A Call for Teamwork

Participation is key in achieving the initiatives of the NATA Airline Services Council.


By Jack Evans, chairman, NATA ASC

Aviation service companies are facing a potential crisis similar to what we faced prior to 9/11, but with a slightly different twist. As demands for greater security increase, there is increased pressure on the service companies to cut costs. Unlike then, these service companies now have a way of banding together to help fight this potentially dangerous trend.

Prior to 9/11, the air carriers contracted with private companies to provide passenger screening before boarding a flight. Many will remember that the private screening companies were under intense pressure to lower rates even as their costs were rising. Many may also remember that the news media did a couple of well-documented exposés of screeners who were thrown onto the job without training or instruction as local management tried to stay profitable. The great concern over passenger screening eventually led to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) doing most screening.

The problem was that as pressure to reduce costs got more intense, cutting corners to save money became more attractive. The result was that in some cases training was reduced or even eliminated as local management tried to eke out a small profit to stay in business.

Now, the definition of security has changed for cargo transported on passenger and cargo aircraft. It’s no longer just a case of protecting against pilferage. The service companies have to guarantee that nothing inappropriate is allowed on an aircraft. As the requirements have increased, the cost of providing this security has sky-rocketed. The service companies are once again being forced to shoulder increasingly more of the expense, while at the same time being subject to growing pressure to cut costs. Does anyone see the potential for more news media exposés in the future if this continues?

Fortunately for the traveling public, the aviation side of the TSA has taken an atypically non-bureaucratic approach to implementing the congressionally mandated security requirements. The TSA has worked closely with the National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA) Airline Services Council (ASC) to implement these security mandates in ways that accomplished the objective without bankrupting businesses. It really has been an outstanding example of a government and business partnership working together.

Another reason for the success is that the ASC represents such a large part of the airline service sector. Currently, the ASC represents 23 domestic and international firms. These firms have a combined workforce in excess of 90,000 people and combined annual revenues of over $2.5 billion dollars. This combined workforce also represents 450 airports.

The larger the organization, the more impact we can have on legislation that involves the aviation business. Only by member companies staying involved, informed, and working together, can we hope to be heard as pressure in the middle continues to tighten.

As the new chairman of the ASC, I would like to stress that we really need your voice working with ours as we join together to prevent future 9/11s. Continued downward pressure on fees while expenses slowly continue to increase will only encourage local management to cut costs that could lead to more exposés or worse. For those who are members, we appreciate your participation. For those companies that haven’t joined, we could really use your support.

Future Initiatives
With that in mind, the ASC is now formulating its 2010 program. As we complete our agenda, we’re also trying to keep in mind the difficult economy. We know that if something doesn’t add value to an ongoing business, then it’s probably a candidate to get chopped. Therefore, we think we can add value to member service companies in three ways.

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