Airport Terminal Services, formed in 1975 and the largest privately held ground handling company in North America, has increased its services to more than 30 major airports in the United States and Canada since 1986. Continuing its business philosophy of a diversified customer base, ATS recently expanded its partnership with Delta Airlines to include ramp handling services at Portland International (largest of the three operations,) Phoenix Sky Harbor International and Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport.Smooth Transitions
For many years, but particularly of late, whether facing bankruptcy or not, airlines have been in a position where they have had to optimize their cost structures and realign themselves for higher performance. This means outsourcing a variety of functions and processes under a term contract to a specialist third party. In addition to achieving cost-savings, other benefits can include quality of service, a strong customer focus and strengthening resources.
With many of the major carriers outsourcing to ground handling companies to trim those costs, build that efficiency and free up resources to concentrate on their core business of moving passengers, it is an understatement to say that it can be extremely difficult to make the transition with managers, employees, daily operations and certainly the overall environment on the ramp. ATS, having just completed its third month handling Delta’s ramp operations in Dallas, is no exception. However, by incorporating a comprehensive transition plan with continual involvement of the ATS senior management throughout both the proposal phase and the implementation phase, Brian Wood, vice president of operations for ATS, claims that the transition can be smooth. “When we are awarded a contract, regardless of whether it starts in 30, 60, or 90 days, we have a transition template that we put into action immediately, which involves every ATS department, including employee services, human relations, safety and training, quality assurance, GSE operation, contract, finance, etc.,” Wood says. As Tony Vaughn, Delta’s DFW station manager states, “From the beginning I was impressed with ATS, particularly, during the final process of awarding the contract. Their team was very well prepared, and I could sense that this group was very knowledgeable and savvy regarding the demands of the industry. I also felt that their core corporate values aligned very well with Delta’s and I could sense a true passion for service, which is a fundamental ingredient for success.
In the case of Delta’s DFW contract, Fred Rivera, who was involved in the negotiation process and had been employed with Delta since 1978, was offered the position of general manager for ATS and was a major factor in the facilitation of the transition process. “The organization and the focus on safety and customer service that ATS brought to the table lead me to make my decision … that if I was going to make a move, this was the time to make it,” Rivera says.
Key dates are set within the first week for each department to target and recruiters go out in the field right away. “The ‘post and pray’ for recruitment doesn’t work anymore in this industry and that’s what our business is about,” Wood says. “Recruitment is the key piece to our entire start-up plan. I tell my managers, if we were a factory, the widget we produce is labor. That’s why we are in existence and we have to work that market so we can go in with an interview team early in the process.”
Perhaps one of the most difficult stages of the transitional process is the actual start date and the first several months thereafter where the new, oft times “green” ramp agents are working side by side with a very senior airlines crew. Even with the changeover there are many Delta employees who worked with the former ramp crew and continue to work for Delta Airlines. ATS remains cognizant of that and is sensitive to the situation. “One of the positive factors at DFW,” Rivera says, “is the fact that Tony and I had previously worked together for many years. We’ve done training seminars together over the years and had a good working relationship coming into this. We wanted our work groups to realize this is a team effort between ATS and Delta.”
Basic Training Safety manager offers tips for ground handling operations BY Monica L. Rausch, Associate Editor January / February 1999 ATLANTA, GA — An employer, whether it be...
Unable to woo Southwest Airlines with an offer of $22 million and free rent, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport tried a publicity stunt Friday to lure the low-cost carrier.