The standards of ground handling at airports in Africa vary widely due partly to the lack of or inadequate oversight by the responsible authorities. Similarly, infrastructure and facilities for handling passengers/cargo in many airports are inadequate, dilapidated or limited. The effect of this is that, quality standards are low in many airports while handling cost is high. The handling charges and fees in African airports are among the highest in the world.
While airlines sign ground handling agreements with service providers and expect to be provided with the full complement of support staff and facilities, often times the same airlines, are compelled to hire additional support staff and incur other costs to ensure their operations are conducted smoothly. Safety and pilferage are other major costly challenges faced by airlines at many African airports.
This concept paper is aimed at reviewing options for ground handling cooperation among airlines with the view to adopting and implementing cost-effective common solutions that will address some of the handling challenges faced by airlines.
Purpose of the concept paper
The purpose of this concept paper is to identify and bring together interested airlines to constitute a Task Force that will review the challenges airlines are faced with at various airports and propose joint solutions that will improve service delivery, safe costs and ensure accountability by airport service providers. The Task Force will conduct due diligence and undertake cost/benefit analysis to ascertain the viability and cost effectiveness of the project and also carry out implementation of the project objectives.
Possible Areas of Cooperation
1. Improve safety and safety governance at airports: Many airports do not adhere to the stipulated ICAO standards for ground handling and this often results in accidents and damage to aircraft and other properties of airlines. Supervision or provision of oversight for handling companies is often inadequate or non-existent. The Task Force will propose measures through which it could pressurize the responsible authority to intensify oversight and bring about quality assurance by handlers.
2. Adoption of ISAGO: The Task Force will encourage the adoption of ISAGO by handling companies while working with ACI-Africa to seek assistance to fast-track the adoption of safety improvement measures.
3. Sharing of airport audit findings to reduce cost resulting from multiple audits: Instead of each individual airline conducting separate airport audits on their handling service provider, a joint audit could be conducted at regular intervals and the report shared by the airlines. This will reduce the cost associated with duplicate audits.
4. Pilferage and baggage theft: There is widespread baggage theft and pilferage at many airports and though all airlines suffer from this bad practice, they keep the information/data to themselves. The Task Force will collate data on baggage theft and pilferage at airports so that AFRAA can use the information to lobby the relevant stakeholders to improve security and deter theft.
5. Provide assistance to each other in the event of unscheduled diversion of flights: Explore opportunities of reciprocal handling assistance at airports in the event of a diversion, especially in situations where the diverted airline has no ground handler at the airport but another airline does.
6. Share and effectively utilize handling staff and other resources at airports: Despite signing ground handling agreements with handling companies, airlines often have to employ additional staff. In cases where such staff are under-utilised, e.g. due to low frequencies, airlines may wish to use one pool of staff to handle the different airlines flights instead of each employing its own complement of local staff. This will result in effective utilization of staff and lower staff cost per airline.
7. Commensurate level of services for charges/fees levies and transparency in fixing airport charges and fees: There is lack of transparency in the way charges and fees for services rendered to airlines are arrived at. Often, there is a disparity between the charges/fees and the level of services provided. There is a need to pressurize airports to involve airlines in the determination of the cost of the services they consume.
Work of the Task Force
Some of the deliverables for the Ground Handling Task Force will include among others the following:
• Identify airlines willing to cooperate in the above ground handling areas
• Determine the viability of each of the above areas of cooperation
• Develop a business case for each of the viable cooperation propositions
• Seek support for implementation
• Cooperate and work with ACI-Africa
AFRAA together with the Task Force will identify a Project Champion and Chairman of the working group.
The Task Force is expected to complete its work by March 2013. Should it be found that the project is viable; the implementation process will need to begin. In this regard, a Steering Committee made up of participating airlines will be set up to drive the project forward.
The FOC acts as an advisor to the Executive Committee and the Secretary General on all financial matters relating to the finances of the Association and financial matters connected with air transport.
(i) Review the annual budgets, statements of accounts and internal and external audit reports of the Association.
(ii) Select and recommend to the Executive Committee the appointment of External Auditors
(iii) Conduct internal audit of the Association
(iv) Review the financial policies and procedures from time to time and recommend changes as necessary to ensure transparency and accountability
(v) Review and recommend membership contributions, partnership fees or any fees and charges payable
Membership consists of 4 representatives elected from among the Chief Financial Officers of AFRAA Member Airlines. Members are proposed by the Secretary General and appointed by the Executive Committee subject to approval of the AGA. The four representatives from member airlines to serve for only 3 years period after which the same airline may be eligible to participate in the committee but nominate a different candidate from the same airline.
The Committee meets at least once each year.
The Committee shall set its own annual work program and action plan which shall be approved by the Executive Committee.
The Manager Corporate Finance and Administration will be the Secretary of the Committee.
The objective of the MRO Task Force is to explore the feasibility of joint pooling of inventory, collective purchase of certain items and optimal use of MRO facilities. The Task Force will also identify MRO organisations willing to cooperate and have identified a possible technical partner.
Members of the Task Force met in April 2011 and among the priority tasks was for the Secretariat to market African MROs. In this regard, it was agreed that the world class organisations be listed on the AFRAA website. This has been completed and all EASA/FAA certified African MRO organisations can easily be accessed through a link on the website which also shows the contact details of the key contact personnel for the organisations.
The MRO organisations featured here are Air Algerie Technics, EgyptAir Maintenance and Engineering, Ethiopian Airlines, Libyan Aircraft Engineering and Maintenance, Royal Air Maroc, South African Airways Technical, Snecma Engine Services and Tunisair Technics. The web link is www.afraa.org home page clearly shown under MROs so that just one click displays the contact details of the organisations. The organisations will be published in the AFRAA Annual Reports and the activities now regularly feature in AFRAA monthly newsletters.
The following airlines are members of the MRO Task Force:
a. TAAG Angola
b. Air Mauritius
d. Kenya Airways
e. South African Airways Technical
The main focus of the Task Force is to facilitate cooperation among African MROs for the purpose of reducing costs and marketing the MROs to encourage patronage particularly by airlines on the continent.
One main task for the Secretariat has been to include all the FAA/EASA certified MROs on the revamped AFRAA website. This allows visitors to AFRAA website to have direct access to the activities and capabilities of African MROs on a single click. The contact persons and details are also available on the website. MROs are encouraged to update their information and should there be any changes in personnel, to advise the Secretariat immediately so as to update the website.
The Secretariat is compiling the approvals held by the MROs so that they can be able to access areas of synergies and cooperation.
A project of this nature requires assistance from some competent stakeholders. In this regard, Lufthansa Consulting have expressed interest in working with the Task Force and have offered to make a presentation at the next meeting. Members of the Task Force will be kept updated on developments in this area.
Lufthansa Consulting have expressed interest in collaborating with the Task Force by providing their expertise to facilitate the attainment of its objectives.
One of the major area of focus of AFRAA as stipulated in the Business Plan is aviation emission. With deeper understanding of the effect of human activities on the environment and the natural calamities attributed to greenhouse effect aviation contribution to environment degradation through aircraft emission has become a major global issue. Though findings related to aviation emissions show that total CO2 aviation emissions are approximately 2% of the Global Greenhouse Emissions, this is however expected to grow.
Many African Airlines have joined the rest of the airline industry and have embarked on several programmes to reduce emissions among which are the major fleet renewal programme and the adoption of the ICAO Environmental System Management by some African airlines. Several AFRAA member airlines are also actively engaged and supporting national efforts to improve the environment. Ethiopian Airlines (a tree for each passenger) and Kenya Airways programs among others are setting good examples in this area.
Going forward, AFRAA will continue to lobby for a global solution to aviation emission and support ICAO’s Council Resolution on aviation emission and the realization of the principle of common but differentiated application. It will continue to lobby against unilateral measures by individual states such as the EU – ETS being imposed on international air transport.
AFRAA will also facilitate joint approach and cooperation among member airlines with the view to reduce cost of implementation of ETS through economies of scale, sharing of best practices, expertise and resources.
In order to coordinate activities in this area and channel participation of interested members, AFRAA will establish an Environment Task Force (ETF) consisting of experts from member airlines. The Task Force will identify areas of cooperation and joint projects that will assist members reduce cost of meeting environmental regulation requirements including cost relating to the implementation of the EU- ETS and create a forum for sharing of best practices and expertise and resources.
In addition interested partners of AFRAA will be invited to support AFRAA and its members’ effort in this area including proposing joint solutions and shared systems, capacity building through workshops and seminars.
Airlines face a complex structure of operational costs and charges imposed by various airport and government authorities. Charges imposed by airport and government authorities include, charges for air navigation services, airport charges and government taxes. Collectively, these charges constitute a substantial amount of the cost of the air travel which the airlines’ customers directly pay or the carriers pass over to them.
In Africa it is believed that charges and taxes are even significantly higher in comparison to most other regions. The impact of high taxes and charges coupled with deficient facilities and infrastructure in the region will be significant, as Africa becomes one of the fastest growing traffic in the world.
The lack of credible and sufficient data, the absence of proper regulatory oversight of the monopoly service providers in many countries and the lack of transparency and consultation in the setting up of these taxes and charges have left airlines with very little opportunity to influence the decisions.
In view of the above and in line with AFRAA’s new business plan, taxes and charges will be one of AFRAAs focus area. The main objective in this regard will be to reduce the cost to the member airlines and their customers arising from existing and future excessively high taxes and charges.
Towards this end, AFRAA is establishing a Taxes and Charges Task Force (‘TCTF”) which will study and analysis existing taxes and charges and identify airports where these charges are excessively high and propose effective ways and means of addressing them. The Task Force will also support the Secretariat’s initiatives to collect sufficient data to support the work of the Task Force.
Traveling in Africa today is much easier and convenient than it was a few years ago thanks to the intra-African spread of some of the continent's carriers. But the frequency of flights is still limited and the daily spread concentrated at peak times only. Many of the airlines do not align their schedules with each other, resulting in mis-connections, long lay-overs at airports and sometimes extra costs incurred in accommodating passengers in hotels.
The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) launched an African Route Network Cooperation project with the objective of increasing intra-African flight frequencies and offering flexibility to travelers while increasing airlines revenue at minimum cost. According to AFRAA, many African carriers currently optimize their own network but have limited coordination with other African carriers. Changing this trend to a more cooperative results driven approach through schedule optimization and code-share will deliver significant incremental revenue and benefits for airlines by:
• Growing flights connectivity between African cities and between Africa and other regions by coordinating each carrier frequencies, day of operation, and departure time
• Developing the airline schedule on markets where the carriers have small or limited exposure
• Adding new destinations under the airline own code without operating the route
• Improving aircraft utilization and use aircraft resources in new markets
• Enhancing elapse time on beyond markets to increase carriers market share
• Analyzing new market opportunities by specific carrier and potential partners
• Reviewing opportunities to seasonally reduce schedules between two or more carriers in common markets
Objectives of the Project
• Coordinate and harmonise flight schedules with the view to proposing alternative cost-effective schedules that will generate increased load factors and revenue
• Improve intra-African connectivity and increase flight frequencies as well as offer flexibility to travellers
• Reduce travel time, minimise passenger layover (hotel accommodation) and assist airlines to realise synergy through collaborative network development
• Encourage cooperation through code-share, interline, Special Pro-rate Agreements (SPAs) and other such commercial arrangements
Benefits of the Project to Participating Airlines
• Airlines' schedules harmonization at various airports to facilitate connectivity and passenger/cargo transfer or exchange
• Traffic/network rationalization and profitability analysis will benefits all participating airlines
• More airlines will interline, codeshare, conduct joint operations or joint utilisation of aircraft
• Reduce passengers transit time and offer competitive service
• Minimize number of transit passengers that are accommodated by airlines
• Lower operating costs, higher load factors and increase revenues
• Stimulate incremental traffic and revenue to airlines because of convenient connections and schedules
Basic Function of the Task Force
Develop a mechanism for identifying routes with growth potential but inadequately served, rationalize the networks of operators to stimulate additional traffic and improve flight connectivity to minimize/eliminate long transit times. This project ultimately aims to encourage airlines to forge beneficial commercial cooperation .
Detailed Work of the Task Force
• Identify airlines that operate to specific airports but do not feed each other, yet have potential to mutually benefit from their flights connections
• Determine viable routes for schedules realignment and/or network rationalization
• Demand analysis: Collect actual city-pair as well as origin-destination traffic and forecast to analyze and determine actual traffic between each city-pair
• Identify technical partners that can assist in evaluating the routes profitability and scheduling realignment
• Perform costs/benefits analysis of each city-pair
• Determine the incremental revenue/costs for each city-pair
• Analyze the financial benefits airlines could potentially gain from network coordination/aligning schedules
• Sensitize airlines on the benefits (financial or otherwise) in participating in the project
• Propose solutions to any concerns that may be highlighted by airlines
• Seek airline Champions for the project
• Put together a business case for the project
Membership shall consist of network carriers interested in the project.
The dates for the 2015 meetings were agreed as follows:
The Chairman of the Task Force is Mr. Mihretab Gebru, Marketing Officer – Network Planning, Ethiopian Airlines. The Vice Chairman of the Committee is Ms. Lucie Malu, Alliance Manager – Africa, Kenya Airways and the Secretary and Project Coordinator is Dr. Koussai Mrabet, Director, Commercial, Corporate & Industry Affairs of AFRAA.