Menzies Aviation TPA: 2023 Ground Support Team of the Year

Dec. 19, 2023
Awarded at the International GSE Expo, Menzies’ ground personnel at Tampa International Airport are safety-conscious and customer-focused while exceeding key performance indicators.

Many times, ground support teams are the unsung heroes behind the scenes, tasked with ensuring the smooth operation of airlines and airports.

Ground support teams’ unwavering commitment, tireless efforts and profound knowledge contribute significantly to safety, efficiency and the overall passenger experience.

To recognize these efforts Ground Support Worldwide created the Ground Support Team of the Year Award to spotlight deserving ground crews and acknowledge their indispensable contributions to the overall aviation ecosystem. The inaugural Ground Support Team of the Year award was presented by Ground Support Worldwide during the International GSE Expo in Las Vegas.

At Tampa International Airport (TPA), Menzies Aviation’s team of ground personnel were credited for being safety-conscious, punctual and customer-focused. And for their exemplary teamwork, strong leadership and positive work environment, Menzies Aviation TPA received the 2023 Ground Support Team of the Year award.

“TPA, for us, stands for ‘teamwork, persistence and ambition.’ Those are the three things that keep our team working and providing great service to our customers and just providing great service, in general,” Jose Valenzuela, account manager for Menzies Aviation TPA, said during the presentation ceremony. “That’s what makes us a great team.”

John Vollbrecht, general manager for Menzies Aviation TPA, noted that while he and Valenzuela were on hand to receive the honor, they were accepting the award on behalf of their hardworking team.

“The folks who deserve this are in Tampa handling some flights right now, doing diversions and taking care of our customers continuously,” Vollbrecht said. “I’m just fortunate enough to come here with Jose and be here so we can bring it back home and show them that other folks really appreciate what they do.”

Team of the Year Qualities

Vollbrecht highlighted the leadership qualities of his team, noting the Menzies TPA operation has received multiple SOAR awards from Alaska Airlines. What’s more, the Menzies TPA team secured A+ score cards for eight months in a row leading up to the International GSE Expo.

“We have different customers in ground handling. Part of that is listening to what those customers want,” Vollbrecht said. “Those customers aren’t the passengers that are flying on the plane … those customers are the airlines.

“How they look for their metrics is huge on customer feedback. So, we need to gear what we do for that customer specifically on what the passenger might be looking for.”

Even in the face of adversity, the team bands together. For example, the Menzies TPA crew faced a challenging day earlier this spring when personnel worked through several diversions.

A delay due to a maintenance issue caused a flight to take a 16-your delay. But the Menzies Aviation TPA crew worked diligently and stayed until the job was done, despite many having been on duty since 4:30 a.m. that day.

Menzies’ team at TPA is also safety-conscious, as evidenced by a moment this spring when a ramp agent, who was working her second job at the airport, spotted a large piece of metal on the tarmac. She acted quickly and notified the supervisor and lead who were on duty to ensure the debris was removed and the aircraft could be pushed back safely.

The effort led to the ramp agent receiving one of the team’s many SOAR awards from Alaska Airlines.

When nominating Menzies TPA for Ground Support Team of the Year, Berkis Morel, station manager for Copa Airlines noted Vollbrecht, Valentina Valencia and the entire Menzies team at TPA does excellent work on behalf of Copa.

“The passenger service supervisor, Valentina, is an exceptional supervisor who is an essential part of Copa Airlines operation at TPA, and our metrics show it,” Morel said.

Their commitment allows the station to maintain very healthy metrics, Morel said, noting the station’s key performance indicators are consistently above 90. Menzies TPA’s efforts bolster Copa’s positive customer service, resulting in customer satisfaction ratings from 95 percent to 100 percent.

Exceeding key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics motivates the Menzies team.

“What we’re most proud of is our TTC, which stands for ‘time to carousel.’ It’s a metric that Alaska is really big on, so our goal is to be above 80 percent every month. The team consistently hits over 95 percent, and we achieve 100 almost on a daily basis.

“That was one of our biggest challenges,” Valenzuela adds. “Getting those bags downloaded off the aircraft to the carousel within 20 minutes of the aircraft's arrival was extremely challenging, and we had to really find our technique and really had to work together.”

Valenzuela noted the result is communicated daily and the team cheers when they hit 100 percent. All of the team’s statistics with Alaska Airlines are outlined on a board shared as a “scorecard” so employees can track their results.

“That helps with keeping the team motivated,” Valenzuela said.

Members of the Menzies TPA team also exceed internal metrics, which are focused on safety. Vollbrecht said keeping his team member safe on the ramp and supervisors ensuring that safety is paramount.

“Those are our key metrics. One – are the audits being done? And two – are they truthful audits being completed? I’m very proud that they are,” Vollbrecht said.

“We always make sure that we’re putting safety first,” Valenzuela said. “We’re the primary role models for safety.

“Even if it’s just wearing a safety vest when we’re out on the ramp, we’re setting the example for the team.”

When incidents do occur, Valenzuela noted the importance of making sure those incidents are recorded and maintaining a line of open communication to mitigate the chances of the incident happening again.

“They know that they have the support of their management, whichever the issue may be,” Valenzuela said.

Fostering Culture

In order for the team to grow and develop, Valenzuela said it is vital for all personnel to provide feedback and to utilize the tools available – including the latest technology.

“We have several tools that we use. We have a team that’s always flexible and adapts to situations,” he said. “That’s also very helpful for us.”

One example of how Menzies TPA encourages open communication and embraces technology is through the use of Discord, a social platform that facilitates instant messaging and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Menzies TPA leadership uses the solution for communicating operational updates, new policies and day-to-day operations.

“It leaves a record, too, of the communications in case we need to reference something that went wrong. We have that to go by,” Valenzuela said. “We try to leverage that technology to help us with our jobs and also just to keep in touch with our teams on a daily basis.”

The Menzies TPA team will also use Discord to celebrate their successes.

“It just keeps the team engaged,” Valenzuela said. “Engagement is the key to retention. It makes us feel like we’re a family. We’re a team.”

“That’s part of the culture,” Vollbrecht added. “That’s how we keep people.”

Recruiting and retaining employees is crucial for all ground service providers to be successful. In addition to tailoring training to each individual, Valenzuela said giving opportunities to new members of the industry is key.

“The biggest part of it is being flexible and adaptable, and understanding also that newer generations are different,” Valenzuela said, noting everyone should be treated as individuals rather than utilizing a singular method of instruction.

“Whether they’re going to be part of our ground handling team or passenger service team, it’s giving people the opportunity and just being flexible,” he continued. “We offer very flexible schedules. We try to work with our team, and we’re always looking for incentives.”

“If all I did was bark orders at everyone, I’d have nobody to help be part of this team,” Vollbrecht added. “I think a huge part of that is having guys like Jose, here, who helps mentor the ramp agent to the lead, the lead to the supervisor – showing them where they can improve themselves.”

In an industry like ground handling, where labor turnover rates can be high, Vollbrecht said training is crucial.

He emphasized educating personnel about processes and why those processes are in place is more effective than trying to hold employees accountable by using threats.

“It’s teaching, teaching, teaching. And when you have a new hire and/or a person who’s been there for 15-20 years, it’s making sure we’re holding them accountable to what the standard is, and that we keep that up,” Vollbrecht said.