Each airport knows that the main driver to attract an airline like Ryanair is cost. They also know that securing such a tenant would go a long way to help them compete with their own larger airport competitors. An enticing package of entry services is usually forthcoming.
Here, again, opportunity knocks for flexible ground handlers, offers Clifton. If Frankfurt Hahn grows according to plan, for instance, there is every chance that the airport will eventually want to exit ground handling - as has been the case at regional airports across Europe - or at least partner with a specialist ground handler.
Ryanair's low fares and growing European network have attracted a significant proportion of business travellers, a demographic that Clifton sees as a bonus in ground handling terms. "It's easier because there are fewer bags and check-in is quicker." Business travellers don't expect a quality beyond what we offer, he adds, and accountants like the fact that executives can travel from Dublin to London for £29 (US$40) rather than £200. "The fact that Ryanair, easyJet, Go, and Buzz have arrived gives us all a greater credibility [for business travellers]," believes Clifton.
Although it already runs a tight ship, Ryanair believes that its ground operations could be fine tuned even further given closer working relationships with the airports at which it operates. Ryanair has already worked in tandem with London Stansted on the development of the airline's pier at the new Satellite 3. Opening in June, the new facility has been built with Ryanair's 'power on, power off' operations very much in mind.
"We represent 57 percent of the traffic at Stansted, and if that traffic is made easier to handle then it has to be good for the airport," Clifton says. "If it works well, we are more likely to open up additional routes."
Ryanair is hoping for the same cooperation with the construction of the planned Pier D at Dublin, although it points to some foot dragging on the project. The airport operator, Aer Rianta, was directed by the Irish government earlier this year to build Pier D in time for the 2003 summer season. Although planning permission had already been granted, Aer Rianta questioned the security and immigration implications of a planned single storey development that would allow the mixing of inbound and outbound passengers.
If given the green light, it will be possible for Pier D to be built and functioning by January 2003, but any modifications, such as adding a second storey, will add substantial time and cost. "This would cause even further delay to any development by Ryanair at Dublin by up to two years as the facilities will not be in place to handle any of our growth," says Clifton.
Time is always of the essence for Ryanair and if growth is not possible at Dublin, it will simply switch its attention elsewhere. Those ground handlers that think they are up to the job would do well to keep pace.
About the Author: Richard Rowe is a Contributing Editor for GSE Today and is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Based at its paperless 'easyLand' headquarters at London Luton Airport, easyJet exudes the low cost ethos from top to bottom. The airline keeps distribution costs low by selling most of its seats online - approximately 89 percent in August 2001. Meanwhile, the airline's simple service model means no tickets, no preassigned seats, and no free lunch.
In addition to London Luton, the airline also has major operations at Liverpool, Amsterdam, Geneva and from April, Paris Orly. By reducing turnarounds at each to below 30 minutes, easyJet achieves extra rotations on high-frequency routes, and maximises the utilisation of its all B-737 fleet. Each aircraft flies for a remarkable 12 hours a day.
EasyJet's virtual airline beginnings in 1995 were founded on the principle that if it wasn't core, it wasn't done in-house. This model changed dramatically in March 2000 when the airline began to self-handle for the first time at London Luton and then in Geneva six months later. EasyJet's thinking was that it had become large enough to take control of such services.