Hassan Nashaat is the Commercial Director of the International Aviation Business (IAB) in Egypt. He explains to Jo Murray how IAB is participating in an alliance of handlers – along the same lines as an airline alliance – to ensure consistency of service provision to airlines with routes into Mediterranean airports. He also tells us how IAB has progressed its IT, training and quality initiatives during this quiet time for airline operations in Egypt following political change
The Mediterranean Alliance (TMA) has been established and IAB is a champion of the new allegiance. “TMA comprises ground handling providers from around the Mediterranean. One reliable company has been picked from each country and we are acting as an alliance,” says Nashaat.
“At the moment we’re present in five countries and we have many requests from different locations – other than these five countries – where we are qualifying companies at the moment,” he says. “It is very important that we have reliable partners.”
Today, TMA’s headquarters is in Rome, Italy. Nashaat, himself, is the first President of the alliance. The five countries that are currently represented in the alliance are: Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco – but this is set to expand. The mix of countries is interesting because, although they all frame the Mediterranean, there is a combination of EU countries – which are regulated by EU regulations – and non-EU countries which have their own rules and regulations.
So why does Nashaat think that an alliance like is the most workable solution for the Mediterranean region? Nashaat responds: “Our core business is representation, supervision and passenger handling. We want to provide our customer airlines with a proven level of reliability.” He explains that if, for example, an airline flies regularly to Italy and has come to trust its representative there, if it then decides to put a route into, say, Egypt, there is no need, now that TMA is in place, for the airline to take a chance when selecting representation in that new country. In essence, it is all about consistency of service provision. There is an inter-SLA in place between the alliance companies to ensure that services remain consistent and there are no negative surprises.
Of course consistency is ensured in any service sector by underpinning those services with training. At present TMA is exchanging training knowledge within the alliance through bringing together Training Managers, sharing information and developing a common platform. “We are making sure that each company pools its training resources,” says Nashaat. IATA training resources are also heavily drawn upon to ensure high training and quality benchmarks are attained and retained.
The development of the alliance around the Mediterranean is a timely and significant development; but so too are operations within Egypt – at IAB itself. The company is stationed at all Egyptian Airports, including: Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor, Aswan, Cairo, TABA, Marsa Alam, Alexandria and Borg El Arab. Nashaat says that IAB has focussed on building local expertise, fully understanding the culture of operations inside Egypt and has not tried to be a global player – that is where TMA comes in. In 2010, the company doubled the number of customers it served. A large number of new airlines joined IAB’s portfolio to bring the total number to 30 airlines.
But political change came to Egypt during 2011 and this has brought its high points and its low points. Every area of Egyptian politics, lifestyle and business has been touched, resulting in certain social and economic pressures. For the aviation industry, these pressures are caused largely by negative international perceptions of travel to and within Egypt rather than the realities on the ground, says Nashaat. As Egypt finds its political feet and calm has been restored, so too should demand for airline travel into Egypt – especially from leisure passengers. So far, passenger numbers are lagging – in fact 2011 volumes are down 40% from the heights of 2010. That is not surprising.
Nashaat points out that the tourist industry in Egypt has enjoyed spectacular growth in recent years and once the new Parliament is installed, there is the potential to more than double the annual number of tourists from 14 million at the height of the market to 30 million going forward. This is an impressive number to look forward to.
In the meantime, quiet times enable any organisation to take a long hard look at its processes, training and IT systems, and IAB is no different. Firstly there has been a multi-discipline focus group put in place to tackle ISAGO accreditation at the headquarters and Cairo stations. Documentation is being restructured and training is being reconsidered to match ISAGO requirements. Accreditation is not far away.
Secondly, the companies’ IT infrastructure has been addressed. “We are currently integrating a system based on an Oracle database which applies at both the operational and financial management levels,” says Nashaat. The system means that every flight can be tracked automatically – rather than manually.
On top of all this, IAB is also taking a lead in terms of corporate social responsibility. “We are trying to be part of what is going on in Egypt at the moment,” says Nashaat, “by helping society.” IAB is taking the initiative to help poor families to develop small and medium businesses so that their children can return to school rather than having to go to work. This means both practical and financial help. IAB employees are being trained – through an Egyptian organisation – to support families. In essence, IAB staff visit Egyptian families who are identified within the scheme and assist them with the businesses in which they are engaged, for example, with marketing and accounting expertise. Nashaat says this type of effort is all about showing support for Egyptian society and assisting with its advancement as a whole.
Returning to aviation, we come to the environment for performing ground services in Egypt, ie the airports. Airports in Egypt have been undergoing huge development in recent years. Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada have been doubled in terms of capacity. Also, a further international airport has been opened in the south called Suhag – this has been done to boost the travel market between the Gulf region and Egypt for Gulf workers.
Perhaps a good word for summing up activities in Egypt is “progress”. Change has come to this country and change is touching everyone – both within the country and, as IAB has shown, from inside the country to the international markets.