Question: What would airlines be looking for when searching for ground handling services or an FBO?

April 1, 2004

Question: What would airlines be looking for when searching for ground handling services or an FBO?

Questions answered by Kevin Paddick from British Airways, Andy Gomez Jr. at A.P. Enterprises and Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge at American Airlines St. Louis Hub.

April 2004

Q: What would airlines be looking for when searching for ground handling service provider or an FBO?

Kevin Paddick Facility Manager, British Airways Paddick joined British Airways World Cargo in May 1999 at London Gatwick as Facility Manager looking after all facets of the building and mechanical handling equipment including all ground fleet vehicles (i.e. tugs and dollies). He has since moved to Heathrow where he is responsible for the Mechanical Handling System, which is capable of handling in excess of 800,000 tons per year.

Prior to joining British Airways, he spent 15 years working within the Asia region (China, Thailand and Australia) building facilities from green field sites for such organizations as Philip Morris etc., all of which contained large amounts of mechanical handling equipment. This included the design, manufacture, final installation and commissioning of belt conveyors, roller beds, ball matting and all interfaces between other sections of the operations, which would be done outside the building parameters.

During his time within the aviation arena, cargo specifically, he has come to realize that it is a harsh environment, one that can present you with a different challenge everyday, but that is what life is all about.

Paddick told GSM, "This is a new experience and an honor for me to be part of the GS Readers Forum and one that I hope will be beneficial to readers and myself alike."

A: On the issue of outsourcing, I think we need to understand the attitudes towards and experiences of outsourcing suppliers. It has always been the understanding that when looking at the key factors driving decision making in outsourcing, not surprisingly, price was key.

However, when looking at the first most important factor in choosing an outsource service provider it is interesting to note that actual fact price comes in third on most peoples list of factors with trust/confidence in reliability and expertise/experience in function being outsourced ranked first and second respectively.

The ranking of key factors that drive decision making clearly depends on the type of business - with a sector such as professional services only ranking 5th on the list of first most important factor. The factors that are rated above costs are; keeping service at promised levels, trust/confidence in reliability, expertise in function being outsourced; and service levels that meet needs. Although there is a clear willingness to at least consider outsourcing, there is in terms of experience of outsource suppliers a fairly low level of satisfaction with outsource providers.

When you look at the levels of problems experienced it is not surprising that satisfaction levels are low, in a recent survey conducted in Europe 86 percent of companies stated that they had experienced at least one problem in the last twelve months with their outsourced provider. Even more alarming was the average number of problems was over five in the last year.

This high level of problems experienced leads to high levels of dissatisfaction and, in fact, the survey stated that over a quarter of the companies who took part in the survey are likely to consider changing suppliers.

What is interesting is that out of those at risk price was only eight percent was stated as the key problem for a small minority; whereas the three related factors; ''not meeting service level requirements agreed,'' reliability of service'' and ''did not match service we were sold'' accounts for 67 percent of most companies at risk.

These three factors underline the fact that although price is an important factor, it is more important to meet the specification of the client.

Unfortunately in today's climate satisfaction levels with outsource suppliers is low, and not surprisingly when considering the high level of problems encountered - and even less surprising when considering the fact that most of the damage to satisfaction and loyalty levels are caused by the fact that suppliers are not providing the levels of service they sold.

I know this is a touchy and a contentious issue but it's a fact of life and isn't this what this column is all about, bringing issues like this to the forefront??

Andy Gomez Jr.Facility Manager, A.P. Enterprises Andrew Gomez Jr. joined AP Enterprises at San Francisco International Airport in 1988 as their General Manager. AP Enterprises is USA's Western Region, largest GSE Fleet Maintenance and Service provider for private, corporate and government owned vehicles and equipment. He manages a staff of administrators and technicians in the entire western region supplying support to organizations such as DHL, LinCare, GateGourmet, Southwest Airlines, America West, AmTrak and many more, overseeing maintenance and service on various types of vehicles and equipment. He has enjoyed extensive growth, progressively improving standards and procedures, for the purpose of maintaining high customer satisfaction levels. He has mentored many technicians, administrators and management personnel in the field of fleet maintenance. Before joining AP Enterprises, he was a proprietor of an Auto Repair Facility, a Master Automotive Technician who specialized in electrical systems. He is also an avid Harley-Davidson owner and builder who practices the same high standards and attention to detail that he uses in his daily duties as a GM.

A: My opinion is that the selection of any vendor requires screening that includes a survey of the facilities, management, personnel, equipment and policies/procedures used. The website,, conducts an annual survey to rate FBO performance. Airlines can use the same rules and methodology to conduct a survey of their own.

Rhonda Hamm-NiebrueggeManaging Director, AA, St. Louis' HubA: In today's competitive environment, it is extremely important for the airlines to look at ways to cut costs and reduce overhead where possible. However, these cost reductions cannot give way to performance or safety. One of the ways to achieve this cost reduction is outsourcing jobs in smaller locations, or in larger locations, backroom functions that have historically been handled by the air carriers, i.e., overnight cleaning.

The number one issue an airline must consider is the safety record of the FBO and how well their employees are trained on working safe, both on the job itself and the work being done on the aircraft. Once the comfort level is satisfied regarding safety, the second factor to consider is the quality of the work. On time performance continues to be a focus of all carriers and one that the airlines must remain competitive in to survive. From an airline perspective, the FBO must be able to staff the flights with enough personnel to depart on time. Whether the service being provided is maintenance, ramp related or passenger service, the expectation is the level is sufficient to get all the work done and leave schedule. The difficult piece of the puzzle always lies in trying to achieve maximum cost reduction while not jeopardizing safety or performance. When reviewing the proposed bids of any FBO, the staffing levels that will be provided to perform said work is a key factor when determining who will be successful in getting the contract award. Proven tract records within the industry also add value to the successful candidate. If an FBO cannot produce referrals or past history to show what service has been provided, their chances of receiving new contracts are less likely.

In this ever-changing aviation environment, there is room for both airline employees and FBO employees to thrive. Not every situation lends itself to outsourcing work, but in those areas that do, safety, the quality of work and costs will be the driving factors.