Cargo volumes, of course, are difficult to predict throughout most of world. In the latest regional outlook by the International Air Transport Association, carriers in Africa should come out even in terms of profitability for passenger and freight. And, as Batten notes, the region isn’t as susceptible to fluctuations in the market with cargo as others. “The volatility in Africa is not the same as Europe and the Americas, however, we are careful about recruitment,” he says. “Swissport Cargo Services is focused on delivering a top quality service through optimum use of our resources available and through the use of technology in improving the productivity.”
The company conducts cargo and ground handling operations in four African countries: South Africa, Algiers, Tanzania and Kenya. When it comes to additional expansion for both types of operations, the continent presents some challenges for the company. “In some African Countries, the main problem is the bureaucracy in government departments,” he says. “Africa is not yet liberalized in terms of airports opening to foreign companies like Swissport. Although this is slowly changing, the timeframes involved in decision making are often extended.”
Ground Handling in Africa
And on the subject of ground handling operations, Swissport has also been making strides. In addition to adding 1time Airline to its portfolio in South Africa, the company has also added other customers, such as Thai International. These join the carriers it currently handles, including South African Airways, South African Airlink and international carriers, including Delta Air Lines and Air Madagascar. In total, the company conducts about 90,000 handling turns each year, according to Batten.
In terms of growth for handling operations, the company’s outlook is much more modest. “We are looking for between 4 to 6 percent growth in ground handling, but this is subject to the political situation in certain North African and Middle Eastern countries, and, of course, the devastating catastrophe in Japan will also have a negative impact on the global aviation business and the rising oil costs,” he explains.
On the operational side, a big push for the company in terms of ground handling operations in Africa includes a greater emphasis to create a working environment centered on occupational health and safety. “We are going through a culture change and trying to create one that embraces health and safety,” he says. “We are investing heavily in training to promote this and make it part of the daily working practices.”
Martin Meyer and Mark Faulkner are leaving the company to take on new external challenges.
Ground handling is sometimes seen as the “ugly step-child” of the aviation industry.
The International Air Cargo Association is an international trade association representing all elements of the air logistics network.