In this Buyer’s Assessment, we look at Aviapartner and its use of the loaders produced by France-based GSE manufacturer Air Marrel
Aviapartner’s ramp handling responsibilities – it also undertakes passenger handling and provides various traffic operations support services – include the loading and unloading of aircraft; pushback and towing; marshalling; the provision of toilet and water services, ground power and air-start; cleaning; de-icing; passenger ground transportation; crew transport; freight and baggage transfer; executive aviation services; and catering loading.
It provides a wide range of services in six European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands) and its own handling and cargo network includes 40 group-owned airports; this network is enhanced by a large number of airports at which Aviapartner has partnerships with local cargo handlers or with companies through which it can provide offline cargo handling.
Across those 40 or so airports, Aviapartner employs approximately 10,000 GSE units, confirms Koen Wauters, who is in charge of Aviapartner’s GSE fleet co-ordination. These include the full gamut of handling equipment, ranging from the latest state-of-the-art maindeck loader and de-icing truck to a simple baggage cart, he notes.
At 15 stations in Europe, it employs four main types of Air Marrel loader: the LAM 3500, LAM 7000, LAM 14000 and LAM 27000 – about 70 units in total. In Brussels, where Wauters is based, Aviapartner employs the range of Air Marrel loaders from 3.5-tonne up to 27-tonne capacity (as indicated by the equipment’s designations) and, he informs, some of these units have been in use across the Aviapartner European network since the late 1990s.
Clearly, Air Marrel equipment has a high degree of longevity. Of course, a reliable maintenance partner or a handler’s own ongoing maintenance service is also paramount in achieving this level of serviceability, always respecting the service intervals and maintenance instructions imposed by the manufacturer, Wauters observes.
In terms of procurement decision-making: “When I talk to other people in the GSE community, it’s always clear that operators’ preference is a strong reality that we have to deal with,” Wauters explains. “Many Belgian operators will always prefer Air Marrel equipment, and most German operators will always prefer TREPEL. This of course is human nature: it’s what they are used to and have worked with for years. The same goes for maintenance engineers who have had good or bad experiences [with different equipment].
“When the purchase price is similar, this will always be an important contributing factor to the final brand decision. But there’s also a danger in this common appreciation by a limited group of users: if a brand as a result of an incident or recurring operating difficulty suddenly falls out of grace with the users, it may take the manufacturer years to get back into that airport with that handler.”
But, Wauters says, in terms of Air Marrel, its equipment has “proven to be quite easy to handle for operators”. Indeed, Aviapartner was using Air Marrel equipment back in the late 1970s (when the handler was known as Belgavia); “I even think we must be one of their longest standing customers,” he considers.
That partnership shows no signs of fading away. Aviapartner’s latest Air Marrel units, two new LAM 3500 loaders, only came into operation with the handler in October this year.
As to the future, Wauters concludes: “Air Marrel will, due to its historic position with us, always be a natural contender for any new loading equipment that we need to put into place in any station. And, of course, there will be a preference for Air Marrel units at stations where both Aviapartner operators and maintenance suppliers are acquainted with the equipment, in order to minimise training and stock costs.”