petroleum market. The airline expects the refinery to reduce its annual fuel bill (which reached US$12bn last year) by around US$300m.

Delta Air Lines’ President, Ed Bastian, said in a conference that Delta could save even more, since the carrier was looking to bring in Bakken crude from North Dakota to supply the refinery at prices that could be equivalent to West Texas Intermediate or lower.

The refinery currently processes more expensive crude from the North Sea and Africa.


Main News October 10 2012


Got to keep the customers satisfied?

The number of complaints made against airline services increased by 92% in the US in July, totaling 2,466. This was also up by 49% on the number recorded in June. Airlines reported 18 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights during July and one tarmac delay of more than four hours on international flights. In all, 16 of these occurred on July 13 at Chicago O’Hare airport, which suffered storms.
According to a new law that took effect in 2011, all US and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report long tarmac delays occurring at US airports.
Whilst on-time performance among US carriers in July fell to 76% (from 77.8% in 2011), the good news was that the number of cancellations also declined, to 1.4% of scheduled domestic flights. The mishandled baggage rate also fell, to 3.52 reports per 1,000 passengers.



Cuts continue amid growing unrest

American Airlines has contacted more than 11,000 workers to inform them that they could lose their jobs as part of its ongoing bankruptcy process. Further, it has been cutting flights by 1-2% in September and October. The US carrier, which filed for Chapter 11 protection last year, expects fewer than 4,400 people will actually be laid off in November and December.

The redundancy notices were issued under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires employees to be informed 60 days before major lay-offs or plant closures occur. About 800 employees have agreed to leave American Airlines voluntarily, a move that should further reduce the overall number of expected lay-offs.

Flight schedule cuts for September and October were partly down to an increase in pilot illness days, along with greater maintenance reports by flight crews, which had led to flight cancellations and delays.

American has also begun implementing cost-cutting procedures for its union pilots after gaining bankruptcy court approval to abandon its collective bargaining agreement with the Allied Pilots Association.



Smuggling ring uncovered at JFK

A total of 18 employees at New York’s JFK airport have been arrested for allegedly stealing 100,000 miniature bottles of alcohol. The bottles were taken from LSG Sky Chefs, the caterer which stocks American Airlines with food and beverages. The arrests come in the wake of a nine-month investigation.

Amongst the accused are 15 truck drivers for Sky Chefs, along with three airport security guards. The drivers have been charged with grand larceny and possession of stolen property worth more than US$750,000, which included perfume and cigarettes.

It appears that the Sky Chefs drivers were responsible for removing the unsold bottles from each flight. Whilst these bottles should have been taken to a storage facility within the airport, the truck drivers were placing a percentage of the bottles into bags and taking them to their own vehicles in the staff car park parks. Guards were bribed at security checkpoints to facilitate the operation.



Looking after the workforce – the United way

Mid-September saw United Airlines celebrate the perfect attendance of 11 employees at an event at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and award each employee a new Ford vehicle. The employees, representing six work groups and based in seven cities around the globe, each achieved perfect attendance during at least one of three six-month periods beginning July 1, 2010. Thousands of employees were eligible, and United randomly selected 11 winners in a drawing in May. Each winner chose between a Ford Explorer, a Ford Escape, a Ford Mustang and a Ford Focus. The company is to pay all expenses associated with the vehicle, including sales tax, title and license.

“Our people and their commitment to service and reliability are at the core of our effort to build the world’s leading airline,” said Donna Towle, Vice President of Employee Relations at United. “Perfect attendance facilitates a work environment of dependability and trust, and enables us to provide our customers with consistent, reliable service.” Eligible employees may participate in an annual drawing to win a new vehicle, with the company awarding 11 new cars each year. Employees are also eligible for a rolling six-month perfect attendance award of US$50 in cash, a US$50 donation to United’s employee relief fund on the employee’s behalf or 5,000 frequent flyer miles.



More jobs coming at Air Canada

Air Canada has said that it is looking to add over 1,100 new employees to its workforce during the next 12 months. This is partly in preparation for the launch of its new budget carrier in 2013. Whilst a number of these staff will be working with the new airline, the rest will be taken on at Air Canada’s mainline carrier. The total will include around 400 flight attendants and about 500 permanent, part-time and full-time airport customer service agents and baggage handlers. Aside from this, the carrier will be adding staff to its call center operations in both Montreal and Toronto.



Hi-tech solutions


Once the preserve of the backroom boffin, today IT is eagerly embraced by a sector anxious to prove its cutting edge.

IT: these days airports, airlines and handlers couldn’t exist without the technology that has come to typify modern life. So, if IT has been the saviour of the industry, what exactly have been its benefits? We look here at a couple of the biggest exponents of IT to see exactly how they have helped to shape the sector.


Amadeus, as a brand, needs little introduction: globally respected and a company that has made its mark through cutting edge technology, it has brought aid to many enterprises within the air transport industry.

Most recently, it started working closely with Southwest Airlines with a view to introducing its Altéa reservations solution to support the carrier’s international service. The upshot of this will see the implementation of Amadeus’ technology that will allow Southwest to operate international flights in 2014. AirTran Airways, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest, currently serves international destinations and so as AirTran international flights make the transition to Southwest, so Amadeus will support Southwest’s international schedules.

The largest airline in the US by domestic passengers, Southwest coincidentally is also the first low cost carrier to have adopted such a sophisticated IT system for managing its operations and sales.

Gary Kelly, Southwest’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, recently gave an interview in which he spoke, inter alia, about the coming transition. He said that since 2011 Southwest had made significant progress integrating AirTran.

“We’ve consolidated the AirTran headquarters function into Dallas. We’ve implemented all new aircraft maintenance management technology. We have implemented technology to support multiple fleet types. We’ve, of course, received our single operating certificate from the FAA. We have also, since then, launched conversion lines to move AirTran 737s into the Southwest Airlines livery: that work is underway. We plan to get 11 airplanes converted here in 2012. We made significant changes to AirTran’s revenue management processes and significant changes to AirTran’s flight schedule, including the redeployment of aircraft to new markets – hopefully more lucrative international markets.

“Related to all that, we’ve spent months working on the best international solution for Southwest Airlines.”

Southwest’s technology is all domestic and the announcement that Amadeus had been selected as its reservations technology solution was probably no great surprise.

“It also sets the stage for us to move all of our reservations, the domestic reservations that is, to Amadeus if we choose to. Along those same lines, we see a significant opportunity to serve Houston with international flights out of Houston’s Hobby airport. We have a major campaign underway to obtain the necessary approvals to launch that service in 2015, which is what the Houston airport service would like.”

Gary Kelly went on to mention that Southwest had, in fact, five strategic initiatives lined up, initiatives that would be introduced over a period of time. The Rapid Rewards program and the B737-800 are already underway: the other three comprise the Air Tran integration, fleet modernization and the reservations system replacement.

Gary Kelly was cautious about naming a date for the roll-out of the cross-selling function, saying that it might be a case of codesharing later rather than sooner.

“We have 11 aircraft that we are converting in 2012, and that will have minimal impact to the AirTran network. We will be converting roughly 60-odd aircraft next year, so that’s where we’ll really need the facilitation, if you will, of the codesharing to make that conversion from an AirTran market more rapidly to a Southwest market.”

On the topic of the cutover to the new reservations system, Gary Kelly admitted that it was difficult to predict exactly the outcome in a changing marketplace.

“We’re going to be going through a lot of effort with Amadeus to implement this module, if you want to think about it that way. And if it works well for us, we’ll obviously take a very hard look at domestic (routes). Why go to all this trouble to work with Amadeus with the thought that you’re not going to continue to do business with them in a broader way? So we’re going to – we’re positioned where we can take advantage of that, and if things go well, then, perhaps, that’ll be our decision.”

Would the new system be working side by side the old – or would the two integrate?

“One way or the other, it has to be integrated with the rest of our systems. But I think it’s safe to say that this piece will probably be set aside from our domestic reservation system.”

However, it was stated that there would be a period of time during which Navitaire, which is the AirTran system, and Sabre, the current RES platform and Amadeus, which will be the international platform, are all talking to each other. All that is contemplated within the plan. In the fullness of time there would be just one system running, confirmed Gary Kelly.

The Amadeus Altéa initiative for Southwest Airlines will be implemented in a phased approach: the first phase of the project will see Amadeus support Southwest’s reservations for its international business, which includes implementation of the Reservation and Inventory components of the Altéa solution (domestic reservations will remain on the current Southwest Airlines platform during this phase of implementation). Phase 1 implementation is scheduled to begin in early 2013. Phase 2, should it be activated, will see Southwest Airlines add the Altéa DCS – Customer Management solution for its international operations only. Phase 3 of the contract will mean that in addition to international flights, Amadeus Altéa will support all of Southwest’s domestic business using the three core components of the Altéa platform (Reservations, Inventory and Departure Control Customer Management).

Southwest’s current IT system is not capable of handling international flights, and so the Altéa system will help to support the airline’s international growth strategy. The Altéa IT system will also allow Southwest to interline and codeshare on its international flights, as well as provide a more personalized customer service. This deal is significant for Amadeus because it concretely demonstrates the suitability of Altéa for supporting low cost carrier sales and operations as well as major network carriers.



Rostering and planning solutions

Back in November 2004, Swissport USA started a project that was designed to significantly improve the resource planning processes at its domestic stations. Up to that time, its various stations had been using internally designed Gantt charts for planning on Excel. In order to improve the efficiency of the planning process, Swissport USA’s initial project involved the implementation of GS Planning.

The idea was to have one person (namely Dorian Mehrotra, Director Centralized Resource Competency Center at Swissport International USA) in the corporate home office using GS Planning to collect flight data, schedules and shifts from the different stations and generating the best possible daily shift demand, which the respective station then used as the basis to manually create an Excel-based


The pilot station chosen was Miami and subsequently the system was rolled out to Los Angeles. Shortly after this, Swissport’s project team determined that the end result that the stations really needed was not just a Gantt chart with the total daily shift demand but an actual shift schedule. At that point Swissport decided to implement GS Rostering. Los Angeles became the first station that went into production with both systems.

Two years on, Swissport USA’s management came up with the vision of a centralized department located in the corporate home office that would serve the planning and scheduling needs of the various stations. A team of five staff was hired for this purpose.

After receiving GS Planning and GS Rostering training, the team started generating weekly schedules for Swissport’s stations at Washington Dulles International, Chicago O’Hare and John F Kennedy International in the East region; Miami airport in the South; and Los Angeles and San Francisco airports in the West. The success of the initiative most recently led to the addition of Toronto and Vancouver airports in Canada as well. The core planning/rostering team was complemented by the operational staff at each of the stations who, after receiving end-user training, were enabled to deploy the centrally-produced strategic and tactical plans and rosters into the “day-of-operation” environment.

An additional three people were employed for the core team. This has meant that now a team of eight staff take care of planning and scheduling the staff in terms of all ramp-related functions (such as loading, unloading, bag room and cleaning tasks) for eight Swissport US and Canadian stations.

When asked about the additional benefits and the flexibility of GroundStar, Swissport’s Project Manager, Dorian Mehrotra had this to say: “We use GS Planning to generate the GSE requirements as well. Also, and very importantly, we can very easily add and delete flights and re-plan if, for example, we are trying to bid for a new customer.” He adds: “The overall concept has been such a success that Swissport is now looking at the idea of the centralized planning center, the so-called Centralized Resource Competency Center, at other areas in our international network.”

Based on the success of the project in North America, Swissport Americas went on to implement GS RealTime for its large operation in Brazil during the course of 2010.

Things had progressed further by the end of 2011: by that date, the Centralized Resource Competency Center for Swissport Americas had successfully implemented GS RealTime at its two largest Canadian stations, namely Toronto and Vancouver. The same was launched in JFK during the month of June and at the time of writing Swissport is looking at a further roll-out of GS RealTime around the rest of the US stations.

Furthermore, it is now reviewing the introduction of GS RealTime in Brazil at some point during 2012.


Electronic recording facility

The sheer size of North America, and the number of airports it contains, presents both opportunities and challenges to ground handlers. With many operators having a presence at many airports across the region, covering everything from small regional stations to the largest international hubs and a cross section of domestic and international carriers, IT has a crucial rôle to play in ensuring operational efficiency.

Ground handlers working on this scale generate huge amounts of information to be collated and presented to the operation on the day, which are then further gathered and shipped to the corporate office for onward billing, business intelligence and management reporting. Traditionally, much of this has been a costly, manually intensive paper based process. Replacing and enhancing this with the right automated systems has a hugely positive impact, streamlining procedures and ensuring rapid, effective distribution of information.

Several of Damarel’s customers in the region have wholeheartedly embraced this approach and consequently reaped the rewards it brings. By delivering standardized operational systems to all stations, they have adopted a simplified IT strategy that provides immediate access to performance and financial information across the entire network.

One of the keys to a successful operation is accurate and timely information, ensuring that all departments are kept up to date and ready to meet any potential challenges. Equally, the recording and tracking of all activities to ensure accurate and timely billing is crucial to maintaining a steady cashflow.

“Before the introduction of the FiNDnet Suite, stations were working with what they could get locally, which often meant disparate information sources, such as the airport’s FIDS and telex messages: information was patchy and required manual collation and distribution,” says Paul Bruton, Damarel’s Consultant Sales & Marketing.

It is no exaggeration to say that the introduction of the FiNDnet Operational Database to stations has revolutionized the operational environment by providing a central source of real time information, collated automatically from a number of diverse sources. Real operational awareness has been delivered to all areas, from the Operations Control Centre through to the Crew Room.

With feeds from systems such as the Type-B networks, ATC and in some areas the airlines’ own systems, information is now both timely and accurate, allowing handling teams to focus on and improve service. With an automatic electronic record of all flight activity, this can now simply be made available to the corporate office, removing the historical overheads of preparing and sending these details.

Of course, there is also the supplementary question of establishing and recording all the ancillary services. Historically, for many organizations this involved a great deal of paper, which then required local collation, followed by despatch to the corporate office and a central administration to process it all.

This is where FiNDnet Services comes in. The tool allows handlers to record the services electronically as they happen, either from a PC workstation or mobile device. The immediate electronic capture of all the service details has removed downstream processing overheads and, in some cases, reduced mailing costs by thousands of dollars a month.

That covered the needs at the station’s operational level, but what about the corporate office? The administration of the billing process has traditionally been heavily manual, involving the movement of large quantities of paperwork cross-country to be processed by the central billing section. Further processes were subsequently involved in preparing the invoices for mailing out to customers.

Here, the FiNDnet Automated Billing module has had a huge impact. As the name suggests, this is an automated tool. It receives the operational details from stations electronically, generating the invoices within a matter of minutes and handing off financial details to corporate accounts, all with minimal manual intervention. The tool has allowed clients to reduce significantly the time it takes to get the invoices out, thereby improving revenue flow whilst also significantly cutting the staffing overheads required.

The delivery of the invoices to customers has also improved appreciably with the move from old-style envelopes and postage to full electronic invoicing. The invoices are sent to customers via their preferred medium, whether that is a standard industry eInvoice provider, e-mail attachment or access via a corporate Web portal. As a result, costs are further reduced and speed of payment is improved.

However, it doesn’t end there. FiNDnet Automated Billing, with its seamless automation, provides revenue visibility on a daily basis, allowing cumulative revenues to be monitored against budgets, enabling pre-emptive action to be taken where necessary without having to wait for manual invoices to be produced the end of the month.

Overall, the FiNDnet Suite has allowed Damarel’s clients to achieve significant savings across their business, streamlining many workflows and improving revenue collection, while allowing them to provide better customer service. Damarel looks back on five years’ experience of providing IT solutions to the US and recently implmented the above solution for a major handler there.


Rolling, rolling, rolling…


The story behind a story of our time: the HeliRoll.


A quarter of a century ago, the FMC Airline Equipment Division (now known as JBT AeroTech GSE) introduced a revolutionary product that would become one of the greatest success stories in the history of airline ground support equipment. The newly released Commander loader, with its modern, clean looking appearance introduced many new enhancements never seen on cargo loaders, including a swing-out power module, extendable operator cab, powered bridge wings – and something dubbed the HeliRoll conveying system. Looking back, of all of the enhancements, arguably the HeliRoll application had the greatest impact and it helped make the Commander the biggest selling cargo loader around the world.

The HeliRoll conveyor system evolved as the result of customer input that demanded a more reliable and efficient method to move containers and pallets on cargo loaders. Up until 1986, most loaders used rubber belts, rubber wheels and cylinder rollers to convey their loads. For the operators, the current loader conveying systems were slow and laborious and it was not uncommon for containers to be manually jostled on the bridge because of the lack of side shifting features. Maintenance on these systems was costly because the rubber belting would suffer cuts from damaged containers and conveying-lifting systems (which were used to side-shift on the rear platform) becoming damaged through the ingress of foreign matter.


Augurs the answer?

FMC duly formed a cross-functional team, comprising staff from its engineering, sales, field service, purchasing and manufacturing sections, to come up with a new loader to replace the JC/PL-2. One of the key areas that they focused on was how material in other industries was conveyed. The idea of HeliRoll conveying came about after one of the team members described an augur system that they had employed whilst growing up on a farm. The augur idea was transformed into a crude model, which showed a lot of promise during testing.

Tests with the early model revealed was that it was possible to convey product on a flat surface without the use of lifting mechanisms extending and retracting when the need arose to change the product’s direction. The next task was to identify, or design, components that effectively and efficiently conveyed product. Several items were looked at, including an array of omni-rollers and powered wheels. None of these, though, was effective in performing the required functions of container side-shifting and rotation, two key elements in conveying efficiency. The FMC team came to the conclusion that an optimal system was not available – and that it would be up to them to come up with the solution.


Birth of the legend

What the FMC team came up with was the HeliRoll, a unique wheel cluster, or cluster hub, with six freely rotating rollers, positioned at a 45º angle around the hub’s perimeter. When rotated on a shaft, the HeliRoll exerts a force at an angle of 45º to the axis of the shaft. The HeliRoller clusters are either right handed or left handed and work in unison or against each other to move the loads. For example, when conveying a straight load, the HeliRoll clusters move in the same direction, but when side shifting, they work against each other. For rotation, the HeliRoll clusters are mounted in a specific area that allows four opposing forces to create a circular motion. All conveying operations are performed on a single plane, without the need to extend or retract other components. The HeliRoll base and rollers were constructed of aluminum for long life, to be free of rust and to minimize the wear on containers and pallets.

For the end user, the operator, the system was very simple. The loader was divided into three segments, rear-rear platform, front-rear platform and bridge. One joystick in each segment conveyed the load forwards, backwards and sideways. A rotation switch allowed the load on the rear platform to turn. The conveyor system was augmented by cylinder rollers in areas where side-shifting was not necessary. The final outcome was a conveyor system that was fast, easy to control, totally alive and with no dead spots, thereby eliminating the jostling of containers by the operators. JBT declares that the totally live deck is essential when conveying pallets and containers that may have warped or damaged bottoms.

FMC engineers worked with Commander customers in the field, in order to find ways to enhance the Commander’s revolutionary conveying system. In 1990, after extensive field and laboratory testing, the HeliRoll’s rollers were redesigned with new bushings and a curvature design that optimized the movement of the load when it came into contact with the ULD’s surface. With the improved design, the HeliRoll conveyor system has shown itself to be 100% reliable in the worst environmental conditions.


Gilding the lily

Enhancements were also made for maintenance of the conveyor system. The drive chains now have simple adjusters that can be easily accessed and tightened. In the past, when a HeliRoll needed replacement, the platform deck and shaft had to be removed. Today, when replacing a HeliRoll, the damaged cluster is simply cut off and replaced with a two-piece field kit. This task can be performed in less than one hour from under the raised platform with no need to remove the deck plate or shaft.

Dependability is another key element in the design of the system. Should a HeliRoll cluster become damaged, the system keeps on working, without any interruption to the operation. In fact, depending on the location, several clusters could actually be damaged and the system will still operate, with a minimal loss in efficiency.

This conveying system is not just limited to cargo loaders, though. JBT AeroTech has been very successful in selling HeliRoll transfer decks to air cargo facilities around the world. The transfer decks are integrated with the air cargo facilities’ handling systems at transition points and loading areas, or anywhere where the loads must side-shift or rotate. All JBT AeroTech transfer decks require very little maintenance and do not require any embedding into the warehouse floor surface to accommodate mechanical lifting mechanisms.

Other JBT AeroTech products utilizing the HeliRoll include the CLT-8 loader/transporter for side-shifting on the front platform and optional rear container rotation. Moreover, HeliRolls enable the CPT-7ST transporter to efficiently side load, as well as end load and front load ULD containers and pallets.

The popularity and success of the HeliRoll can be measured by the success of the Commander family of loaders, which comprises four models capable of moving loads ranging from 7 tonnes (15,500 pounds) up to 30 tonnes (66,000 pounds). To date, over 5,300 Commanders have been sold worldwide, making it the most popular cargo loader every built. Without doubt the HeliRoll has been a key element that has enabled the Commander to provide a lower cost of total ownership.

In all, JBT AeroTech estimates that over 1.4m HeliRolls have been installed in Commander CLT-8s, CPT-7STs and transfer decks since 1987. That’s a staggering total. Moreover, to date, approximately 56,000 HeliRolls have been sold through JBT AeroTech’s spare parts sales. On that basis, approximately 96% of all the HeliRolls installed are still in use today. In fact, many of the Commander loaders that have been rebuilt actually returned to service with their original HeliRolls intact.

In summary, it is fair to say that JBT AeroTech’s novel system has played a major rôle in the success of the Commander family of loaders and transfer decks. It has eliminated the dead spots on the conveying surface and has given the operator complete control of the load at all times. HeliRolls have proven to be durable and to require little maintenance. Over the years, there have been several attempts by competitors to duplicate this conveyor system, but so far, none has succeeded.

That fact alone says it all.


From Aces to Avianca


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.”

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