In May this year, it was announced that German ground handling companies AHS Berlin Aviation Handling Services and AeroGround Berlin had agreed on a programme of long-term strategic cooperation at Berlin airports. The two handlers are said to be pursuing a common goal of “creating synergies and strengthening their market position”
AHS describes itself as the market leader in Germany in terms of independent providers of passenger handling and ground operations service provision. It handles at both Tegel and Schoenefeld airports in the German capital. Meanwhile, AeroGround Berlin holds licences for ground handling at both those airports, plus for the new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. AeroGround offers services both airside and landside, for aircraft and baggage handling.
The companies operate in what they regard as a “dynamic market with low margins”. In addition, they say, they are under “intense competitive pressure from global players”. Hence, it seems, the need to work together.
“Our main focus is on cost optimisation and joint sales activities,” said Tays Breckerbohm, managing director of AHS Berlin Aviation Handling Services at the time of the announcement in May.
“In addition, together with AeroGround we can now cover the entire range of ground handling services,” he added.
Christian Stoschek, managing director of AeroGround Munich & Berlin, described AHS as “a successful and professional partner”, and added: “The synergy effects will strengthen our two companies in Berlin.”
Both AHS and AeroGround offered further thoughts to Airside on the importance of their collaboration, and whether similar co-operation might become more widespread in the ground handling business.
In June, AHS managing director and chairman Martin Roll informed: “The collaboration has smoothly started. Currently, we are handling our first common customers: Ryanair and Laudamotion. We are exploring further market potential and are convinced that we will provide perfect service to our joint customers.
“We have already identified a range of further customers, which AeroGround and AHS have got under individual contracts. Also, for those customers the link between both handling companies will make information flow even better.
Stoschek recalled the value of proper preparation and planning. “The whole project was planned thoroughly beforehand,” he said. “Therefore we have been perfectly prepared to handle joint customers from the first day on. As there is a clear differentiation within the co-operation regarding the different tasks, we are already now 100% functional in the co-operation.”
Amélie Charisisus, AHS managing director, has also looked ahead: “A future aspect will be innovation and digitisation. AHS has a 100% subsidiary company, AVIOVA Aviation+Innovation GmbH, also based in Berlin.
“AeroGround is very interested in using some of the innovative tools developed or promoted by AVIOVA, like the new DocCheckApp to avoid INADs [inadmissible passengers], iboardings to make sure that hand luggage is compliant, or APHIS Aviation Personnel Handling and Information System.”
With regard particularly to ground handling, there are many potential synergies that the tie-up might achieve. Roll explained: “We expect to have an even smoother customer contact. Instead of having to deal with two partners individually, the airlines can be sure that AeroGround and AHS co-ordinate among themselves in terms of communication and work processes.
“If the airlines would like to have one contract only, including the services of AHS and AeroGround, this is of course now possible. The unit costs in Berlin are particularly high due to the infrastructure constraints and the labour cost. Cost savings will be made by each partner focusing on its own tasks without [there being] overlap. This will make the use of staff and equipment even more efficiently. We [will] always aim at continuous improvement of processes together.”
And some of those benefits are already being realised. “With the first joint customer handling we experienced that communication is going very smoothly and the ramp-up for Laudamotion, which took place with very short pre-notice, was way smoother,” Stoschek said.
Charisisus insisted that there have been no teething problems in aligning the two companies’ operations; and they are not expecting any. “Both partners are very professional and have long-term experience in the market. Therefore, we are looking forward to a very smooth co-operation,” she remarked.
For now, the deal only covers the Berlin airports and, said Siegried Pasler, managing director of AeroGround Munich, for the moment the focus will remain on Berlin (as well as its presence in Berlin, AeroGround has a big operation at the biggest gateway of southern Germany, in the Bavarian capital of Munich). “In Munich, we already co-operate with handling partners of Munich Airport,” he noted.
When asked if this tie-up between two handlers might be a model for other handlers in Germany or elsewhere, Charisisus opined: “As the co-operation between AHS and AeroGround looks very promising so far, there is a good chance that other handlers will go in the same direction.
“As mentioned, AHS already has a strong network of handling partners in most other airports. For ourselves, in the long term, we see the potential for such co-operation at airports where these networks are not yet very strong, such as in Düsseldorf and Frankfurt.”
She continued: “A key to success in the partnership is trust. The main players of AHS and AeroGround have known each other for many years. Both sides are certain that this trust in each other paired with the high quality of performance will strengthen the partnership even further. Combined with future digitisation and technology projects, the partnership is built up for a long-term perspective.
And Pasler concurred: “This is definitely the most important point – besides that it is crucial for the future development of our business, that we get more focused on our core business and co-operate seamlessly with strategic partners along the process chain to develop more efficient, reliable and flexible offerings to our customers.”