For nearly three decades, airport Terminal Services continues to grow its business by its ability to adapt to changes in the aviation marketplace, writes Michelle Garetson
Big changes seem to happen in ten-year increments for Airport Terminal Services (ATS) headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, and so far, this decade is holding true to that claim.
ATS was formed in 1975 as a subsidiary of Midcoast Aviation. Ten years later, Midcoast was bought by Ozark Airlines, which was then purchased by TWA the following year. In 1994, ATS was sold by TWA to Richard B. Hawes, a local St. Louis investor, who remains the current owner. This is not to suggest that ATS will be up for sale in the next year, but they are definitely poised for changes associated with growing a business.
When asked what ATS's core services are, ATS President, Sally Leible replies without hesitation, "The ramp. It's where we started. We provide passenger services, fueling, cargo, and facility management." ATS has also added aircraft interior grooming and hopes to grow that aspect of business in the future and currently provides interior aircraft cleaning for American Airlines in all of ATS's ramp cities as a standard bill of work. Leible explains ATS's point of difference this way, "We're one of the very few US-owned handling companies. Our customers say they love to do business with us because we're accessible and responsive and we can do that largely because we are a medium-sized company that's privately owned. We don't have to go through layers and hoops for approvals. We're happy being a niche player."
Leible continues, "We are very diversified. We perform baggage tracing services for American Airlines at St. Louis, Fort Lauderdale, Ronald Reagan Washington National, and Philadelphia."
Probably one of the biggest changes for ATS, as with any aviation business, came as a result of September 11, 2001.
"After 9-11-01, we were given seven days and then our war risk insurance was cancelled," recalls Leible. "Also, because our fiscal runs from November to October, we had the unfortunate position of being one of the first aviation companies to go through the policy renewal process. We had a strong plan in place to be able to adjust to the drastic increase in premiums. We knew we wouldn't be able to raise our rates to our customers as substantially as our insurance carrier raised our premium rates. We currently are indemnified by our airline customers' for our war risk coverage."
Leible explains that the ATS portfolio includes the larger, domestic carriers, but they also handle an FBO at St. Louis. ATS has just received a multi-city contract with Aloha Airlines to begin June 1 and will open a new location at Burbank Airport in California, bringing the total to 33 ATS locations in North America. Two years ago, ATS purchased the ground handling services of CanCom of Calgary in Canada, and that, according to Leible, has turned out to be quite a good buy.
"One of the major reasons we went to Canada," she explains, "was because of WestJet and we're very pleased with that relationship. We also provide services in Canada for Air North, Continental, Northwest, Alaska, Horizon, Emery, UPS, and Burlington. And, we have several multi-city agreements with Alaska Airlines, American Trans Air, Frontier, and our newest with Aloha Airlines."
ATS also manages three common-use gates at the East Terminal at St. Louis for the airport.
"ATS has held this contract for over 25 years," says Leible. "We perform as an agent for the City of St. Louis wherein we manage ticket counter and gate facilities on their behalf. We assign gates to create maximum utilization and collect airport fees, such as landing fees, fuel flowage fees, facility fees, and FIS fees. Through these East Terminal common gates, the City of St. Louis can provide guarantee access to scheduled and charter air carriers."
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