At the end of September, it was announced that UK-based ground services provider OmniServ had officially rebranded as ABM. Meanwhile it has taken steps to optimise its performance during this incredibly difficult year
OmniServ’s aviation products take in mobility and VIP passenger service provision, passenger bussing, logistics, ground handling, and aircraft and airport cleaning. While providing services at more than 100 airports around the world, it has a particularly strong presence in the UK and the US. As well as its activity at Heathrow and various other airports across Britain, it has provided bespoke handling services for Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair at London Stansted under the name Blue Handling.
Established in 2004, OmniServ was acquired in 2012 by ABM Industries, a provider of facility management services. ABM has global revenues of approximately US$6.5 billion and employs more than 140,000 people across over 350 offices throughout the US, UK and other international locations.
ABM says that the rebrand brings together “OmniServ’s reputation for excellence in airport services with the facilities expertise ABM has developed globally throughout its 110-year history and cements ABM’s market-leading position in the aviation industry”.
Antony Marke, group managing director of ABM’s aviation business, observes of the rebrand: “Our purpose is to take care of people, spaces and places. Our customers and the passengers we serve will benefit from working with one team, one approach and consistent service delivery.
“By looking after everything from cleaning and disinfecting to baggage handling and passengers requiring special assistance, we help ensure safe, consistent service for everyone who passes through an airport terminal.”
Charting a course through the pandemic
Jim Niblock, ABM Aviation’s UK operations director, tells Airside that aviation has been one of the hardest hit of all industries in this pandemic. Sadly, he says by the end of March this year, within just seven days of the UK’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme being announced, the company had furloughed around half of its workforce.
By the end of April, that proportion was over 80% – and then, at the peak of the pandemic, 90% of ABM UK’s teams were designated as furloughed workers.
As a result, he notes, “We have regrettably seen redundancies across our UK operation and it will take some time to recover.”
But ABM has also adapted to the circumstances and offered customers services designed for the times. It launched EnhancedClean, a comprehensive approach that goes beyond normal cleaning by using rigorous health protocols to ensure consistent cleaning and disinfecting by a specialist team.
Moreover, Niblock informs: “In aviation, we have been reimagining the customer journey and introducing new hygiene measures to increase visitor confidence. These include the use of electrostatic foggers to coat all surfaces with antimicrobial treatment, as well as frequent additional disinfection of high-frequency passenger touchpoints such as security trays and door handles using specialist disinfectant.”
At Glasgow Airport for example, ABM regularly makes use of electrostatic fogging machines that disinfect all areas throughout the terminal, offering 360-degree coverage and killing germs within two minutes.
ABM has also introduced a business intelligence tool that enables it to track the cleanliness of vehicles and the location of staff to ensure workplace bubbles are maintained.
The use of face coverings and gloves quickly became the norm across all of ABM UK’s operations, including those where the day-to-day work is very physical and can involve everything from assisting a passenger into an aircraft seat, to loading bags into an aircraft hold, to walking vast distances each day.
It also introduced signage on its coaches to help with social distancing and worked with airport partners to install perspex screens on its passenger with restricted mobility (PRM) reception desks, both landside and airside. It even has a one-way system in its head office.
“The team has done an extraordinary job of adapting to all of the new measures while continuing to deliver a quality service throughout,” Niblock assesses.
Furthermore, all team members are fully equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure safety when it is not possible to social distance, such as when ABM staff are transporting PRM customers onto an aircraft.
Tackling the future
Increasing consumer confidence over the coming weeks and months is going to be the single most important task for the aviation industry, Niblock considers.
“We know that customers feel safer and are more willing to return to built environments and services if they witness stringent measures and disinfection programmes in action,” he says. “Once the service kept behind the scenes, cleaning in public spaces is now proving a key player in building consumer confidence – and so we must all demonstrate the hard work being done.
“Programmes such as EnhancedClean™ are key. Not only has it been created with the guidance of an Expert Advisory Council of external leaders in infection control, its three-step process offers a holistic approach which includes communicating the measures in place to users of the site or service. This all goes a long way in providing the reassurance people need.”
Life at airports throughout this Covid-19 pandemic has been tough but, says Niblock, “It has created a true community of people who want to help strangers, in the moment, every single day. It has been amazing to witness the agility, flexibility and bravery that our employees have shown.
“We must continue to show that comradery and embrace the changes that are coming and work together to make people feel safe and encourage them to fly again.”
Finally, he adds: “Another crucial part of this is considering the impact this pandemic has had on disabled passengers, and how we can restore their confidence. We have just introduced a designated email to offer a single point of contact for disabled passengers to raise their questions/concerns. Within the first 30 days of launch, we received over 40 emails.
“The months ahead won’t be easy for this industry but together we can definitely take to the skies once again.”