All posts by Clara de la Torre

Iberia Airport Services (IAS), Iberia’s airport handling unit which serves more than 100 airlines in 29 Spanish airports, racked up 23 million passengers served this summer season.

From June through September, IAS attended more than 93,000 aircraft and handled some 16.5 million pieces of luggage, which amounted to 70% of the activity registered in the summer of in 2019.

It also tended to more than 21,000 unaccompanied minors, about 60% of the total in the summer season of 2019. 

Domestic Travel

The summer saw a sharp recovery of domestic travel, and IAS actually surpassed its summer-2019 totals in the airports of Ibiza, Asturias, Gran Canaria, Santiago de Compostela, Santa Cruz de la Palma, and Tenerife Norte. 

Some 86% of airlines beginning operations in Spain this summer chose IAS as handing service provider, including World2Fly, Vietnam Airlines, EGO Airways, and Lattitud. 

Iberia’s Airport manager José Luis de Luna said, “This summer was the turning point in the recovery of our airport handling business. Now we face the challenge of winning the biggest number of licences, in which we are bringing to bear innovative solutions based on the latest technology, which translates into better customer service, more efficient use of our resources, and a more sustainable footing for our business.” 

Going for New Licences 

Spain’s airport handing licences, worth about 1,000 million euros, are awarded every seven years by the national airport authority AENA, and these licences are up for renewal this year.

Iberia Airport Services is preparing to present its bids, and is strengthening its position with innovative solutions that can ensure better services tailored to individual customer needs.

During the pandemic it acquire eight new electric powered pushback tractors,that are operated by remote control are pollution-free. They have already been used to move more than 3,000 aircraft at the airport of Madrid and Barcelona.

At Iberia Airport Services, safety is imprinted on our DNA. For our employees it is an attitude, and we have instilled a safety culture  in which communication is the key that drives all our actions: daily operating briefings, awareness campaigns, a monthly newsletter focused specifically on safety, and the novel forumula of the safety talks  that we are currently holding for suppliers and customers at the airports we service.

This October we have given our safety talks at Barcelona for our main customer there, Vueling, in which we analysed a variety of real cases and evaluated possible solutions to avoid incidents in the future.

In Barcelona we also gave our Safety Talks to Serpista, the ground equipment supplier we use to handle aircraft at this airport and with whom we shared best practices and recommendations for the use of this equipment to enhance safety and efficiency.

Since the eruption of the volcano on the island of La Palma, Iberia Airport Services is committed to help and provide the maximum support to all people of La Palma, passengers, airlines and colleagues from the Canary Islands. Therefore, while we wait for the operation re-start, we have maintained our staff at 100% (35 people) to coordinate solutions to the airlines we handle – CONDOR, GRUPO TUI, EASYJET, CANARY FLY, EDELWEIS, IBERIA and VUELING – giving our full attention at counters, rerouting, issuing hotel vouchers and surface transport arrangement to the port of La Palma. “More than 1,100 customers who, despite the airport closure, have passed through the airport in the last five days and to whom we have tried to offer our best care, according to the options each airline provides to each passenger,” says Teresa Gutiérrez, our manager at La Palma airport.

Since the airport closure to air traffic last Friday, we activated all measures to preserve and protect La Palma’s ground equipment fleet from the ash, in order to guarantee operational safety parameters.

In addition, committed to provide the greatest support to the people of La Palma, last Wednesday 22 September, we coordinated with the NGO Mano a Mano the delivery of humanitarian aid from Madrid airport within a few hours.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our colleagues on La Palma for their efforts, dedication and solidarity in preparing the operation recovery.

ALC airport opened in 1967, growing in number of passengers and in client companies, until becoming one of the most important in Spain. It is one of the busiest in the summer season when we provide our Handling services to more than 20 client companies, including Vueling, Air Algerie, Air Nostrum, Neos, Icelandair, British Airways, Flyplay, Bees

As confirmed by Kolbrún Ída, Station Manager for Flyply, a company that recently started working at ALC “”from day one, the IBAS team has perfectly complied with the required service standards. Our crews and passengers are delighted to fly to ALC.

We employ 250 people (depending on the season) and during the months of July and August our operation reached 68% vs. 2019. We undertake all kinds of special operations but, above all, due to the proximity of Benidorm’s theme parks, we transport really unique animals like dolphins, endangered turtles and tuna to the United Kingdom, egg-laying hens to Algeria, Macael marble and even yachts participating in the America’s Cup.

Delia Garcia, ALC-ABC Airport Manager.  He has had a long career in IBAS “out on the runway”, which gives him ideal knowledge of all the operational areas, his colleagues and, of course, the needs of our clients. His motto is: “we all do everything. The same employee is trained to handle the check-in for a flight (with knowledge of numerous systems: iPort, Gonow, Altea, Resiber, Quick pass, DCS, FLY, etc.), boarding, coordination and can even prepare a loading sheet, always with the emphasis on empathy and good personal relationships”

For Ester Sanchez, Head of Passenger Services at ALC, “once you work at the airport, that’s where you will always want to stay. It is a very dynamic job, no two days are the same.”

Controlling the pandemic is dependent, among other things, on improving the pace of the vaccine rollout. Since last December when the first vaccines reached Spain in aircraft holds, IBAS has been actively involved in arranging their transfer to cargo terminals or transit to other destinations.

We are experts in handling all kinds of dangerous goods, such as radioactive material, lithium batteries, flammable liquids, and the prized vaccines we are all anxiously waiting to receive.

Our ground assistance staff have all the necessary training to handle and transport these vaccines on the ground with the appropriate security and efficiency. We also comply with the requirements imposed by both the authorities and each of our customer airlines, and we step up our procedures in specific situations like the unfortunate one we are currently experiencing where handling vaccines has become a very frequent aspect of the service we provide.

COVID vaccines are transported in packages that contain an enormous quantity of dry ice to keep them at the correct temperature. This vast amount of dry ice can release high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere with harmful health effects if the recommendations are not followed when loading and unloading them, so extreme precautions are required.

Besides, we are the IAG Cargo handling agent at the Madrid cargo terminal, which is where the largest specialist centre for the correct management of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products is located, with a team specially trained in GDP (Good Distribution Practice) and a fleet of refrigerated vehicles.

As one of a range of initiatives to decarbonise our handling activities, we have recently started trialling an electric GPU at Barcelona airport. The trial is being conducted within the framework of our Sustainability Plan, which defines as one of its main aims the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Diesel GPUs are currently used to supply energy during the ground assistance provided to aircraft in remote parking bays due to the inherent limitations of energy supplies in these positions. Of all the equipment required to assist an aircraft during stopover, the GPU generates 42% of the CO2 emissions discharged during the operation.

At IBAS we are committed to reducing this carbon footprint in our operations and have therefore started a series of trials with electric GPUs from different suppliers. These units have numerous benefits:

  • they have advanced security technology
  • they produce zero emissions and zero noise
  • they can support 15 operations with a single 4-hour charge
  • they are easy to operate and widely accepted by users

The trials will continue in the coming months as part of our aim to become an increasingly #greenhandling.

“In the last five years we have renewed 80% of our motorised fleet and introduced alternative energies. Of the equipment for which there are electric versions, nearly 40% now are electric”

According to the latest figures published by the Spanish Association of Airlines (ALA), companies have scheduled a combined total of 787,000 operations for the current peak season. If these plans are fulfilled, that would be 114% more than exactly one year ago when only 367,000 connections with the country were operated (although the definitive figure may vary, depending among other factors on the pace of the vaccine rollout and the easing of restrictions on air travel).

Although the summer recovery of the air transport sector is still likely to be below 2019 levels, at IBAS we always prepare for the season ahead by reviewing, modifying, updating and introducing actions that will allow us to manage our operations efficiently and safely for everyone involved, in line with the requirements and recommendations of the national and international authorities, all of which we compile in a Recovery Plan.

This year our Recovery Plan aims to anticipate and mitigate all the effects derived from the pandemic, which has now been with us for more than a year. We prioritise continuous training and internal communication to ensure that our employees remain abreast of new procedures, health requirements, and changes in check-in, boarding, loading and unloading processes. This year we have trained our staff to be more versatile in light of the volume of requirements from our customer airlines and the infrastructures of the different airports, which have also had to adapt to the circumstances.

We are in constant contact with our customers to try and anticipate their activity and resize our workforce since some of our employees are still on furlough. However, we rotate our staff to distribute the economic burden evenly and maintain leave periods up-to-date.

We are reactivating and servicing most of our ground equipment to ensure that it is in optimal condition to cope with the anticipated increase in activity. This is also the case with all the other necessary equipment, such as ULD, nets…

We have maintained our level of quality and have even conducted on-site audits thanks to the implementation of our Health and Safety Plan. Now one year old and constantly updated, as certified by Applus, the plan includes antigen tests for our employees, the distribution of face masks and hand sanitiser, the installation of anti-covid air purifiers in common areas, the introduction of remote working, and every other measure to guarantee the safety of our employees, customers and providers.

With the aim of improving our service

levels, we are currently conducting surveys based on NPS metrics to learn more about how our customer airlines perceive our services.

The project started with the development of a zero phase in BCN with several companies on board. During this phase, we decided to segment the questions in three major areas: Passenger Services, Ramp Services and Flight Dispatch, based on the results obtained we will be able to focus specific areas of service inside each segment.

From the beginning of December we had the go ahead for phase 1 with 30 plus companies invited to participate at 8 major airports ALC, AGP, BIO, IBZ, LPA, MAD, PMI & TFS besides BCN, our proof of concept station.

For each service area to be analyzed, we post a question on level of recommendation to a colleague or a friend adding a free text area to receive their feedback on the reason for the score selected. So, with a short and simple formulaire we intend not to take much time from the respondents but at the same time we allow them to raise their points in the aspects of the service important for them.

The respondents assigned by the airlines for this task, agree with our local managers the periodicity of the survey; despite it is not much time consuming, we leave it open to weekly, fortnightly or monthly periodicity.

The process starts with an email alert sent at the agreed dates to be answered by the respondents. The information gathered provides IBAS an Index of Satisfaction of our customer airlines and a detailed description of the specific areas where we need to put focus on improvement or where our performance is satisfactory.

The scores declared are valuated as per NPS metrics in line with the already used by many airlines and by other sectors; 9 and 10 scores are added and 0 to 6 scores are subtracted leaving 7 & 8 scores as neutral, therefore we obtain a numeric indicator to track service quality tendencies. From now on, the new index is added to the set of KPIs analyzed to manage our resources and services.

For IBAS, NPS methodology is key to put our customer companies in the center of our activity, emerging elements of Service that for not being reflected in the contracts are not part of the continuous improvement projects while their added value may impact the handling activity.

During the first few months of the pandemic, IBAS was dedicated almost exclusively to handling repatriation and medical cargo flights, responding to the need to provide countries with masks and supplies of this type. The cargo was carried in the cabin, adapting the seats with nets and “pouches” like the ones used by Iberia.

After this need was covered, the planes were gradually used for scheduled passenger flights again, but now that the summer is over we have noticed new demands from our customers as they look for business opportunities.

In view of the increase in cargo traffic, numerous airlines have decided to temporarily transform some of their passenger planes into cargo planes by adapting the cabin and removing the seats.

Providing handling for these types of flights requires IBAS to carry out another overhaul of its processes, security procedures and resources because we have never handled flights where up to 15 tonnes or more of cargo have to be loaded manually on to the cabin, in the designated positions, and secured with nets anchored to the rails that previously accommodated the seats.

There are already some companies that have converted part of their fleet into cargo aircraft and have requested handling from IBAS. We are continuing our efforts to offer made-to-measure handling.

During the first two weeks of September, AENOR conducted its annual monitoring review at 22 airports where IBAS provides

services to ensure that they remain compliant with the ISO 9001 and 14001

certifications.

Iberia Airport Services (IBAS) has maintained its commitment to quality and the environment, even doubling its efforts during the current Covid-19 crisis.

Thanks as well to the Applus+ certification that accredits all our workplaces as “Covid-free” centres, this means that it was possible to carry out the audits in person, adapting the visits of the auditors in each area to comply with all the protocols and measures in place.

The audits recognised two elements that we are particularly proud of:

  • Our capacity to adapt to the situation caused by the pandemic, modifying our usual working methods while maintaining the same service levels.
  • Communicating with our customers to handle their needs as efficiently as possible.

Even so, we continue to set ourselves the highest standards to ensure we meet the most stringent demands and objectives.

In line with our environmental performance, we are required to:

  • Transfer our own high levels of commitment to the organisations with which we interact, ourproviders, customers, AENA, etc., to ensure that their activities are as sustainable as possible. This means that we need to assess their environmental impact as well as our own.
  • Conduct a thorough investigation of the environmental risks we have detected for our activity, taking into account additional potential or emergency elements such as floods and fires.