An appraisal of staff and equipment resources is a necessary part of the review program. The number of employees is rapidly expanding via an ongoing recruitment campaign and the 1,200-plus units of motorized ground support equipment will surely increase despite the fact Dnata is in the process of re-engineering its handling processes. It has begun a program for an ‘integrated ramp operation’, which is being undertaken by the recently formed operations efficiency unit. In any case, Dnata has long-term procurement agreements with major manufacturers to ensure the timely delivery of ground support equipment.
Air freight — handled by Dnata Cargo — is also witnessing strong growth. Both Emirates Sky Cargo and Dnata Cargo have built new warehouses recently.
Of course, safety is the backbone of a quality service and in this respect the company has set up a safety compliance and training department to back-up its ISO 9001 compliance. This should allow Dnata to maintain and exceed standards in its service level agreements, which are an integral part of all its ground handling contracts. The company spokesperson notes there is also a key account management program whereby each airline is assigned a manager to ensure its requirements are met.
“Additionally Dnata has invested in a computerized customer relationship management system to collate all related information to assist in the management of its 118 airline customer base,” he adds.
The company will certainly need to become as efficient and customer-friendly as possible — the spokesperson reveals the Government of Dubai is looking to open up JXB to competition and has stated there will be new ground handlers at the mega-airport.
Big planes for a big airport
It’s not just big airports Dnata has to worry about – it’s the big aircraft too. Emirates is the principal customer for the mammoth Airbus A380, the 500-plus seat plane set to become a common sight at DIA and JXB.
Live handling trials took place in August at DIA and new A380-specific ground support equipment — push back tractors and upper deck catering trucks — were used successfully.
In fact, the trials took seven days and involved some 100 tests and more than 2,000 people. This was one of the longest customer reviews for Airbus, taking in taxiway, runway and ground support equipment compatibility tests, as well as docking trials at the terminal gate and in the state-of-the-art Emirates Engineering Center.
Four test flights involved all the key players including Dnata Airport Operations. In order to replicate typical airline conditions two of the test flights were operated in the busy morning period while two flights were staged later in the afternoon. Using a near 80 percent load factor — the average tunraround time experienced by Emirates was no more than 90 minutes.
Meanwhile the hot weather operability tests culminated with the smooth docking of the A380 at Hangar C in the Emirates Engineering Center. The dock built by UAE-based Excel Industries allows full access to the aircraft. The working environment can be up to 24 metres above ground level but even so, heavy maintenance can be conducted safely.
Emirates is expected to take delivery of its first A380 in August 2008 with another 54 to follow. They will help maintain the carrier’s expansion plans, which includes new routes to Houston, Sao Paulo, Toronto and a host of Indian destinations.
Keeping pace with such developments won’t be easy for Dnata. Challenges galore will be provided by the expansion at the existing airport, a massive green field site complete with competition and an airline as big as the aircraft on order. But the company has handled the dizzying growth to date and there is every reason to believe it will continue to do so in the years ahead.
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