The host city of the 29th IATA Ground Handling Conference is Toronto. While it has emerged as a leading global city, it remains very much a Canadian city, home to some of Canada’s most famous icons and a spectacular range of cultures
As the most populous city in Canada, and the fourth-most populous city in North America after Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles, it is no surprise that Toronto has a world-class international gateway. Last year, the city’s Toronto Pearson International Airport surpassed 40 million in annual passenger traffic, making it the first Canadian airport to do so.
At just around 35 million in population, the vast country has many empty spaces and long distances and relatively few international airports. Airports at its main cities, such as Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, St John’s and Halifax are served by a relatively small range of airline ground handlers. Not all handlers operate at all airports. Handlers are made up of a mix of global players – such as WFS and Swissport – and domestic operators such as Strategic Aviation of Kelowna, BC and Jazz Aviation ground handling.
The Canadian ground handling market is very competitive, with high GSE and labour costs. That is the observation of Mark Brown, president and CEO of Strategic Aviation. He says: “We enjoy success because we focus on our people and adapt to the needs of the airline. The big ground handlers focus on the large airports, and we find success in the tier two airports mainly. We have grown from six bases to 21 in three years, so opportunities are out there.”
Strategic Aviation currently handles Air Canada, Jazz, WestJet, Encore, Sunwing, Air Transat, Air North, Delta and Porter at Kelowna, Penticton, Castlegar, Victoria, Vancouver, Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Fort St John, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Brandon, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, Saint John, Fredericton, Halifax and St Johns. The company is seeing growth in the sector at present, Brown notes.
He says: “We offer ATW [above the wing], BTW [below the wing], de-icing, GSE maintenance and catering. We are mainly BTW, but over the last year we have been seeing more and more combined services above and below. For our Sky Café operation, we offer warehousing and trucking for airline catering and contract out the food preparation to reduce our costs and simplify our service.
“We like to say that we are the largest Canadian-owned and operated ground handling company in the world. While most Canadian-owned ground handlers are regional, we are proud to be coast to coast. On April 1 we opened five bases to handle Air Transat catering, followed by Delta Airlines ground handling in Victoria April 4 (above and below wing) and Delta in Vancouver on April 15 (BTW plus wheelchair handling). Our next big initiative is to be ISAGO certified by 2017.”
All that jazz
Marnie King agrees with Brown that the ground handling market in Canada is very competitive. Historically, the majority of ground handling providers in Canada have specialised in BTW services, with only a few offering ATW services. King is director of airports at Jazz Aviation.
She says: “There is a demand for ATW expertise and experience – a niche that Jazz Aviation is well positioned to fill. As the largest regional airline in Canada, operating approximately 600 daily flights, we understand the importance of operating safely, efficiently, and in a cost-effective manner. We have a team of experienced professionals deployed across many Canadian airports, ready to deliver a full range of airport services.”
Jazz Aviation is a Canadian regional airline based at Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Nova Scotia. National flag-carrier Air Canada is its sole customer under a Capacity Purchase Agreement (CPA) that is set to last until 2025.
Jazz Aviation ground handling currently provides third-party ground handling services to the following airlines:
• United Airlines – ATW and BTW services in London, ON and Victoria, BC.
• Air Transat – ATW and BTW services in Victoria, BC, and ATW service in Kelowna, BC.
• Sunwing – ATW services in North Bay, Sault Ste Marie, and Windsor, ON; Saint John, NB; and Val d’Or, QC.
Jazz Aviation offers above and below the wing services at two airports – London, ON and Victoria, BC. King says: “We are providing both services to our contracted airlines at these airports.
“Above the wing is our dominant product, offering check-in and gate management, ticketing, customer assistance with self-serve products and irregular operations, special needs handling, and baggage services.”
Nationally, the airline offers ground handling in eastern, central and western Canada. Airports covered include Gander, Deer Lake and Goose Bay, NF; Charlottetown, PE; Moncton and Saint John, NB; Quebec City, Rouyn-Noranda, Sept-Iles and Val d’Or QC; Thunder Bay and Windsor, ON; Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, AB; Regina and Saskatchewan, SK; Yellowknife, NT; and Whitehorse, YT; Penticton, Prince George, Terrace, BC.
The worldwide growth of low-cost carriers, with their particular needs for ground handling activities, is changing the face of Canadian aviation and presenting opportunities for Jazz, notes King.
She says: “We see some growth in the Canadian ground handling market, with new low-cost airline entrants. These are usually concentrated at Canada’s large airports.”
The 29th IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC), from May 15 to 18, has a theme of ‘Enhancing, Developing and Innovating: Grounds for Success’.
The IGHC is the premier annual ground handling industry conference. In 2016 the event is hosted by Air Canada (Platinum Sponsor).
Workshop topics include: GSE Innovation To Reduce Aircraft Damage; Partnership for Quality; Passenger Process; Preparing the Front Line Personnel for Crisis Communications in the Age of Social Media; ISAGO New Generation; Passenger Handling; and Working Together for a Safer Apron.