Working Smarter

Even if a ground handling company gets tailor-made facilities at a new airport, it’s still people that make the difference.


The UK’s first full service airport for more than 30 years, Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield (DSA) began operations on April 28, 2005. Built on a former Royal Air Force site, the facility is located in a previously underserved region of South Yorkshire and will provide much-needed aviation services to major northern UK cities, such as Sheffield, Doncaster and Lincoln.

The gateway has one of the longest runways in Northern England and is capable of handling all types of service, including long-haul and freight. Robin Hood expects more than one million passengers in its first year and has the capacity to handle double that number, as well as over 50,000 tons of freight.

The airport is the property of Peel Holdings, which also owns Liverpool John Lennon Airport and has a 75 percent shareholding in Durham Tees Valley Airport (formerly Teesside). It is because of successful operations at these facilities — as well as its other, extensive experience — that Servisair/GlobeGround managed to beat off six other competitors to land a contract as preferred supplier of ground handling services at Robin Hood Airport. Notes Robin Hood Airport’s Managing Director David Ryall, “Safe and efficient ground handling is an essential component of any airport.”

Servisair/GlobeGround also operates at the group’s other airports of Liverpool John Lennon and Durham Tees Valley and we are building on an already strong relationship with the company at Robin Hood Airport.”

Training key

Servisair/GlobeGround was merged in 2001 following the acquisition of GlobeGround by the French group Penauille PolyServices, which had previously purchased Servisair in early 1999. It has more than 20,000 employees serving the needs of some 700 customers.

At Robin Hood, the company has been awarded a seven-year contract to provide passenger handling, ramp and baggage handling and technical services. It will invest approximately £1.6 million (US$3 million) in brand new ground service equipment and training.

According to Bernard Farrell, Servisair/GlobeGround regional vice president, Ground Handling UK & Ireland, it is the training rather than infrastructure and equipment that holds the key to a successful tenure at a new airport.

“Robin Hood is brand a new airport and that means it is an exciting opportunity — it’s like an artist with a blank canvas,” he enthuses. “We have a great relationship with Peel Holdings and that gave us the chance to get in early and optimize the ground services.”

“But it’s not just about getting the equipment and infrastructure right,” he continues. “Of course it helps to have the opportunity to sort out processes and it means we can work a lot smarter — but the biggest benefit is adding value to jobs.”

A brand new airport means brand new people. A team of 85 has been recruited and underwent rigorous training, including spells at Servisair/GlobeGround’s other operations.

“It means we have utilized our training to get everything right from day one,” Farrell notes. “We have brought in new, quality people. Management and staff have been able to start with an excellent two-way dialogue and we now have engaged employees using modern equipment and the latest processes. You don’t get that chance in established airports where staff have been working for a number of years.”

Bricks and mortar are still an important part of the equation and Robin Hood has employed the latest construction methods and space utilization techniques. For example, the check-in area has benefited from an ergonomic design, which makes it a perfect fit for employee operations and provides a logical flow for the passenger.

There is always a slight risk of going into the unknown and even with Servisair/GlobeGround’s vast experience — it serves nearly 150 locations worldwide, spanning 31 countries in four continents — nothing was left to chance. A start-up team consisting of experienced management and functional staff ensured a smooth commencement of operations.

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