Comment: FM in aviation
Jesús Sancho, ME managing director for ACCIONA, writes about the firm’s role in airport services
I usually love to describe airports as the place in the world that is always full of life, no matter what day it is or what time it is; a place where it seems that life never stops; always full of people departing crossing with others arriving. This frenetic activity is managed behind the scenes, almost imperceptibly for the common people, but always taking care of the smallest details; becoming a perfectly choreographed ballet when the best professionals specialised in airport management and services are involved.
Successful airport operations depend on numerous pieces fitting together perfectly, like a giant puzzle. That is why so many airlines and airports choose to outsource certain services, entrusting them to third party service providers such as our airport services activity.
The main objective is to make passengers feel absolutely safe and relaxed, from the moment that they arrive at the airport until they land at their destination, despite the complex series of activities and skilled work force necessary to ensure that each experience is a success.
Some of the activities performed by airport services providers like ACCIONA include passenger handling services and ramp and cargo services, among others. For example, the Operations Department does an essential job at airports, handling each flight and making important decisions related to them. It is also the communications channel between the service provider, the airport operator and other stakeholders involved during an airplane’s stopover. Another key area is the Ramp related activity, which is responsible for providing all of the required aircraft assistance while on the apron, collecting and transporting passengers within the Air Side and into the Land Side (and vice versa) and loading and unloading the aircraft, activity which is usually performed by a flight coordinator.
The importance of the airport services managers
Coordination and specialised knowledge are central in any sector, especially when it comes to the aviation and airports sector which is used by millions of people every day. Airport operators are aware that each link in the chain must work smoothly, both for the passenger support services and for the aircraft ground handling. This is what is usually known as “Handling’’. That is why Operators entrust these jobs to companies specialised in airport services management. As a result, the global market is extremely competitive with a large number of companies offering these types of airport services. Some of the ground handling services at the Middle East airports are performed by the flagship carriers themselves or by a few number of licensees. We are however detecting some privatisation initiatives and new licenses opening up to the market in the GCC.
Let’s have a look to some of the main services that the handling activity entails:
• Passenger service: Land Side support, check-in queues, passenger information, as well as flight connections, boarding and assistance with connecting flights.
• Cargo: Safe-keeping, handling and delivery of all cargo in the terminal, including special or dangerous goods.
• Operations and load sheets: The service provider operates the communication link between ground and the aircraft flight deck, the planning cargo load distribution, the weather information, the assistance during engine start-up, the coordination with the apron operators and even the assistance to the cabin crew.
• Apron: Push-back of the aircraft, loading and unloading of the luggage, aircraft water and wastewater management, transportation of passengers and crew to the terminal building and aircraft cabin cleaning.
• Boarding bridges and aircraft-steps: Controlling the telescopic passenger boarding bridges, which connect the aircraft with the airport terminal or the aircraft-steps when required.
• Personal Shopper: Major airports are shopping centers with huge customer potential. This service advises passengers running short of time where can they find the products they need and handle their purchases.
• Special assistance: People with reduced mobility needing special assistance get the help they need at their arrival starting at their on the aircraft when necessary. Similar assistance is available for unaccompanied minors and VIP passengers.
So what does it make our offer different from the rest? With any doubt, our commitment to sustainability, key in all projects of ACCIONA and also present in our Airport Services activity: we have been steadily rolling out electric vehicles throughout our network, in line with general industry trends and 15% of the motorised fleet that we use at the airports where we operate are electric vehicles. And of course, a quality, flexible service capable of adapting to the needs of the client at all times; transparency and trust, ensuring these tasks are always correctly performed; punctuality and, of course, expert staff, trained professionally in handling and with a vast experience in dealing with clients.
The key is clearly to position the passenger at the heart of all the operations, putting sustainability, well-being and satisfaction first. That means the client (in this case the corresponding Airport Operator) will also be satisfied with the services offered by the airport service provider, adapting the solutions to the needs of each customer.
We have proven since 1993 our commitment to offer exceptional quality in those and many other activities related with airport services including facility management. This has made us to become in one of the world’s leading airport services providers.
Emblematic airports such as Madrid (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Dusseldorf (Germany), Santiago de Chile (Chile), Muscat and Salalah (Oman) among others have trusted us. It is noteworthy that since ACCIONA took over cleaning operations at Salalah airport (Oman), the airport has won in 2017 the Skytrax award for the world’s cleanest airport of its category. Our portfolio of services is a mosaic reflecting the complexity of human and technology management. Be it handling or facility management activities such as de-icing aircrafts, assisting cabin crew, running VIP lounges, soft-servicing terminals, providing personal shoppers, taking care of the outdoor garden maintenance, delivering cargo logistics, luggage check-in and collection, passenger boarding or operating telescopic boarding bridges, ACCIONA is there to deliver.
To sum up, we have achieved an important position in the ranking of independent airport service providers through our commitment to offering the society the best services, while championing sustainability and environmental respect in all our activities.