Ground Handling is an essential part of your operations. Operating a flight to an airport your company has not flown to before is a demanding task. There are so many things that can go wrong and rest assured fingers will be pointing your direction for why things went wrong.
Ground Handling – Choosing the Best:
So it is best to do your homework to avoid such situations. But rest assured, if you plan well and follow some of the tips noted below; you can turn this into an art form and use this opportunity to showcase your skills.
Once you become aware of the intended flight destination, start by looking at the details of the airport, city, and country (in case of an international trip) the flight is operating to.
It is imperative to figure out all these details before deciding your ground handling partner.
Keep an eye on the following when researching this new destination:
- Are there any restrictions / operational limitations that you should consider in your preflight planning in this new airport?
- Is handling at your destination mandatory or can your crew self-handle the aircraft (depending if your crew are able and willing to take on this additional task)?
Most likely if you are flying internationally, you will have to setup ground handling services beforehand. Therefore start by understanding what your flight requires done for succesful results. Treat this as a simple math equation that has three parts to it: passengers, crew, handling agent.
The Importance of Passengers –
The most critical factor in this equation is your passengers. Talking to your passengers and understanding what their goals are is crucial. If you have happy passengers, then you have a successful flight operation. And to have satisfied passengers, it is essential to know what they aim to achieve by doing this flight and deliver on that. Following are some fundamental questions that you need to have answered by them:
- What are their plans?
- Is this a trip for business purposes or they are going on a pleasure trip?
- What time constraints do you have to deal with?
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- Are there any special requirements from the moment they arrive and board your aircraft, while flying and once they get to their destination?
- Do they have any special security needs you should prepare for?
- Is red carpet service a requirement?
- Do they expect transport from aircraft side to their final destination?
Make a note of every small detail and log them for future reference. Share this information with your team. Go over them with your crew. And most definitely, inform your handling agent about them.
The Role of the Crew –
Next, talk to your crew. It is vital to understand their concerns – discuss issues beforehand to know what you need to prepare for. Know that your crew will be ones dealing with your passengers from the moment the flight starts until it ends. So an informed and well-prepared crew will result in a stress-free operation.
Which handler to use? You might be lucky to have a choice of handlers in your destination but most likely you will not have this luxury, and you are stuck to work with one handler that has a business monopoly in that given airport. If you have a choice – it is best to compare what services each handler has to offer and most definitely look at costs. But keep in mind that sometimes cheaper is not better.
The Questions You Need to Ask Pt. 1 –
Once you decide on which ground handling partner to work with, you will need to find out from them the list of things you need to prepare in advance to have this flight go remarkably well:
- Are there any visa requirements for crew and passengers?
- What are the GD conditions? Do you need to have it printed and should you provide your crew with a set amount of copies? Should the GD be stamped and by whom?
- Are there any particular handling procedures done for the aircraft, crew, and passenger?
- Is there any security clearances that need to be obtained in advance?
- Is there any medical vaccination required?
- Are your crew required to stow away and lock alcoholic beverages (and any adult content) before landing? (Some countries will even send someone to check on this on arrival and departure).
- Do you require any cabin insecticide spray before arrival and/or on departure?
- What kind of VIP service do they provide (can they provide red carpet service if your passengers ask for it)?
- Can they provide or arrange transport from aircraft side for your passenger to their final destination? Or do your PAX have to clear customs and immigration at the terminal before getting their transport at landside?
- Will they provide your aircraft with all the necessary equipment for sufficient handling such as:
- Pushback with towbar
- Stairs or Airbridge (in case you are operating a heavy jet/airliner)
- A passenger highloader in case you have any special needs passengers in wheelchairs.
The Questions You Need to Ask Pt. 2 –
- Do you require any other specialized equipment to handle your aircraft – do they have it? Or can they arrange it in time for your flight arrival?
- Will they provide you with the following services in case needed:
- Toilet service
- Water service
- In-cabin cleaning
- De-icing service
- Tie down service if are you operating a small aircraft
- Hangar facilities
- Do you have any special security requirements during the time your aircraft is on the ground?
- Do your passengers have bodyguards accompanying them and if so do they carry any side-arms? What is the policy for this in your company and your destination? Are they allowed to do this or do they have to hand those weapons over on arrival to local police and if so do you have to prepare this in advance?
- Do you require line maintenance on arrival and/or departure?
- Does the handler provide flight plan filing service or should your crew have to do this in person at some briefing office belonging to the airport authority?
- Can they arrange weather brief?
- Do you require to send flight briefing package to your crew? Is it mandatory that they have a hard copy printed and if so can the handler print and hand those over to your crew?
Updating your Database –
Don’t forget to get the correct and updated contact details for your ground handling partner as you don’t want to end up with crew and passenger on board with some last minute requirements that need fulfilment and no access to someone to do those services.
You should have on record the following details:
- Who is your point of contact at the ground handling company and whom will be responsible for setting up all those required services?
- Who to contact to coordinate any last minute changes or requirements?
- What is the handler VHF Freq to give to your crew so they can make contact with the handler?
- If a problem occurs – do you have a 24hrs contact number of a decision maker at the handler? This can be a shift manager, duty handling supervisor, or company director depending on the size of the company your ground handling partner has.
It is imperative that you keep everyone well informed about your progress or lack of especially if you have a problem that can’t be sorted out.
The worst thing you can do is wait until last minute to inform everyone involved about any unresolved issue. And remember the best advice you can give yourself and your team is to keep calm and well coordinated. Wishing you successful planning and trip!
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