Q. What are some of the trends or changes you've seen?
A. Two areas: Ramp Access and Automation. After Lockerbie, the government of the UK introduced a lot of additional security around ramp access. More recent events have seen this trend accelerating around the world. But, the biggest change is the amount of automation since the 1970s. Advances in certain areas, for example, the check-in processes and load control processes have been automated and have improved accuracy and efficiency. On the handling side, what I find is quite interesting is the number of bulk loaded airplanes that are still about. With baggage handling, the bigger aircraft are containerized so you only have to handle the bags once at departure to put them into the container, and once at arrival to take them out of the container. With bulk loaded aircraft, up to the 757, every bag has to be loaded individually into the aircraft. So the bag is handled a lot more - you handle it at the terminal, you handle it twice at the plane, and so on. So, there is a huge amount of manual handling that goes on and the aircraft bellies really haven't changed. The new generation aircraft we have these days - everything on them is absolutely new technology - except where the poor loading guys have to work. That hasn't changed, in fact, all it's done is gotten worse because the bellies have gotten longer. It remains very much a manual job.
Q. What are some of the challenges you encounter in your day-to-day?
A. A major challenge is trying to make sure we get the idea of best practices out to everyone. Efficiency, not speed, is the key to minimising the time the aircraft is on the ground. Safety is always the first priority. We have an Airside Safety Group that meets twice a year - reporting to the Ground Handling Council - and developing the safety items published in the Airport Handling Manual. We get quite a lot of information coming in through members of the group. We try to encourage people to share their experiences - both good and bad. When we receive such reports, we are happy to be able to facilitate the sharing of the information with the rest of the industry - on an anonymous basis, of course.
Another huge challenge is costs. We are all too aware that our industry is in desperate times, external factors continue to affect revenues. We have to facilitate exploration of any new ideas to reduce costs for our members. The airport services team is involved in projects and working groups to increase efficiency and reduce costs. I am very much involved in the common use, self-service standard that will shortly be published by IATA. This will allow airlines to provide self-service check-in facilities through shared kiosks.