Acciona ME's regional manager talks airport maintenance

Acciona ME’s Jesús Sancho highlights the challenges of delivering facilities management services to an airport
Jesús Sancho, regional manager of Acciona ME.
Jesús Sancho, regional manager of Acciona ME.

There is a place in the world where it seems that night never comes; a place where it does not matter what day is it is or what time is it, because it is always full of life, of people departing who cross paths with others arriving: airports. This frenetic activity must be managed down to the smallest detail. What initially might seem utter chaos can become a perfectly choreographed ballet when the best professionals specialised in airport management and services are involved.

Like a giant puzzle, successful airport operations depend on numerous pieces fitting together perfectly, which is certainly not easy. That is why so many airlines and airports choose to outsource certain services, entrusting them to third party service providers such as ACCIONA Service.

For the passengers, transit at an airport from the Land Side to the Air Side should not be a hassle. That is exactly the goal: to make customers feel absolutely safe and relaxed, from the moment that they arrive at the airport until they land at their destination, despite the complex series of activities and skilled workforce necessary to ensure that each experience is a success.

The activities performed by airport services providers like us include passenger handling services, ramp and cargo services, as well as other tasks that may be carried outside of airport grounds but that are an extension of the activities carried out at the airport. For example, the Operations Department does an essential job at airports, managing the handling for each flight and making important decisions related to them. It is also the communications channel between the service provider, the airport operator and other stakeholders involved during the aeroplane´s stopovers.

Another key area is the Ramp related activity, which is responsible for providing all of the required aircraft assistance on the apron, collecting and transporting passengers within the Air Side and loading and unloading the aircraft. These tasks are performed by a manager in close contact with the Operations Coordinator which is responsible for the flight and ensures the safe loading of the aircraft.

Why is it so important to trust the airport services manager?

If coordination and specialised knowledge are central to any sector, it is of the utmost importance when it comes to the aviation and airports field used by millions of people every day.

Airport Operators are aware that each link in the chain must work correctly, both for the passenger support services and for the aircraft ground handling (together known as “Handling”). That is why nearly all Operators entrust these jobs to companies specialised in airport services management.

As a result, the global market is extremely competitive with a huge number of companies offering these types of airport services. Some of the ground handling services at the Middle East airports are performed by the flagship carriers themselves or by a few number of licensees.

We are however detecting some privatisation initiatives and new licenses opening up to the market in the GCC.

Here are some of the main services that the handling activity entails:

•  Passenger service: Land Side support, check-in queues, passenger information, as well as flight connections, boarding and assistance with connecting flights.

•  Cargo: Safe-keeping, handling and delivery of all cargo in the terminal, including special or dangerous goods.

•  Operations and load sheets: the service provider operates the communication link between ground and the aircraft flight deck, the planning cargo load distribution, the weather information, the assistance during engine start-up, the coordination with the apron operators and even the assistance to the cabin crew.

•  Apron: towing and push-back of the aircraft, loading and unloading of the luggage, aircraft water and wastewater management, transportation of passengers and crew to the terminal building and aircraft cabin cleaning.

•  Boarding bridges and aircraft-steps: Controlling the telescopic passenger boarding bridges, which connect the aircraft with the airport terminal or the aircraft-steps when required.

•  Personal Shopper: major airports are shopping centres with huge customer potential. This service advises passengers running short of time where can they find the products they need and handle their purchases.

•  Special assistance: people with reduced mobility needing special assistance get the help they need at their arrival starting at their on the aircraft when necessary. Similar assistance is available for unaccompanied minors and VIP passengers.

So what does it make our offer different from the rest? A quality, flexible service capable of adapting to the needs of the client at all times; transparency and trust, ensuring these tasks are always correctly performed; punctuality and, of course, impeccable professionals, trained professionally in handling and experienced in dealing with clients.

Furthermore, we bring significant added value in the form of our commitment to sustainability and part of the company’s philosophy is focus on the environment. For example, we have been steadily rolling out electric vehicles throughout our network, in line with general industry trends and 15% of the motorised fleet that we use at the airports where we operate are electric vehicles.

The key is clearly to position the passenger at the heart of all the operations, putting well-being and satisfaction first. That means the client (in this case the corresponding Airport Operator) will also be satisfied with the services offered by the airport service provider.

Past, present and future

Contrary to the proverb about “biting off more than one can chew”, ACCIONA Service has proven for over 25 years its ability to offer exceptional quality in those and many other activities related with airport services including facility management. This has made the company one of the world’s leading airport services providers.

Emblematic airports such as Madrid (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Dusseldorf (Germany), Santiago de Chile (Chile), Muscat (Oman) among others have trusted us. It is noteworthy that since ACCIONA Service took over cleaning operations at Salalah airport (Oman), the airport has won in 2017 the Skytrax award for the world’s cleanest airport of its category. Our portfolio of services is a mosaic reflecting the complexity of human and technology management.

Being it handling or facility management activities, such as de-icing aircraft, assisting cabin crew, running VIP lounges, soft-servicing terminals, providing personal shoppers, taking care of the outdoor garden maintenance, delivering cargo logistics, luggage check-in and collection, passenger boarding or operating telescopic boarding bridges, ACCIONA is there to deliver.

In fact, we have achieved an important position in the ranking of independent airport service providers in the airport sector through our commitment to offering the society the best services, while championing sustainability and environmental respect in all our activities.

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