Swissport hits the ground running

Still on a course of aggressive expansion, No. 1 ground handler Swissport International Ltd. recently announced the launch of a value-enhancement program called PLUS10. Erich Brandenberger has some details from Zürich.

Its acquisition of DynAir in September 1999 propelled Swissport International Ltd., the ground handling arm of the SAirGroup, to the topmost rank in the industry, adding 50 airports throughout the USA to its portfolio in one fell swoop. With a still growing network of stations extending from Anchorage to Ankara, Madrid to Manila, and São Paolo to San Juan, Swissport is not only the biggest, but quite likely the culturally most diverse handler in the world. It stands to reason that some kind of unité de doctrine is needed to homogenize Swissport’s crucible of mentalities, not least in view of global ISO certification.

Joseph In Albon, President and CEO of Swissport, commented: "It goes without saying that we are intent on delivering the same quality of service at each and every station. It takes quite a bit of evangelism to make that vision come true, but we’re fully on target.”

The targets are described in a motivation-building booklet the size of an airline ticket that was distributed to the supervisors of Swissport’s 15,000 employees in December last year. It introduces the company’s ambitious PLUS10 program, a lineup of ten value-adding components that will be consecutively grafted onto Swissport’s current product/service mix to strengthen customer loyalty and drum up new business.

One of the components, christened GroundSpeed, is a pledge by Swissport to make up for operational delays and get the customer airline’s equipment back in the air faster rather than just adding the allotted groundtime to the actual time of arrival. "Going by the book is legitimate,” says In Albon, "but it propagates the delay. Conversely, gains on groundtime translate into real dollar savings for our customers and they appreciate us going that extra mile. Plus, it’s one of those assets that makes doing business with us more appealing.” Along similar lines, Swissport is also introducing BonusPlan, an umbrella incentive scheme within the PLUS10 program that rewards eligible carriers for high-volume multi-station business.

PLUS10 has Internet-based components, too: To unjam the logistics systems of its customers, Swissport is working on Lost@Found, an innovative baggage tracking system with a portal on the Web that makes the status of misdirected bags available to passengers and someday may even send them SMSs. And Check@In is the name of a network of self-service kiosks which lets "touch-screen-literate” people avoid queues at check-in counters.

ISO/TQM  is the PLUS10  component that perhaps poses the most formidable challenge to Swissport. To guarantee a consistent set of customer benefits, Swissport regularly has its operations and business processes certified to ISO 9002 and audited. Considering that ground handling is a people business with lots of ethnic variety, it seems like a tall order to aim for high unified standards. But In Albon and his crew are determined to hit the ground running to make it work.

The PLUS10  program is now being rolled out with a jack-in-the-box mailer which three-dimensionally acquaints the recipients with the ten components – scheduled to go "on-line” at the rate of one per month starting March 1, 2000.

more information about PLUS10