Aviation Business touches base with aviation services provider dnata for an update on the latest developments with its ground handling, catering and air cargo divisions. Originally published in AVB's May 2019 issue.
Jaffar Dawood, SVP, Airline Services, dnata, on the company’s ground handling operations
AVB: What can you tell me about dnata’s regional strategy for 2019? Any insights on last year’s performance?
JD: In 2018, dnata’s dedicated teams handled 90 million passengers and moved 733,000 tons of cargo in Dubai, which represent a slight growth compared to the previous year. In 2019, we will continue to invest in our operations to enhance our safety culture and sustain our remarkable safety performance.
We stay committed to using the latest technologies, including automation and robotics, to improve efficiency and productivity.
AVB: On the ground handling side, what has the company done in the last year to improve its capabilities?
JD: At Dubai World Central (DWC) we continued to test new equipment and processes at the passenger terminal, which has been undergoing significant expansion works to serve the future growth of travellers and flights. The learning from these tests is also being applied to enhance the efficiency of our operations at Dubai International (DXB).
We partnered with flydubai to trial remote control electric vehicles used to push back narrow-body aircraft. From your perspective, what factors do you think ground services firms will need to consider in the coming years in order to stay ahead of the competition?
We identify key trends and rigorously challenge our processes and work practices to increase efﬁciency and improve customer experience. We also engage and collaborate with our stakeholders in the aviation eco-system to drive innovation and ultimately to deliver better services for our customers.
AVB: What would you identify as the current challenges faced with ground handling operations, and has anything changed in terms of the type of demands coming customers?
JD: The main challenges for 2019 include Southern Runway Rehabilitation (SRR) where many of our customers reduce flights at Dubai International (DXB) and some operate from Dubai World Central (DWC).
We have moved over 900 pieces of ground services equipment and 2,000 colleagues to DWC to ensure smooth and safe operations of over 3,000 relocated flights. We continue to work hard to deliver the best possible services for all customers at both airports.
Kevin Ennis, VP, Commercial and Business Development Cargo, dnata, sheds light on the firm’s cargo operations
AVB: In terms of cargo, have you seen a significant change in demand for specialised cargo? Has dnata made any recent headway within this arena?
KE: Besides processing general cargo, we are experts at handling pharma, perishables, sea/air cargo, live animals (crocodiles, sharks, race horses, domestic pets), perishables, dangerous goods, out of gauge cargo (helicopters, pipes, other project equipment), race cars and vintage cars.
Currently, we handle annually approximately 135,000 tons of perishable cargo and 100,000 tons of express courier annually at our dedicated facilities. We do anticipate growth in our courier business mainly due to the increasing number of e-commerce shipments.
We continually invest in our equipment and facilities to ensure efficient and safe handling of specialized cargo. Our state-of-the-art equipment and facilities include:
Roller Bed Trailer
We’ve recently added the ‘Cartel Roller Bed’ trailer to our growing fleet of specialised equipment at Dubai World Central. This innovative equipment enables us to handle special cargo, oversize shipments and aircraft engines in a seamless way; without the need to use cranes or forklifts.
Our Cool Dollies provide temperature-controlled transport between warehouse and aircraft. This helps us handle each shipment with special care and protects shipments from extreme temperatures on the tarmac.
Air Ride Dollies
Aircraft engines require specialised care. The air ride dollies ensure that expensive aircraft engines are delivered or picked up seamlessly and safely.
Pharma handling facility
We are focused on providing our customers with enhancements in the safety and security of their pharma shipments. We use the latest technology, best practices and certiﬁed warehouses to ensure that every pharma and vaccine shipment that reaches the end consumer is handled in compliance with international certiﬁed standards.
Our Dubai operations have been awarded IATA’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma). This ensures we have the proven capability to manage the movement of pharmaceutical products safely and reliably, under the strictest quality standards.
Mark Whelan, GM of dnata’s UAE catering operations, shares an update on his division
AVB: On the catering side of things, how has dnata continued to expand its catering offering?
MW: As the leading flight caterer at Sharjah International Airport, our team continues to expand through innovation in inflight retail, in-airport F&B and opening opportunity in other segments.
In the past year, we commenced catering operations for Dubai’s largest desert safari operator, serving Arabic and international cuisine to more than 70,000 customers.
We also introduced a new customer service training programme, ‘Five winning ways’, and an extensive crew training, incentive and engagement programme – an initiative that helps drive significant improvement for our inflight retail airline customers.
Delivering expansion and improvement for our customers has been driven by a more engaged workforce at our end. With our annual ‘Alpha’s got talent’ day now accompanied by other employee events, we’re investing significantly in the engagement of our own employees – which is driving productivity improvement and clear retention benefits.
As Sharjah airport and its airlines continue to grow, our commitment and investment in our Sharjah business will continue too.