Readers Respond

Sept. 21, 2010

Diesel Technology Enters the Next Frontier, June/July 2010

I enjoyed reading this article and noting the challenges that are coming along for the ground support industry. In working for one engine manufacturer some years ago – the diesel products had been designed for a certain cetane level in the home country – and upon arriving on the shores of the US were found to be wanting as the cetane level of diesel fuel here is not as high as many countries – including that of the manufacturer of the engines. Something we had to work out fairly quickly and unexpectedly. I noted a similar scenario with the needs for ULSD but the downside of using the wrong fuel would of course go beyond poor operation and lead to damage of components.

Regarding fuel economy improvements – despite what several companies say as to no anticipated improvement – the use of SCR is of course leading to reduced fuel usage as the engine can combust fuel at a higher temperature which is more efficient overall.

John Fischer
Palantine, Ill.

The Numbers Game,
June/July 2010

The article touched on the number of ground handlers available at airports to offer services to the airlines. From the airlines’ perspective this is a vitally important issue as in many parts of the world the airline business has become more or less fully liberalised to the benefit of the travelling public but the same has not been achieved in the ground handling business.

The article refers to the EU legislation which has been supposed to open and liberalise the ground handling market in Europe. While it is true that some progress has taken place since the EU Ground Handling Directive became effective some 14 years ago the fact is that most of Europe is far from offering handling services to the airlines at truly competitive rates. At European airports you still find a lot of monopolies, especially at the second tier airports. The major airports fulfill the minimum requirement of the EU Directive by offering a choice between two handling service providers on the ramp but most of them offer no more. The airlines’ experience shows that this oligopolistic arrangement is far from being synonymous with true competition. Yes, the airlines do have a choice between two handlers but in the real life there is no competition, at least when it comes to the handling charges.

When comparing the handling costs at markets which are truly liberalised with those which offer only the EU Directive minimum there is a dramatic difference in favour of the liberalised airports, like for instance London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol. Quality wise the services offered at airports with limited or no handling competition are no better than at those airports where the handling market is truly liberalised, in fact the situation may be vice versa.

The airlines’ view is that each handling market place should be allowed to show how many service providers it can support in an openly competitive environment instead of protecting those parties who have already been able to establish their operation at the airport. The airlines quoted in the article (Air New Zealand and Austrian) bring this point forward in a rather clear manner.

Jukka Rahko
Vice President
Ground Operations
Finnair Plc