Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) has awarded the licences for the ground handling-operations at South Africa’s airports to Menzies Africa and BidAir Services, and has said that a third licence will be awarded by June.

The appointment of BidAir Services and Menzies Aviation follows a drive by Acsa in 2005 to improve ground-handling operations at airports. A study indicated that Acsa should pursue the appointment of two licensees and, as a result of the growing market, it was suggested that a third ground handler should be appointed.

The awarding of the licences for ground handling is also a direct result of Acsa’s drive to improve ground-handling services and safety and security for both airlines and passengers.

While Acsa says that it would be proud if a South African company was awarded the third license, as an organ of State, Acsa operations director Bongani Maseko tells Engineering News that there are tender rules that Acsa strictly adheres to.

Maseko says that South African companies, especially black-empowered companies, should play a significant role in the aviation industry, and that it is important for South African companies to start partnering with international companies.

The appointment of BidAir and Menzies signifies a new beginning for Acsa in its efforts to take ground handling to a new level, Maseko tells Engineering News.

“In the past, we had safety and security issues in the handling of passengers baggage, as well as with ramp handling operations. We are investing in these two companies, which will now manage our previous challenges and ensure that service levels are improved significantly for the satisfaction of the airlines and passengers,” says Maseko.

For the first time, stringent service level agreements have been signed between the licensees and ACSA, to ensure service levels are adhered to, and it will allow Acsa to review the performance of the ground-handling companies. In the event of unsatisfactory performance, and of failure to rectify noncompliance, Acsa can enforce its contractual rights, which include cancellation of the licenses.

BidAir and Menzie will be operational from March 1 and are now contracted to manage over 500 000 aircraft movements and in excess of 33-million passengers a year.

BidAir senior executive sales and marketing Bob Gurr says that the company spent about R220-million in capital expenditure to cater for wide-body (double- aisle aircraft) as well as narrow-body (single-aisle aircraft) handling, and Menzies Africa director Forsyth Black says that the company has invested about R170-million in South Africa.

Acsa, Menzies and BidAir affirms that all employees of the ground-handling companies have undergone stringent assessment and people who have the relevant capabilities to perform the technical competencies required have been hired.

Acsa says it is “serious” about safety and security at airports. One initiative to improve safety includes the establishment of a baggage reaction team, which has resulted in a 44% decrease in theft, related to baggage handling at South Africa’s airports.

A comprehensive change management plan has been put in place at all Acsa airports, in cooperation with airlines, ground handlers and other stakeholders to ensure that operations run smoothly and service is not compromised during the change-over of ground-handling operations on March 1.

To view Bongani Maseko speaking about the appointment of the new ground-handling operators and efforts towards safety and security at South Africa’s airports, go to www.engineeringnews.co.za and click on video clips.