Menzies Service Takes Off!!

The Sure Maritime Team is very happy to report that the reputation of SA airports is on the mend after years of damage inflicted by baggage theft and unprofessional ground services.



Some of the problem was due to outdated infrastructure — solved by the 2010 World Cup building programme — but much of it was ostensibly down to poor ground handling management. “Johannesburg is no longer seen as the global hot spot for baggage theft,” says Forsyth Black, senior vice-president for Africa of Menzies Aviation. “It used to be notorious but now we can count on one hand the cases that happen in a year to our airline customers in SA .” The UK-based global ground handling company was brought in by the Airports Company SA (Acsa) along with SA- owned BidAir Services in a spring-cleaning operation in 2008. It was one of the biggest service switch-overs ever in the airport industry, with the new licensees inheriting facilities and work practices from previous operators which were poor and underinvested. Since then, the number of bags pilfered a day at OR Tambo International Airport has dropped from 36 to nine — of the more than 40000 bags screened. Acsa communications manager Unathi Batyashe-Fillis says the ground handling companies are governed by stringent service level agreements, compelling them to introduce measures to reduce pilferage. Acsa has also redesigned the baggage sorting area to accommodate fully automated screening, invested R20m in security infrastructure, and employed a full-time manager of public safety and security. Menzies — which services about a third of all aircraft landing in SA, excluding SAA — imported more than R200m worth of specialist ground handling equipment and made significant investments to improve staff and operational facilities. Black also filled hundreds of posts in the SA operation with ex-army recruits from SA military bases. He likens ground handling to a “militaristic operation” or a Formula 1 pit stop in that it must be performed with precision, in perfect sequence and is very time sensitive. “It seems the old li censees just threw more people at a problem, instead of discipline,” he says. “Our company comes from a culture where you do your job according to the rules or you’ll be dealt with by the book.” Menzies chases down every incident of pilfering and has a 90% conviction rate.

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