JFK Terminal 4

Privately operated terminal offers a choice of ground handlers


Swissport at JFK is ISO certified. This live quality management system has allowed Swissport at Terminal 4 to revise procedures and processes by looking at accountability measures, damage control and re-addressing their entire training structure. The ramp team concept improves accountability, where a team leader or supervisor and dedicated equipment are responsible for handling a number of airlines. "If you have the same group of people working the same type of equipment and the same airline all of the time, you can provide consistent service levels," says Clausen. "These Swissport team members are aware of what they should be looking out for in a particular airline."

Other product improvement initiatives by Swissport include "Project Sparkplug," the implementation of a new resource management database known as Maximo throughout the US Swissports' online University will allow Swissport to use this tool not only for the learning of policies and procedures, but also for customer specific training modules, an electronic measuring tool giving customers the ability to rate the services rendered and "Project Fifo (first in finding opportunities)," a program in which supervisors and lead employees review every aspect of their operation to determine where they can optimize utilization.

Looking at the ground handling industry, Clausen simply states, "I think the biggest problem in ground handling has been that traditionally we work harder rather than smarter. It's such a basic concept ? and there is so much potential."

It's a family affair

Triangle Aviation Services is a rare breed in today's ground handling industry. Probably the longest standing ground handling company at the JFK Airport, they are family owned and operated and have been in the business for 40 plus years, working with airlines such as Pan American and TWA who have long since disappeared. Though they are a relatively small company compared to ASIG and Swissport, John Grasser, VP of operations believes that the fact they are small and American-owned, gives them a competitive advantage when it comes to flexibility and quick response primarily because there are not as many levels in the decision-making process. However, he confides that in today's cost reduction climate certain airlines are going to multiple city deals which takes Triangle out of the market and puts them in the position of having to not only find niche carriers but needing to provide exceptional service to retain them. Grasser insists, "the competition is advantageous to the carriers because they have a choice, which affords them more opportunity then in a terminal where they are restricted to one ground handler and it makes the ground handling companies at Terminal 4 have to perform a little bit better."

Triangle handles the interline contract with Kennedy Airport Airlines Management Counsel Organization (KAAMCO), the consortium of airlines at JFK Airport, for which they are responsible for baggage transfers to the next carrier at any of the nine other terminals. Though Triangle is primarily known for its cleaning operations at industrial sites, terminals and office buildings; as a ground handler, they employ 350 employees at Terminal 4 and offer passenger services, baggage handling, ramp services and freighter operations.

The effort to privatize airport operations has seen success in other countries. The first private terminal facility in the US not run by an airline or government agency, JFK IAT will define itself by the strength of its customers and the quality of the service it provides. Other airports and municipalities around the country are watching the progress of Terminal 4 with interest. JFK Terminal 4, a beau ideal, could be that shining example for future terminals.

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