Over 360 delegates congregated at the Centara Grand in the centre of Bangkok for the 11th Asian GHI Conference, March 27-29. Among those in attendance were 95 airline representatives from 40 carriers, together with GSPs, IT providers and GSE suppliers who, between them, clocked up more than 1,000 One-to-One meetings over the course of the three-day conference.
GHI’s Big Debate returned on day one of the event as a panel discussed the opportunities versus the challenges of the double-digit growth observed in the Asia Pacific region. More skilled staff will be required to cope with expanding operations, began Ashish Kumar of Delhi airport – but there is no fast-track solution to this. Yacoob Piperdi, Executive VP Gateway Services, SATS, explained that, as part of its commitment to staff retention and attraction, Singapore CAA has been providing funding for reskilling and upskilling employees since 2016 – but not enough companies offer training programmes, said Oliver Mathwich, Emirates’ Manager Procurement Ground and Cargo Handling. He suggested that staff should be incentivised with qualifications to offer the sense of progression that is lacking from the sector. On the matter of retention, Consultant Andy Dobson of ICF suggested the formalisation of a benefit scheme for handlers, inspired by the airlines’ offer of free flights to staff, highlighting the numbers of handling staff that are lost to carriers. Minimising staff injury rates was also deemed important in the quest to keep staff on the books.
As the session continued, panellists highlighted the growing use of technology in lieu of staff. With the emergence of technologies like biometrics, the job will change and manned desks at the airport will disappear, asserted Mathwich. “We need to put fewer people on the ground and work with more technologies,” agreed Piperdi. As to the industry’s number one concern, that of safety, perceptions of this can vary with culture, Dobson pointed out. “A high number of safety reports is not necessarily a bad thing. It means the safety culture is alive and well,” he advised, while Kumar noted that manpower is still more important than a safety track record for airlines choosing a handler at New Delhi airport.
Infrastructure may become an issue, the panel agreed, with Edward Clayton of consulting company Stratgey& stating that airports will have to expand to cope with the “unexpected traffic boom” in South-east Asia. “Expect monopolies to become duopolies and more secondary airports to open, such as Don Juan in Bangkok,” he remarked. Regulation also got a mention, as the panel was asked whether one standardised regulation could apply for the global market, with Clayton surmising that “a single set of standards aligned around the world is more important than a single regulation.”
As technology becomes ever more important, two workshops on day one demonstrated how IT can be used to make your operation safer and more efficient. David O’Connell, MD of db Communications promoted the benefits of wireless headset technology on the ramp, which enable operations to continue in all weathers, including lightning, with no risk to the operative’s safety, while INFORM’s Atlay Mellah demonstrated how their digital tool can optimise the planning, scheduling and operational processes of flight operations. The smart system generates an optimal shift model based on metrics like flights, equipment and staff, even selecting those most qualified for the task, while real-time performance monitoring enables delays to be mitigated.
Day one in Bangkok saw the launch of an exciting new facility at the GHI conferences: The Meet the Airline speed-networking forum. A raving success, the speed dating format saw more than 90 five-minute meetings take place between eight carriers and 22 other companies in just one hour.
So successful was the new service that it will return by popular demand for the 4th Americas GHI conference this June.
Day two heard KPMG’s Ashwin Noronha deliver all-important projections for the Asian sector, which saw 10.1% RPK growth in 2017. Noronha identified five key markets driving growth: China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and India – all seeing elevated passenger growth last year. In 2018, the region can expect to serve 4.3bn passengers, up from 3.8bn in 2017, see 20,000 new city pairs and net profits of US$38.4bn, Noronha said. However, is the industry prepared to cope in an economic downturn, he asked? With a 25-30% erosion in ground handling revenues expected, the industry must embrace technology and innovate to stay relevant, he stressed, asking hypothetically: what if Uber suddenly started offering value-add passenger services? The industry must ready itself for inevitable disruption, he warned.
Delegates learned how to cut vital minutes from their turns in a safe and efficient manner using the LEAN Six Sigma approach from consultant Andy Dobson, ICF. “It’s about eliminating waste and minimising non-value-added work,” Dobson explained. “The longer you give people to turn the aircraft round, the longer they take.” Six Sigma’s five-point approach sees processes defined, measured and analysed before improvements are made and monitored – with enhanced fleet utilisation just one positive outcome to be expected.
Further advice on how to achieve operational excellence came from Derrick Ogden, Quality Systems Manager – Ground Operations, Jetstar Airways, who explained the airline’s close relationships and face-to-face contact with its handlers had fostered its exemplary reporting culture. Ogden and Emirates’ Mathwich agreed that communication and a Just Culture between airline and handler was key, both bemoaning the historical practice of dismissing the operative responsible for an accident and believing this eliminates the problem. “Identify the root cause and look for a solution,” asserted Mathwich.
There was consensus among panellists as to the value of IGOM in simplifying the complexity and variety of airline manuals. “85% of all standards can be rendered generic, so there is lots of room for harmonisation,” said Maurizio Anichini, Director of Safety & Quality Assurance, BFS. So, why are we not seeing IGOM adopted, asked Conference Chairman, Max Gosney. “Above the wing it may not be possible, but below the wing it could be mandated,” stated Ogden – a view with which the rest of the panel agreed. ASA board member Atilla Korkmazoglu, Celebi’s President, Ground Services & Cargo (EMEA) told the audience of ASA’s decision to support the process of IGOM – and of his hope that it will not take several more years to materialise.
In communicating the required standards to staff, Ogden emphasised that visualisation is best. “It’s hard to get people to read a book on a dry subject. We use QR codes and snippets of how to do something – the worst thing you can do is document something to death,” he stressed. Jetstar Australia is already using QR codes to implement IGOM and the three other carriers in the group will follow suit, following a gap analysis between IGOM and their own GOMs.
Aviation Disputes Lawyer, HFW, Kate Seaton, presented a controversial case study surrounding Article 8 of the SGHA, which protects handlers from liability for consequential loss. A court in Berlin recently ruled against Article 8.1 in favour of an airline which sought to claim against the ground handler for loss of revenue. “The German court argued this onerous exclusion clause imposed on the carrier, saying the terms were ‘ineffective’ and ‘unreasonably disadvantaged one party’,” Seaton recounted. Perhaps liability for consequential loss should be capped rather than excluded, she suggested, before concluding that there is a lack of case law guidance on the interpretation of Article 8.
Before day two was over, delegates learned how to respect the six flows of trust in order to be better negotiators in a master class by Michael Paul Stevens, MD, Provolution, and Brenda Aremo-Anichini, MD, Twiga Aero, made the case for ISAGO in driving safer, more efficient operations on the ramp.
On day three, delegates were inspired to be transformational leaders by Al Valentine, lecturer at Assumption University in Thailand. Behaviour and belief form your organisational culture, he explained and “behaviour is the last barrier” to an incident. “Safety shouldn’t be at the top. You should strive for perfection,” Valentine asserted, while encouraging safety through efficiency.
An interactive session followed, which saw delegates working together in groups to identify the main problem areas in industry safety – and learning to think more collaboratively. In a workshop led by Provolution’s Stevens, teams followed three simple rules: “Drop the ego; target quantity; and have fun.” The event drew to a close with more legal advice as Seaton examined employee behaviour in a recent, ill-famed incident in which serious aircraft damage was discovered only after the aircraft had performed its flight. Why did the operative not report the damage? The crucial need for a Just Culture was emphasised as Seaton revealed the operative’s answer: fear that he would lose his job.
Social media received an important mention in this context, given the immediate, international coverage that events are subject to in the digital era. How does an organisation approach this? Seaton advised that an initial response to an incident should be made on social media within 15 minutes and a crisis communication plan should be tested and updated regularly. “Don’t be afraid to engage with social media, but be careful and consistent across all mediums,” she added.
It was a fruitful three days in Bangkok, as speakers covered a range of topical and regional issues and delegates enjoyed a smorgasbord of networking opportunities. If you missed this year’s event, make sure to book your place for the 12th GHI Asian conference in Kuala Lumpur, 19-21 March 2019.
As always, special thanks are due to our sponsors: Swissport, Celebi, TLD, Textron GSE, TAM, Damarel, DHL, BFS and dnata.