Setting the pace

posted on 25th April 2018

Mehmet Murat Nursel, senior vice president of QAS, took some time to talk to AGS about the company’s dynamic approach to the ground handling business

Established in 2000, Qatar Aviation Services (QAS) is an award-winning ground handling organisation whose global headquarters is at Hamad International Airport (HIA), the hub airport of Qatar Airways. There, it provides the full spectrum of ground handling services, above and below the wing, to all airlines using the airport.
QAS holds ISAGO, ISO 9000 and Regulated Agent 3 certifications. It is a member of the IATA Ground Handling Partnership, and is active in several IATA Technical Groups: IATA Ground Operations Manual; Load Control and Messaging; Ground Service Equipment and Environment; and the Airside Safety Group. The company’s management team holds key positions in these technical groups, proposing and implementing developments that improve standards across the aviation industry.
Nursel joined QAS in March 2014 as vice president operations, with over 19 years’ experience in ground handling operations (he was previously COO of Celebi Ground Handling in Turkey). He is now senior vice president of Doha-based QAS.

How competitive is the handling environment in Qatar these days, and what makes QAS stand out in the market in terms of the services it provides?
The ground handling environment globally has never been busier or more challenging. This is equally so for Qatar, since HIA is one of the newest, busiest and fastest-growing hub airports in the world. QAS has to keep pace with that growth.
Being the only GHA at HIA not only gives QAS a monopoly position in the business, but also requires us to provide every possible service that a GHA could be asked for. There is no option for us. This is important because it has stretched and strengthened QAS to be the best in a high-tech, high-traffic and high-growth hub airport environment.
It is important to understand that an ideal ground handling partner for an airport or airline has to always possess greater service capacity than the airport or airline requires at any time. Otherwise the GHA holds back its customer’s growth, rather than empowering it. That is the great competitive advantage that QAS provides because of its target-recruited QAS team. We identify character and expertise and recruit on both these factors. The result is a very ‘human’, ‘high-touch’ and customer-focused service delivery.

What about specific technology and other solutions – how has QAS innovation contributed to the ground handling industry?
QAS has a strong customer focus ensuring that the incorporation of technology into operations has led to greater efficiency and saving money and time for our airline and airport customers. QAS is a change-leader, either as an early adopter or as innovator.
We have developed our own proprietary technology, which has led to other GHAs copying us to remain competitive. A few examples are:
1. QAS Ramp Clearance Module provides excellence in turnaround functionality and performance monitoring through QMobile. This ensures complete transparency of operational performance, leading to optimal turnaround and ramp clearance.
2. QAS Care mobility solutions provide our PRM customers with connectivity assistance and comfort. More than 2,000 passengers per day from all over the world utilise this technology-enabled and highly personalised service.
3. Bag View, the result of collaboration with Amadeus and Qatar Airways’ IT department, ensures that passengers and their bags stay together. By electronically monitoring passenger boarding data, the system can automatically enable their baggage for loading or offloading. This industry-leading innovation contributes to enhanced security and turnaround performance.
4. IATA RP 1800 is QAS’s answer to implementing the requirements for automated baggage handling for IATA Resolution 753. Further to this, and together with HIA, QAS is taking a lead role to initiate IATA to trial the implementation for electronic bag tags (EBT). QAS will be soon able to handle EBT technology.
5. QAS Resource Management System has led to the radical optimisation of resources across all aspects of our operations. This has resulted in savings of time and money for our airport and airline customers.

The great challenge of any hub, especially in heavily trafficked regions, is passenger growth and airport growth. We have illustrated a few specific examples of how we anticipate and keep ahead of our customers’ growth demands, and so enable their growth rather than hinder it by not being prepared.
HIA for example, has an average annual growth in excess of 20%, so we have to keep ahead of this growth to provide consistently seamless solutions and enhance the passenger’s experience. QAS is proud of our performance record.

How closely do you – and other stakeholders – work with the airport on issues relating to ground handling operations?
The advantage of being part of the Qatar Airways Group is that we are one team committed to common solutions to shared challenges. We sit on shared committees and working groups. That is the QAS mindset and method, which we take into our working relationships with other customer airports and airlines.
On the community front, QAS has a demonstrated commitment to giving back to the community and being a responsible corporate citizen. One example of this is our environmental policy of reducing CO2 emissions by replacing fuel-powered vehicles with battery-powered ones. In addition, our annual QAS day brings together the whole QAS community and their families to celebrate our joint commitment to one another’s safety in the workplace and the home. At QAS, we care for one another.

What is the biggest challenge facing ground handlers around the world today? What could be done to overcome this challenge?
We have already talked about the challenge of growth. But the equally great challenge is managing the cost control of in-house operations so as to maintain the quality of service delivery. As a result QAS has been able to maintain its ‘high-touch’ levels, or personalised service.
For QAS this is a great differentiator. Everywhere people travel these days, automation has meant dispensing with the human element, but we recognise that our staff are our ‘business-difference’. Our systems and technology support our staff in delivering excellence and a premium service, not requiring them to adapt to the requirements of technology.

Is QAS planning to expand and if so, can you provide details?
QAS has become a benchmark for performance excellence among GHAs globally. Since 2000, we have been keeping ahead of the growth needs of one of the fastest-growing airlines and airports in the world. We have the capacity and our services are in demand. This provides the ideal combination for QAS to expand, so 2018 will be an interesting year for new steps beyond Doha, Qatar.

Let’s consider the broader context of the market: how have political and other macro developments (in Qatar and the wider Middle East region) affected the flow of passengers and freight through Doha over the past year? Are you optimistic regarding the future of Qatar’s aviation industry?
The future is very bright for aviation and for the Qatar Airways group in particular. The unique circumstances in which we are conducting business has necessitated that we grow. As a result, we have demonstrated to the world our capacity for resilience and rapid expansion. That is not set to slow down, but to continue to rise.
The IATA Ground Handling Conference is a great opportunity to showcase QAS on the global stage. We invite and welcome all delegates for this journey in April 2018.