Rushlift has provided more than 400 items of GSE to support the start of DHL handling low-cost carrier easyJet’s flights through London Gatwick. Meanwhile, TCR is busy readying the GSE previously used to handle the airline’s flights there for potential new customers
On 1 November last year there was a changing of the guard at London Gatwick International Airport – at least in terms of the handling of the numerous flights of UK low-cost carrier (LCC) easyJet through the southern England gateway.
For more than a decade, Menzies had been processing easyJet’s turnarounds at Gatwick, but a change in focus for the LCC saw easyJet move to a new, more hands-on approach. For one thing, it chose to be handled by the integrator giant DHL (though Menzies continues to handle easyJet’s operations in numerous other countries in the carrier’s network).
DHL is now providing check-in and other passenger services such as baggage handling for over 9 million departing easyJet passengers a year. It is also undertaking various ground handling duties, including marshalling, loading and other logistics-related tasks.
When the contract was awarded, the airline’s chief operating officer, Chris Browne, commented: “easyJet is looking forward to developing a new partnership with DHL building on their global expertise in logistics and service.
“The focus of all three companies will be to achieve a seamless transition over the coming months, providing high-quality services to easyJet’s passengers at Gatwick while enabling affected staff to move to DHL.”
DHL Supply Chain UK & Ireland CEO Paul Dyer added: “DHL has a strong commitment to being an employer of choice, offering industry-leading working practices, training and career development. It’s this commitment to people that will be crucial in delivering exceptional customer service for easyJet.
“This transformational contract will see us support easyJet in delivering core customer service and logistics operations including passenger arrival and bag-drop, baggage sortation, boarding gate marshalling, aircraft loading and unloading, as well as management of other service providers. And as the global logistics leader, we look forward to delivering excellent levels of service to easyJet’s customers.”
GSE: an innovative approach
easyJet has approximately 60 aircraft based at Gatwick operating on more than a hundred routes. It is no small operation and, when the airline took the decision to move to a new handler, it also adopted a rather unique model in terms of directly leasing GSE itself (the GSE is sub-contracted to DHL). For this, following a competitive tender, easyJet turned to Rushlift, the GSE lessor and maintenance specialist.
Rushlift, which has had a big presence at London Heathrow since 2013, when it acquired the American Airlines maintenance facility at the UK’s biggest airport, was approached by easyJet to see what it could offer the carrier in terms of leasing GSE. “They wanted to control their own destiny” in terms of the equipment used to turn around their aircraft at Gatwick, recalls Tim Willett, Rushlift’s operations director GSE.
Rushlift won the contract – which involved a capital investment of some £14.5 million (US$19.6 million) – to supply the 429 items of GSE required for easyJet’s Gatwick handling in early 2017 and then, like DHL, began preparation for that critical handover date of 1 November.
For Rushlift, that meant having all the equipment pre-delivery inspected and actually delivered and on-site by the night of 31 October. That night, Willett explains, the Rushlift team worked right up to 02.00 on 1 November to deliver what he describes as a “superb start-up in unison with DHL”. It was a major challenge, probably the biggest such start-up in Europe in recent memory, he remarks, while adding: “The transition went seamlessly and was a credit to all involved.”
The GSE was sourced in large part from TLD and Mallaghan, including 65 of the former’s Jet-16 electric baggage tractors and 30 of the latter’s Bendibelts. Other suppliers included Aviramp, Hydro and SPS, which provided such equipment as 32 pushback tugs, and 65 sets of steps.
That GSE is now being supported by a new Rushlift airside workshop established for the purpose in Gatwick’s North Terminal and staffed by eight GSE engineers. Four VW Crafter mobile workshops are also available as part of the Rushlift full-support package, which is provided over the five-year term of the ease contract with easyJet.
Looking back on the months since that change in November, Willett informs: “We’ve had some really positive feedback from easyJet. We have weekly meetings with them and they have been very happy with the equipment supplied.”
Rushlift is a part of the Doosan enterprise, which turns over in the region of $20 billion per year. It is a huge concern, and its support was perhaps one reason why easyJet turned to Rushlift for the Gatwick contract, Willett posits. He notes Doosan’s “excellent financial support” for Rushlift, the former being very excited by the GSE aspect of its multi-billion-dollar business.
The GSE that had previously been used by Menzies for handling easyJet’s services through Gatwick was quickly recovered. Belgium-headquartered rental and leasing specialist TCR is now refurbishing it for use by potential new customers.
TCR’s general manager UK, Kristof Philips, remembers that the transition planning was complex but vital, TCR talking with the handler and the airport authority as well as the carrier about the new requirements.
He tells Airside about the big night. “On the night of 30 October, all the GSE used by Menzies to support the easyJet handling contract at LGW [London Gatwick Airport] was taken off the airport. All except for two families [of GSE], where TCR left assets intentionally on the ramp in order to allow a smooth transition/handover.”
More precisely, he says, the GSE temporarily left on-station were 40 sets of passenger steps and six belts which were kept in rent for another three or four months on the ramp, because these assets were not yet available in the fleet of the teams taking over the handling operations for easyJet. “As without these assets operations could not be supported, TCR decided to help out easyJet and to avoid disruption of operations at LGW,” Philips confirms.
“All other assets were taken off and moved to TCR’s central storage location, where they are now being refurbished/repaired in preparation of being put back into rent. Refurb work is done by various sub-contractors. This is done in order to ensure a quick, yet qualitative, throughput of assets. Most sub-contractors don’t have enough capacity to do it all,” he points out.
A large proportion of the assets taken out of LGW were used to support the successful start-up on 1 November of Menzies operations for easyJet in Nice, and for Alyzia’s operations in Nantes, Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille, also for easyJet; they have also been used to support Alyzia’s handling operation – again for easyJet – in Toulouse since 16 January this year.
Other assets have been refurbished for re-sale on the second-hand market, Philips says. “I expect the vast majority of the GSE coming out of LGW to have found a new home over the next three to four months” (ie, by mid-2018).
As can be seen, he continues, timelines are always very stringent but – thanks to TCR’s extensive network of operations in Europe, strong relationships with customers, airlines and airports, the holding of a strategic non-rented fleet available to support quick start-ups and most importantly a dedicated European team that is willing to “go the extra mile for each other and the customer” – TCR is able to guarantee successful transitions without any disruption to operations. “This is something that we are very proud of at TCR, and that has proven its merit on many occasions in the sector,” Philips declares.
The GSE that came out of operation at Gatwick on 1 November included all the standard types used for supporting handling activities, including belt loaders, tractors, steps, dollies, and so on.
“As of the moment our customer was informed of easyJet’s decision not to renew Menzies’ contract, TCR and Menzies started preparing the transition,” Philips recalls. “The first requirement was to understand which assets (GSE types and numbers) were to be returned to TCR. Secondly, we needed to understand the transition planning between Menzies and DHL, in order to ensure continuity of operations.
“In order to support our customers as much as possible, TCR allows them to hand back all the GSE linked to the handling activity of the lost contract. As such, all worries around the logistics of GSE having to be removed from the airport, damage repair, reallocation of assets into new projects (capital risk) are transferred from our customers to TCR,” he notes.
All the assets in this case already belonged to TCR and were rented to Menzies under a Full Service Rental scheme, meaning that TCR:
- Rents out the GSE
- Maintains it at a fixed cost (including fair wear and tear)
- Offers various fleet management services such as telematics solutions, an online defect reporting portal, specific reporting on damage , usage data, and so on
- Can also provide additional services, such as fuelling, washing, etc.