Handling in the untapped continent

posted on 14th May 2019
Handling in the untapped continent

Egyptian headquartered Aviary continues to evolve and is looking to widen its presence, writes Justin Burns

Cairo-based ground handler Aviary has built up a strong and sustainable business providing services in Egypt and other countries in Africa.
Mahmoud Farrag, Chief Executive Officer, Aviary, sees operational

challenges in 2019, the main one being keeping a balance between soaring operational expenses, achieving a profit margin while still offering top-class services.
“In Aviary, we pride ourselves into providing our partner airlines with comprehensive, multi-perspective solutions while conforming to their budget needs and striving to cut costs on their operations,” he explains.

The handler sees its geographical location in Africa as providing plenty of opportunities to grow and Farrag says it has always considered Africa to be a growing aviation market, promising mutual long-term and lucrative cooperation.

“Hence, Aviary has built powerful partnerships with African airlines and has become the sole handling agent for Eritrean Airlines in Cairo,” he says. “More contracts are now being under negotiations and all through 2019 we will be announcing the establishment of partnerships with prominent, world-class airlines.”

Africa is the world’s least developed ground handling market and arguably faces some of the toughest headwinds, notably security and Egypt has itself been targeted.
Farrag says security is becoming more and more challenging and issues like terrorist attacks or illegal migration have prompted airports and ground handlers to invest heavily in all security aspects.
To meet this, he notes implementation of biometrics, face border controls, and CCTV are becoming airports biggest concerns now but on the other hand, ground handlers are more focused on security services provision and training for security personnel.

In order to keep updated with the latest market security trends, Aviary has created a team dedicated to providing security services for airlines while thoroughly analysing their needs and future requirements. Team members are given extensive training on document verification, passenger profiling, aircraft access control, gate control, catering escort and crew escort.

Farrag believes ground handling is a “difficult industry” and Aviary does not see it “becoming easier”. A key reason for this he feels is the fierce completion which urges GHs to drop prices and hence leading to slim operating margins. “Such extreme is not beneficial. While margins are narrow, we believe that ground handlers still should work with airlines in order to survive and flourish,” he says.

“We are well aware of the airline economic performance, taking note of the impact of oil prices and other factors so we strive to reduce costs and increase revenue streams for our partners airlines.”
But how does he think GHs can increase their margins?

“Ground handlers can increase their margins by consolidation with other ground handlers overseas and having sister companies with whom they can standardise their services, thus offering passengers better services and aircraft shorter turnarounds wherever they are,” he explains. “They can also increase their own profits by aiding carriers to increase theirs as well, through updating them with the latest local authorities’ decrees concerning exemptions and incentive programs.”

In his view market consolidation is “indispensable” for GHs when it comes to surviving both the local and global competition and offering better aviation solutions. “Consolidation is crucial for understanding how different nationalities think and work and the needs of foreign carriers and their crews and passengers,” he added.
Aviary itself has started establishing partnerships with GHs in countries within Middle East Africa to be able to cover client airlines needs in a wider area.
Farrag is in no doubt that GHs need to diversify to be successful and feels GHs don’t adapt and fail to meet the expectations they find themselves left behind. “Ground handlers should constantly look for ways to reinvent themselves, work with their customer airlines, being aware of the airlines’ needs and seek new business lines and find ways of increasing revenues,” he concludes.