Travis Blair: 2013 Ground Support Team Leader

American Eagle Airlines' Travis Blair keeps 8,000 pieces of GSE running to service the company’s own regional flights and build a ground handling business to take care of other airlines.


It was still all “American Eagle,” more or less by name no doubt, but the reporting structure didn’t always work with one mind.

“With GSE managers reporting to different people, they didn’t always have the same directive,” Travis explains. “For example, let’s say the Chicago region made a modification to its belt loaders that made sense for them. But if the company needed to shuffle GSE to other parts of the country, then that “Chicago” modification might not work in a different city.”

Add those small changes up over thousands of pieces of equipment, and the airline’s executive management realized it would be best to flatten out the GSE reporting hierarchy.

“That was a huge change,” Travis says. “I’m not one to go in and make drastic changes. I go a little bit slow at things and listen to everybody. I don’t run an organization in which I’m making all the decisions. To me every great manager surrounds himself with great people and you got to use those people. You don’t do it by yourself.”

Keeping an open mind, particularly when affecting the type of change the airline was implementing at the time, is the one trait he tries to teach to every member of his staff.

“We may not like it today,” he adds, “but there may be a good reason for it and tomorrow we’re going to think, ‘Hey that was the best idea ever.’ ”

Since 2008, Travis knows that the consolidation has proved its worth to the bottom line. Thanks to weekly calls and other group-sharing activities, he’s seen the GSE department both grow and yet still save thousands of dollars year over year.

“Thinking about it as a system instead of just a region has saved us a lot of money,” Travis adds. Parts that, for example, were bought region to region are now consolidated into one larger purchase made at a lower bulk rate.

 

GROUND HANDLING

Travis is also lending his hand to American Eagle Ground Handling, one of the airline’s most recent ventures. The business started a few years ago and has already picked up business at about 60 airports, including for other airlines, such as United.

“There’s another change for us,” Travis adds. “GSE is, unfortunately, a part of overhead. It’s a necessary part of overhead, something that’s needed, but I would love to be able to make it a revenue stream.”

Eagle Ground Handling, for example, won a contract in 2012 to provide ground handling operations for United Express at nine U.S. locations.

Eagle Ground Handling was already providing ground handling for other airlines in Waco, College Station, Killeen/Fort Hood and Tyler, TX, as well as Monroe, LA. As a result of the United Express deal, it also added ground handling at Dallas Love Field, Del Rio and Beaumont/Port Arthur, TX, plus Binghamton, NY.

“Our team at Eagle Ground Handling is the best in the industry, and we look forward to providing our excellent services at these locations,” said Pedro Fabregas, American Eagle’s senior vice president of customer service, in a prepared release. Since the 2012 deal, Eagle handles a total of 28 stations for United, plus nine for Delta Air Lines.

The No. 1 goal of American Eagle Airlines is, of course, to care of its own customers, but Travis sees plenty of opportunity to keep the GSE running for more airlines than one.

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