Taking flight across the USA

posted on 20th August 2019
Taking flight across the USA

PrimeFlight Aviation Services focused on quality and is grows its footprint, writes Justin Burns

PrimeFlight Aviation Services sees operational challenges in the rest of 2019 but on a more positive note it is optimistic that the tide is turning in regards to tight margins, as airline customers seek quality.

Wayne Ingle, VP, Safety & Operational Support, PrimeFlight, foresees recruiting and the growing number of competitors to be 2019’s most significant headwinds.

“We are also keeping an eye on the possible reduction in allotted aircraft turn time looming with some airlines,” he said.

Recruitment is an ongoing issue for the handler, like for many in the industry and Ingle said with US unemployment rates declining, it has seen turnover increasing along with a smaller applicant pool.

“This, combined with the lower margins required to win new business has further increased the challenges in finding qualified employees that possess the safety and customer service focus required in the time sensitive business in which we operate,” he added.

As for margins, which are tight for PrimeFlight, Ingle believes this has come as the industry has seen a large number of service companies entering this market, driving down both costs and margins.

He said this, combined with airlines operating on tighter margins with fears of another downturn within the industry, have caused margins to sink even lower.

“However, we are starting to see this turn back around with some carriers more focused on keeping service quality levels high,” he said. “We see carriers willing to pay fair rates particularly to ground handling providers that are willing to invest in their carrier partners’ success.

“Our continued investment in areas ranging from safe equipment and increased training to employee development and safety programs will ensure our carrier partners continue to provide a safe, on-time performance for their passengers.”

Ingle feels that there is a way to increase margins for ground handlers.

“Reducing turnover, flexing labour with seasonal changes and fleet optimization all play a significant role in improving margins while also helping to provide a safe and on-time service delivery on behalf of carriers and passengers alike,” he said.

He said PrimeFlight itself sees industry consolidation, as with the number of service provider options increasing, there will be rising pressure on service providers and a stronger focus on driving up service levels.

“With this stronger focus on service levels, we hope to see carriers shift from a cost driven decision-making process to giving their business to the best provider at the fairest price,” Ingle said. “We think this shift in priorities will drive the consolidation of providers.”

PrimeFlight has itself expanded, as in June it acquired Washington-based air cargo and ground handling company, Majestic Terminal Services. This move means it has grown its handling footprint as well as adding new service offerings to its network, including air cargo and charter support services.

With a presence at 11 airports across the US, Majestic offers a multitude of services including cargo, mail, ground handling, truckyard, charter, shuttle, aircraft cleaning and ground support equipment maintenance services.

Majestic will operate under its brand as a wholly owned subsidiary, as PrimeFlight works to integrate the operations into its service network.

Majestic president Brian Cella said at the time, as a result of this acquisition, it will have the ability to scale and it anticipates tremendous growth opportunities to help it take on the market with a “renewed vigour”.

Many ground handling companies are moving into new services to expand their portfolios and boost revenue. Ingle said PrimeFlight believes “whole-heartedly” in being able to provide partners with a wide range of services, from passenger assistance and ground handling to fuelling and deicing, meaning it is better able to align priorities with t and become a true partner.

Ingle said: “Seeing our customer relationships as partnerships, and having the common goal of creating a seamless and enjoyable travel experience for each customer, allows us to focus first on safety, quality and on-time performance through all facets of our service delivery.

“The second focus then becomes how to increase our service delivery efficiency, whether that’s being able to cross-train and cross-utilize employees or creating a more efficient management structure to act on our customers’ behalf. These efforts allow us to reduce turnover and increase both service levels and margins as a result.”

Investment in innovation and technology both now and in the future is also important for PrimeFlight, in Ingle’s view, as technology in his opinion is a driving factor in operational efficiency.

“We are actively engaged in projects that will help improve not only our service levels but how we staff, operate, and assign the workload. We see being able to invest in technology and operational resources as necessary to staying completive within the industry,” he said,

Ingle added investing in technology goes hand in hand with investing in the safety of its workforce and it strongly considers technology when selecting assets and systems that drive operations.

“Our goal is to do everything we can to provide the safest and most operator-friendly equipment possible to reduce risk to our employees,” he said. “As a result, we leverage tech, such as anti-collision technology, in both our training and safety systems.”