Under TUPE regulations, easyJet took on 250 staff at Luton from the previous handler (Reed Aviation) and about 200 at Geneva. All ex-Reed employees, already well-versed in easyJet's needs, were enrolled in a course, known as Grand Prix 2000, which emphasised the importance of quick turnarounds. With a list price of around US$40 million per aircraft, the only way to achieve low fares is to reduce the unit cost by getting more from each aircraft.
"We wanted to look at the economics of how self-handling might work and what an operation might look like," explains Ray Webster, Chief Executive, easyJet. But volume or not, is ground handling really core for such a lean operator? "We regard treating our customers well as a core competency," counters Webster.
"We endeavour to turn the aircraft quicker," he adds. "We also aim to reduce the cost per passenger, partly by increasing passengers and efficiencies, and simply by being a better organised ground handling unit as we gain more experience."
The airline acknowledges that self-handling has added a layer of costs and a layer of complexity, but says that ground handling is now better simply because the airline has dedicated staff and greater control. Nonetheless, self-handling has not been an easy adjustment with some steps forward and some steps back.
It's a tough trade off for easyJet, caught as it is between distinguishing itself from the bare bones, 'get what you pay for' service approach of some low cost operators, but equally keen not to become like the bloated airlines it has so successfully taken on.
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