SA airports landing a better reputation

SA airports landing a better reputation

After passing a stringent audit by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Menzies Aviation OR Tambo International Airport is set to become the first South African operation to be awarded the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) quality accreditation.

In 2008, Menzies was granted an operating licence and took on an annualised 45 000 aircraft turnarounds and 70 000 aircraft cleans in one go. The company inherited poor and under-invested facilities and work practices from previous operators.

According to Forsyth Black, senior vice-president for Africa at Menzies Aviation, the reputation of South African airports is on the mend following years of damage inflicted as a result of baggage theft and unprofessional ground services. This is as a result of the breaking of monopolies and the introduction of more competition some years back – aiding the aviation industry and boosting the country’s image abroad.

“Pilferage cases, which used to be seen as the norm rather than the exception, have become rare. And each one is investigated fully and in the majority of cases arrests made,” says Black.

“South African airports were notorious for baggage theft, baggage mishandling, poor on-time performance, poor safety and security and poor customer service. Some of this was as a result of outdated infrastructure or overcapacity, which was solved with the 2010 World Cup building programme initiated by the Airports Company of South Africa. However, much of it was down to the poor management and discipline of previous licensees,” he says.

More than R200 million worth of specialist ground handling equipment was imported, the company also purchasing a cargo company, handling 40 000 tonnes of airfreight in the first year. Market-changing security performance was also brought about in all areas.

“We’ve been able to achieve the most secure and efficient cargo operation in South Africa, following a comprehensive internal audit programme to monitor and address quality issues. We’ve also made significant investments in the improvement of staff facilities, operational facilities, operations software in our cargo and ground handling businesses, and our warehouses and offices.

“In the four years since 2008, we have been able to engineer a complete mindset shift towards a zero-tolerance approach to safety, security, quality and discipline. Incidents of baggage mishandling have come down substantially, while theft has become a rare occurrence,” says Black.

Staff development has also played a role. “More than 90 percent or our employees are permanent – staff turnover has come down tremendously from the previous situation where handlers often used labour brokers and indulged in poor employment practices. A significant amount of knowledge and skills transfer to our South African staff, who make up 99 percent of our workforce, is constantly achieved, and all members of staff are able to up-skill into better paid jobs.”

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