Let the Games Begin?

July 1, 2004

Athens' hosting of the Summer Olympics this year creates exciting challenges behind the scenes for ground handlers.

June/July 2004

Returning to their birthplace, the XXVIII Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, to be held this August and September, are a unique international event driven by the enthusiasm of the Greek people and all those involved. Being the sixth largest city in Europe, with approximately six million people living within its surrounding districts, Athens is thrilled to welcome 16,000 athletes and team officials from 201 national Olympic committees and a few hundred thousand visitors.

The Games are not only an endeavor towards perfection for the athletes however, but for those providing the ground handling services in the "wings." The Olympics are a monumental event in which Swissport Lamda Hellas, Goldair Handling and Olympic Airways will, together, face their most challenging summer period ever.

Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, where most of the ground handling operations will take place, is Athens' main gateway only three years after its opening. The airport has already managed to gain substantial international recognition (best airport in Europe three years in a row) regarding its operation and services provided by third party experts in a competitive environment.

In Full Swing
With just two months to go, preparations for the Olympic Games are in full swing at Swissport Lamda Hellas. More than 900 Swissport people are bracing themselves for the expected influx of traffic not only in Athens but also in the company's Thessaloniki and Heraklion outstations.

Initial traffic indications suggest an overall 18 percent increase in aircraft movements (during the summer months) while on the busiest day of August, aircraft movement is expected to grow by more than 65 percent. Besides its normal base of more than 30 airline customers, Swissport has already confirmed the provision of its ground handling services to many carriers which normally operate only ad hoc flights to Greece, as well as a big number of executive aviation operators.

Since 2003, an Olympic Games project manager was appointed and various working groups were established at Swissport. Regular meetings are being held with the airport authorities and fellow handlers to work on simplifying procedures. Detailed discussions with customer airlines and their partners also continue about special requirements during this period. Specific plans have been implemented to ease the strain during the summer period (i.e. in co-operation with the airport's slot coordinator, a ground handling confirmation number is being provided to all customers, both scheduled and ad hoc.)

Central to Swissport's planning has been a detailed examination of resource allocation, in particular, the acquisition of new ground service equipment and the development and planning of the company's greatest asset - its people. As such, Swissport has set in motion a variety of plans:

  • Prompt renewal of experienced seasonal personnel
  • Timely recruitment of new seasonal staff to cover increased training requirements and staff vacation well before the summer peak period
  • Recurrent training of permanent personnel
  • Intensive training of new recruits

Executive Aviation
A new, separate terminal is planned to be in operation as of July 2004. It will cover an area of approximately 350 square meters and will provide to the executive aviation users direct airside access, customs and security control, reception services and use of lounges for VIPs and crew. Swissport Lamda Hellas recently launched a new dedicated Executive Aviation department, which is constantly growing and provides top quality executive aviation services such as domestic and international handling, fast turnarounds, passenger and crew assistance, ground transportation, flight and weather planning, catering arrangements, etc.

Coordination, Professionalism, Consistency, Speed, under all conditions. Photo Courtesy of Swissport Lamda Hellas

Freight Expectations
A field which will certainly attract high volumes of new business is the area of air cargo. First estimates suggest that the Olympic teams will generate more than 1,500 tons of cargo. The big question is whether the Olympics will mark just a temporary spike in cargo volumes, or whether it will herald the start of a new boom in airfreight that will last long after the Olympics. Swissport has negotiated preferential contracts with the Olympics' three accredited shipping agents and has secured as much business as possible in the international and local air freight market, including all the special flights which will transfer to/from Athens the horses for the Olympic Event taking place in the new Equestrian Center.

According to Commercial Director John Zermas, Swissport, which has been recognized by the Institute of Transport Management (ITM) as the "Ground Handling Company of the Year" for the 4th time, strives to provide top quality services to its customers. "Thanks to consistent and proactive work, thorough planning, attention to detail and sound communication, Swissport Lamda Hellas will more than meet the challenges of this exciting season," Zermas remarks confidently
about the Olympiad.

Going for Gold
Goldair Handling is a full service provider in Greece offering a full range of passenger, ramp and cargo handling including warehousing at the three liberalized Greek Airports of Athens, Heraklion and Thessaloniki. Through a partner company, Goldair Handling is also able to offer full security services according to the EU-Regulation 2320/2002. Goldair Handling is running its own training competence center, based at Athens International airport and is servicing all Greek stations.

According to Wolfram Pinhammer, commercial director, Goldair Handling leads the third party market share at Athens International airport and serves a number of scheduled, charter and low cost carriers. The shareholding structure includes Goldair SA, a company active in airline representation since 1955; Aegean Airlines, the largest private airline in Greece founded in 1992, having domestic and European flights; and Alpha Ventures, a subsidiary of Alpha Bank and sponsor of the Olympic Games 2004.

Goldair Handling is already able to serve all aircraft types but during the Olympic Games a specially trained team with dedicated service professionals will only serve the executive aircraft and state visitor flights. For the peak period of the Olympic Games (August 11-30, 2004) the allocation of resources is shaped on a day by day basis and extra GSE will be acquired through leasing and network partners. With August being one of the hottest months in Athens, extra air conditioning units will also be available.

Pinhammer points out that apart from the excellent local knowledge, Goldair Handling benefits from the strength and experience of a global partner, one of the largest world-wide ground handling networks, Servisair-GlobeGround.

"We already had the pleasure to handle a flight bringing horses for a test event at the Equestrian Center in Markopoulo, newly built for the Olympic Games 2004," boasts Pinhammer. "We look forward to welcoming the Olympic family and friends to Athens and hope to contribute successfully to the world's greatest sports event."

Olympic at the Olympics
Olympic Airways will tell you that the comeback of the games to their birth place provides a unique opportunity for its ground handling units who will participate actively in this very significant task, offering services to more than 190 different airlines and more than 160 different executive private planes.

According to George Siamos, commercial director, all ground operation services will be available on a twenty-four hour basis covering passenger services, a/c services, baggage cargo and mail services, maintenance, catering and fueling services. Siamos says, "More than 5,000 professionals committed to the great task will be continually trained in order to execute their duties efficiently." New orders for ground support equipment such as air conditioning units, stairs, ramp buses, baggage and cargo carts, ramp cars, etc., will be delivered early this summer.

The unit at Athens International Airport will be supported by almost 2,500 staff in all categories and traffic of approximately 370 commercial movements are expected to be served during the busiest day of August, including approximately 100 executive flights. According to the Olympic Airways staff and GSE planning group, the aforementioned resources are considered to be sufficient and the operation is expected to run like clockwork.

According to Siamos, Olympic Airways' vision is that safety in air transportation starts with ground services to offer accuracy and reliability by supplying quality products.

There is no doubt that hosting the Olympics, as they return to their ancient birthplace and the city of their revival is a special occasion for the aviation community in Athens and the people in Greece.