Airlines' Best Kept Secret

Feb. 6, 2006
Baseops is assisting airlines in new markets and special flights, reports Emily Refermat.

A number of years ago, TAESA Airlines found itself in a difficult situation. It was given the task of transporting deportees from Mexico back to China, where it had no previous flights or business relationships. The Asian handlers would not extend TAESA a line of credit and the airline ran into government agency red tape. TAESA needed some assistance. Somewhere a phone rang and a company called Baseops responded to the problem. They were able to arrange credit from the handler and airport authority and get the proper clearances for the flight. What are the secret identities of these outsourcing superheroes? Mike Sotir, Carlos Nieves and Gary Murphy — the management team of the Commercial Services Division at Baseops International. Their mission: to offer operational assistance to airlines.

Where Did They Come From?

Baseops was bought by World Fuel Services, the largest re-seller of jet fuel, in 1998. The company was already coordinating services for corporate aviation, but in April of that year Sotir and his colleagues proposed making a new division to offer similar services to the commercial carriers. The commercial services division (CSD) went into action. All the members of the CSD came from airline backgrounds, so it wasn’t difficult to relate to their new customers. "We're coordinators," Sotir says. "[We are] one-stop shopping." And "we never say no," although he admits that sometimes yes is followed by a well-researched secondary plan to achieve the same result.

Baseops coordinates fueling, catering, ground handling arrangements, permits and anything else that comes along. "We term ourselves a service company … an outsource for an airline's operational unit. We have a huge array of clients and each one has their own particular reason why they utilize our service," Sotir adds. Baseops is not a ground handler with perks; it is a total operational supplement to international carriers’ needs and requirements.

According to Sotir, Gemini Air Cargo needed assistance in obtaining scheduled service into Ecuador. "Ecuador has some very stringent regulations on the amount of charter flights that a cargo operator is able to fly into their country," Murphy says. Due to the bureaucracy in Latin America and the Ecuadorian tendency to protect their own carrier, it took a great deal of perseverance for Baseops to come through. "It was about a two-year process," Nieves says. "Finally, all said and done, we were able to obtain not only their scheduled service … but in addition were able to obtain unlimited charter operations into Ecuador, which to this point gives [Gemini Air Cargo] a really strong advantage," Nieves adds.

Behind the Mask

Sotir explains, "more than anything, it's an economic thing." Most of the time, clients don’t have the infrastructure, manpower, nor resources to start new ventures or research regulations and handling procedures in different countries. The employees are swamped, so the customers contract Baseops to assist with setup. "Bottom line, it's easier and more cost-effective than doing it themselves," adds Sotir.

World Politicians

Baseops gets a great deal of repeat business. Satisfied with Baseops performance in Ecuador and other locations throughout the world, Gemini Air Cargo has hired them to set up some "military missions" along with numerous other carriers such as Miami Air International.

"Many US charter carriers operate on behalf of the Air Mobility Command (AMC), headquartered at Scott Air Force Base," Murphy says. After 9/11, a significant portion of Baseops’ CSD business was based on military charters similar to Gemini’s. The problem is, when transporting military goods in the civilian market, there is a different set of rules due to the nature of the cargo, passengers and the locations the carriers are transporting through.

"For instance, flights on behalf of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) made our lives a bit more difficult on this end (operationally)," Murphy remembers. "You have to route carriers where they need to go, but sometimes you need to avoid certain countries due to international policies — [and] today it's this country, tomorrow it's another country."

Special Services

Beyond cargo and passenger charter operations, Baseops also coordinates special VIP/Diplomatic flights, such as when Aero Mexico brought the Pope over from Italy on Alitalia Airlines. "We coordinated all of the services for their specially configured 757s … [taking care of] everything from catering to a stateroom on board for him to sleep in," Murphy says. Also, anytime the president of Colombia departs, it's a call to Baseops. VIP flights have been arranged for professional sports teams, orchestras, rock bands, Heads of State, political dignitaries, etc. "We've [even] moved horses, whales and elephants," Nieves adds.

The people of Baseops are champions for their customers. With contacts and global credit, they are the solution for airlines without the resources, employees or time to put toward new and unique situations even when the sales department is pushing for a new opportunity and they do all of it without spandex suits or capes.