Swissport selects affini for end-to-end community radio service at 13 UK airports

Background

Swissport International is the world’s leading provider of ground and cargo handling services to the aviation industry and the largest ground handling organisation in the UK. The company employs 55,000 people in 46 countries and provides ground services for 118 million passengers worldwide.

Whether you are flying from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton or Stansted, Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen, Dublin or Belfast Harbour, Southampton, Birmingham, Cardiff or Liverpool, the timely departure of your flight will depend on Swissport’s cleaning, baggage handling and passenger boarding services.

Problem

The UK aviation industry has experienced a lot of consolidation in recent years. Following its acquisition of Servisair in 2013, Swissport wanted to integrate the ground handling, cargo, fuelling, load control and airport services and rationalise its supplier contracts. As part of this process, Swissport sought to consolidate the number of communication service contracts from around twenty to a single contract with a trusted provider.

To meet strict airport SLAs and avoid heavy fines, airlines must minimise the time that they spend on the ground. Efficient ground handling operations are fundamental for ensuring that flights leave on time. Budget airlines typically have just 22 minutes at their stand in which to unboard passengers, refuel and clean the plane, bring on refreshments, load baggage and board the outbound passengers. Delayed departures have a knock-on effect on ground handlers and airlines, diminishing profits from all organisations involved. A delay of just ten minutes can extinguish a ground handler’s profit. Therefore, timely turnaround is of paramount importance and aviation organisations demand reliable communications systems that support this operational objective.

In this mission-critical environment everything must run like clockwork, so a miscommunication caused by a malfunctioning radio network, or broken device, must be avoided at all costs. It was vital that Swissport selected the right radio provider.

Solution

For more than 15 years affini has designed, built and operated end-to-end communications solutions at the majority of the UK’s airports, including delivering analogue community radio services, digital radio services and unified communications. As a result, affini has radio infrastructure in place at fourteen UK airports. No other UK provider can bring this corporate level of radio communications to deliver mission-critical communications on a 24×7/365 basis.

Servisair was an affini client when it was acquired by Swissport, therefore there were clear business advantages to maintaining the same radio communications provider. The biggest benefits to continuing the affini relationship under the new Swissport banner, were continuity of service and communications capabilities with reduced integration costs following the acquisition. affini provides Swissport with an analogue trunked radio system for Ground to Ground, Ground to Air and Ground Movement Control, using UHF frequency range (300MHz – 3GHz) for Ground Movement Control and VHF (30 – 300MHz) for Ground to Ground radio communications for catering and airport litter vehicles and tugs.

The end-to-end affini community radio service provided to Swissport comprises more than 1000 Ground to Ground radio units using 14 stations, with access to 24×7 technical support and a device swap out service. Swissport has access to affini’s customer service desk, with service ticketing run from a Network Operation Centre in Caldecott. In addition, affini provides user training to Swissport “radio gurus” to enable them to trouble shoot when affini is not on site at a particular airport. Swissport has signed a three year contract with affini for all of its analogue community radio services.

Commenting on the selection, James Munro, Procurement manager at Swissport said, “By reaffirming our commitment to affini, we continue to benefit from a trusted partner relationship for the provision of our community radio services, ensuring an efficient, consistent and reliable communications service across all of our UK stations, running over existing infrastructure, backed by a 24×7 support network.”

Results

Swissport has achieved its goal of standardising its radio communications to ensure consistent ground movement control, ground to air and ground to ground communications across all of the UK airports that it serves.

In addition to reducing the integration burden following the acquisition of Servisair, by selecting affini community radio for all of its UK airport operations, Swissport has avoided the financial cost of putting its UK radio contracts out to tender. It now has a full service contract with a single supplier, to ensure that all of its UK airport employees know who to call on for support.

Swissport now benefits from having exactly the same radio functionality across all UK airports, to assist ground handlers in turning planes around as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Future requirements

The ground handling industry is preparing to adapt to changes wrought by the trend for airlines to operate much larger, wide-bodied aircraft, such as the A380 and 737. This means that, although there may be fewer planes landing, there will be many more passengers and bags to unload and load whenever a plane lands.

As airlines purchase more wide-bodied aircraft, this will demand even greater efficiencies from ground service companies and affini is looking at comms strategies that enable future rationalisation of community radio equipment.

affini community radio provides customers with a potential migration path to affini Real Time Connect, its cloud-based unified communications platform, while fully supporting analogue services and legacy equipment.