Non stop service

Posted: 17 March 2006 | Wolfgang Hammerstädt, Executive Vice President of the newly re-organised Business Division Ground Handling, Munich Airport | No comments yet

For more than 80 years, the ground handlers at Flughafen München GmbH (FMG) have been ensuring that their customers are on ‘solid ground’ when it comes to aircraft handling. Wolfgang Hammerstädt shares the secrets of their success. Ground handling at Munich Airport is driven by the mission to provide: ‘Outstanding quality, a viable price / […]

For more than 80 years, the ground handlers at Flughafen München GmbH (FMG) have been ensuring that their customers are on ‘solid ground’ when it comes to aircraft handling. Wolfgang Hammerstädt shares the secrets of their success.

Ground handling at Munich Airport is driven by the mission to provide: ‘Outstanding quality, a viable price / performance ratio and the ability to adapt flexibly to our customers’ needs.’ It’s our belief at Munich Airport that these seemingly disparate elements DO all fit together under one roof, perhaps one reason why the world’s most successful airlines have valued Munich Airport’s ground handling services for decades.

Ground Handling at Munich Airport acts as a ‘full handler.’ In cooperation with partners, it operates in several segments: aircraft handling, transport services, baggage handling, passenger handling and operations, aircraft cleaning and cargo handling. Its services thus range from securing aircraft after touchdown and crew transport to the handling of express goods. Depending on their individual requirements, airline customers can pick different product modules, resulting in a product that is tailored specifically to their needs.

On course for success

As one of the world’s most dynamic hub airports, Munich Airport saw another strong year of growth in 2005. The 28.6 million passengers handled last year represent a gain of 1.8 million passengers compared with the previous year, representing a jump of nearly seven per cent. Among Europe’s top 10 airports in terms of passenger volume, only the two Spanish hubs, Madrid and Barcelona, posted stronger growth rates than Munich. We topped all the others, some by a wide margin. As a reliable growth engine for international air traffic at the European level, Munich has further solidified its position in the competition among the major European hubs by holding firmly onto its number eight spot among the top 10. We also set a record last year at Munich Airport for the total number of take offs and landings. The 387,000 commercial aircraft movements marked a four per cent increase over the 2004 result. As in the previous year, the airfreight sector achieved particularly strong growth. The flown airfreight handled at Munich Airport exceeded 200,000 metric tonnes for the first time ever. When trucked airfreight is included, the volume of freight handled at the airport in the past operating year amounts to more than 350,000 metric tonnes, a 15 per cent increase compared with the previous year.

Seamless operations

A key contributing factor to Munich’s consistent strong growth since opening our new airport in 1992 has been its effective ground-handling concept. Our experience, high standards and flexibility have made Munich Airport’s ground handling a reliable and trustworthy service provider for decades.

Ground handling at Munich Airport can trace its roots back to Munich’s original airport location, Oberschleissheim, where company-own ramp handling operations started in 1912. Operations at Munich Airport’s predecessor, Riem, began in 1939. The overnight move from Riem to the new greenfield site from 16 – 17 May, 1992, marked the seamless transfer of operations from the former site to the new Munich Airport. Needless to say, the strong ground handling service tradition at Munich was an integral part of the success of this enormous transfer of equipment, employees and operations.

Munich airport’s ground handling business division today ranks third among the biggest ground handling service providers in Germany. One important factor in this is our strong ‘location knowledge’ our ground handling division operates solely on site at Munich Airport, as we do not outsource our employees, or contract to provide ground handling at any other airport. In 2005, ramp handling revenues totaled €115 million. Lat year we handled 180,000 aircraft, 500 flights per day and 25 million bags with a total handled maximum take off weight (MTOW) of 11 million metric tonnes, a large customer base of 75 (out of ca. 90 total) scheduled airlines and a market share based on aircraft movements of 90 per cent.. Our ground handling division also processes 97per cent of all cargo flights, which represents a total of 196,000 metric tonnes per annum.

More than 2,000 employees work for Munich Airport’s ground handling division in every area from loading to ramp agents. The loading staff is trained according to JAR-OPS standards and provided with regular workshops and ‘refresher’ courses. With a guaranteed minimum connecting time (MCT) of just 35 minutes at Munich Airport’s original Terminal 1, 30 minutes at the new Terminal 2, and a 45-minute MCT between the two terminals, Munich Airport boasts one of the fastest MCTs of any major airport – both in Europe and worldwide.

Our well-stocked equipment fleet allows ground handling services here at MUC to keep pace with the airport’s dynamic growth: 74 buses, 150 types of loading equipment, 25 pushback trucks, 237 tow trucks, and well over 2,200 dollies and trolleys are currently in operation, thus providing quick and high availability. Our equipment pool consists of vehicles and equipment that is both purchased 99 per cent and rented/ leased one per cent.

Investment in new equipment ranges from 11 to 15 million euros annually, and the maintenance costs for the entire fleet averages around five per cent of the total replacement cost of all equipment. In 2006, as we’ve recently optimised processes and scheduling to ensure that our resources and equipment are more efficiently used, we expect to have an investment of around 11 million in total, with the focus on lifters and belt loaders. In order to avoid bottlenecks or service breakdowns during peak operation times, our fleet management division has averaged out a ‘net equipment need’ for each customer, which is the amount of equipment / vehicles that are required during peak operation times. From these numbers, our equipment pool is then able to figure the minimum of reserve equipment / vehicles necessary, this ranges from 0-15 per cent according to equipment type.

We use our ground handling equipment and vehicles through to the end of the service life, then sell it to interested buyers, who are quite often equipment handlers who then sell the vehicles and equipment onto third parties. On average, we use our equipment for 10-15 years before selling it or scrapping it.

Alternative energy

Munich airport launched a hydrogen fuel project which has been in continuous operation since 1998. The project is sponsored and funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology. It has proven that a closed system involving every aspect of hydrogen fuel use, from generation through to the end user, is feasible, both technically and operationally. We have had great success in fuelling three passenger buses with hydrogen and although the use of hydrogen fuel is not yet a viable economic alternative to fossil fuels, Munich Airport is proud to be one of the few airports worldwide conducting pioneering operations with this alternative fuel. Munich airport is also implementing other alternative energy sources currently, since the end of January this year we’ve started powering some of our apron vehicles with plant oil-derived fuel (rape oil). Spring and summer 2006 will see further vehicles in our fleet being switched over to this fuel type, including loaders and passenger buses, for example.

Ground handling operations are divided into three subdivisions to ensure this kind of efficiency:

  • Aircraft handling
  • Baggage and cargo handling
  • Passenger transportation

All ramp handling services have been certified according to DIN EN ISO 9001 since 1995 in accordance with IATA AHM 804. Our motto: Total Quality Management. This includes a focus on constantly improving our ops processes, as well as maintaining a modern equipment pool and a highly trained staff that is experienced with all aircraft types, and which has the flexibility to handle the needs of any kind of aircraft at any time. We work with expert partner subcontractors which are just as performance oriented and uncompromising as we are regarding quality: A.C.C. Heico and ASG for cleaning services; Autobus Oberbayern GmbH for passenger and crew transport services; EFM (Gesellschaft für Enteisen und Flugzeugschleppen am Flughafen München GmbH) for deicing, pushback and towing; aerogate for passenger handling and cargo gate for cargo handling.

In addition to Munich Airport’s own ground handling division, which handles 90 per cent of traffic at MUC, two other ground handling agents operate at MUC – one privatised competitor, and our new subsidiary, mucground services, which is now responsible for helping our ‘traditional’ ground handling division in covering peak traffic periods throughout the day.

Mucground services

Due to European Union regulations that have called for the liberalisation of ground handling at European airports (initially to allow for a second company and in the near future a third company to offer ground handling services), ground handling is without doubt the area currently facing the most serious pressure, resulting from the structural changes in international air transportation in the past five years. To ensure that we can continue to compete in this sector, we set up a new subsidiary, mucground services, in March 2005, and are now successfully putting it into operation, mainly to cover traffic peaks at present. Both parent and subsidiary now work together to jointly take on new developments and changes. Mucground currently employs about seven per cent of the total equipment used, with this percentage expected to increase in the near future.

The main reason for setting up mucground services has been to meet the needs of airlines for more flexible and more customised ground handling processes and products. To be successful in the ground handling market today, it is essential to have flexible working shifts corresponding to the peak situation, to establish multi-functional employees and to offer innovative and tailor-made products for both low cost carriers and net carriers.

We are maintaining our existing ground handling division alongside our new subsidiary since first and foremost, a new ground service supplier can not handle 500 aircraft from one day to the next without any disturbances. Our airline customers expect, and we guarantee, high quality of ground handling services without any problems caused by restructuring measures or by developing new processes.

In addition to the new subsidiary, efficient cooperation also includes the extensive reorganisation of the already existing ground handling division at Munich Airport.

‘M Power’ is the moniker of this ambitious project, which has been set into action to streamline and optimise operations as well as cut costs. M Power has also been instituted to revamp our corporate strategy and make it more efficacious at all levels. In total, these measures are being taken to ensure that FMG will remain in the fast lane when it comes to ground services. Above all, the ground handlers at FMG aim to keep on setting international quality standards.

Future focus

In general, Munich Airport appreciates a further liberalisation of the European ground handling market. More competition is positive, but the timing and the basic conditions for realising the liberalisation should guarantee airports the chance to make the necessary preparations. This means that airports must have the opportunity to prepare themselves for an open market. For example: the restructuring and optimisation of existing procedures and processes; becoming financially and organisationally independent from the aiport authority; the chance to align to the market, including the forging of wage agreements with unions as well as the establishment of more flexible working time models. And of course, all of these needs need to be balanced fairly against the needs of existing staffers vis a vis ‘social responsibility,’ liberalisation of the ground handling market shouldn’t create more problems than it solves.

Wolfgang Hammerstädt

Mr. Hammerstädt has more than 13 years experience of airport management at Flughafen München GmbH, the operation company of Munich Airport. His main roles have been: Director of Finance, Ground Handling Department; Vice President Operations; Joint MD of the Terminal 2 Betriebsgesellschafts mbH & Co oHG.

At the beginning of 2005, Mr. Hammerstädt took on his current position as Executive Vice President of the newly re-organised ground handling business division at Munich Airport.

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