“We were glad to see the back of 2020,” says Mervyn Walker, Chief Operating Officer of Menzies Aviation, the global aviation logistics specialist which provides services at over 200 locations in more than 35 countries.
“This year is about recovery, but it will be the end of 2022 before we see a return to pre-Covid volumes,” says Walker. “It is currently a balancing act as the various governments wind down the job keeper and job retention support schemes and volume recovery does not quite keep pace with the cessation of the various schemes. Our regional teams are doing a fantastic job in the way they are responding to new schedules, often on a daily basis against a backdrop of continuous change to green, amber and red routes.”
It has been a period where all players have constantly had to juggle their operations in line with the status of the pandemic. “We are looking to balance our portfolio mix across fuels, ground servicing and cargo. Our cargo network has grown considerably over the last year and we now have 53 cargo stations,” explains Walker. “During the pandemic our wholesale freight forwarding business, AMI, has seen record growth and we are continually growing its global footprint. In many ways we see AMI as Menzies doing its bit to grow our support for our airline customers.”
“As we bring more ground service equipment (GSE) back onto the ramp, after scaling back the size of our fleet to match flight volumes, we are very aware of our goal to be carbon neutral by 2033,” states Walker. “One aspect that will help us achieve our net-zero ambition is investing in more electric GSE. Indeed, this year we will spend another $18 million on new GSE.”
The introduction of Covid protection measures for customers and staff has become a rigorous routine. “Throughout the pandemic we have carried out and continue to do on average more than 1,100 workplace inspections every week,” says Walker. “This is supplemented by more than 100 independent inspections each week. We ensure that we do all we can to stick to the hands, face, space initiatives so that our workplaces are as safe as we can make them. We continually encourage and assist our teams to get vaccinated and now a very high percentage of our front-line teams are fully vaccinated.”
While the story for all is mostly one of managing in a crisis, there are patches of growth. “In Australia, the Qantas group have outsourced to Menzies at five ports,” says Walker. “We have seen a big swing from a predominantly widebody operation to now a large narrowbody operation for Menzies Australia.”
“We see huge potential in emerging markets and have commenced operations at Baghdad International Airport after being awarded an exclusive contract to provide ground handling, cargo and fuelling services,” says Walker. “We have also launched operations at nine airports in Pakistan. In the Americas we took over the handling of a large-scale cargo operation for Avianca at Miami International Airport, another new airport for us, where we will handle about 250,000 tonnes annually. We have also opened in five new airports in Western Canada including Abbotsford and Victoria. So, the pandemic has created new opportunities as well as challenges for us.”
“For Menzies, safety will always be our number one priority,” explains Walker. “Year-on-year and on a like for like basis our number of accidents have reduced by over 50%. In the high-risk area of towing, network-wide we have introduced the ‘tow team warning system’ to assist our operatives in manoeuvring aircraft in congested aprons more safely. In addition, we have put the ‘smart drive system’ into 660 heavy pieces of equipment with another 520 pieces of equipment to follow. Smart drive helps us with driver awareness and the overall improvement of driving skills. We want to be the safest ground services provider in the sector.”