Hsu Tien Chi (Senior Manager, Commercial and Operations)
Since 1994, Beijing Aviation Ground Services (BGS) has been the leading provider of premium ground and cargo handling services at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK). BGS is a joint venture company between Capital Airport Holding Company (CAH), China’s largest airport company, and SATS Ltd., a leading provider of Gateway Services and Food Solutions in the region.
The challenges presented to BGS at the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic were unique and exceptional, but it also presented an opportunity for the company to demonstrate its capabilities. Various departments and personnel worked together to ensure the safety of passengers and staff, new modes of operation were quickly developed and customized for customers, which enabled the rapid transportation of medical cargo to numerous worldwide locations.
When COVID-19 was officially acknowledged in late January, BGS immediately purchased and distributed personal protection gear for frontline staff. Staff temperatures were monitored on a twice-daily basis, office premises and company accommodation were also sanitized. Other social distancing measures were followed as well, including work from home arrangements, and the setting of safety distances at the work place (seating arrangements in conference rooms, work cubicles, marking of queue lines, etc.). This required effective communication and collaboration between all departments in BGS, arranged over a short period of time.
In early February, there was a shortage of medical supplies in China, so the initial task for BGS was to handle the chartered cargo flights coming into PEK, mostly with only 24-48hour notice. In fact, one of these flights came with only 3-hour notice, and had thousands of pieces of loose cargo that required manual offloading by 50 BGS Ramp staff. Also, the flight actually came in 3 hours late, but BGS still managed to reduce the ground time by almost 2 hours. This is just an example of the challenges in handling these flights, but again, through effective communication and coordination, BGS managed to pull through and handle more than 340 tons of emergency cargo in China’s capital from late January to February.
In early March, there was an increase in the imported COVID-19 cases into Beijing, so the regulations evolved, and all international arrival passengers had to go undergo screening, escorted by BGS Passenger Services staff in full hazmat suits, and it was often a prolonged arrival process, some required more than 9 hours to handle, with double the usual staff. BGS Ramp staff also had to disinfect individual arrival bags, and BGS Lost and Found staff sorted, lined up the bags, and assisted passengers to find and collect their bags. All this required very tedious planning and coordination between the departments.
As the virus spread globally by late March, and because of the shortage in medical supplies in other countries, BGS was then tasked to handle more outbound cargo flights. A substantial portion of these flights required labour-intensive cargo loading in the aircraft passenger cabin. BGS demonstrated flexibility and dedication to meet customer needs, new procedures were customized to meet the loading requirements for individual airlines, depending on the various regulations and modes of operation from different parts of the world. Again, coordination between the various corporate and operational departments allowed for a new mode of operation to be quickly implemented, which enabled the efficient transport of medical cargo to numerous locations worldwide. Throughout the process, BGS had received commendation and praise for its professionalism, efficiency and competence. In an effort to contribute to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, BGS has handled more than 16,000 tons of cargo on more than 970 chartered cargo flights for 74 airlines and entities since Mid-February 2020.
In summary, the challenges presented to BGS from COVID were extraordinary, but it also gave the company the opportunity to showcase its capabilities. BGS has overcome challenges by working as a team during these difficult times, and continues to provide important and meaningful contributions to the Beijing airport community.