Link Aero is a ground handler and aviation services provider that has grown rapidly since its creation in 1992. Ensuring customer satisfaction is at the heart of its offering, explains CEO Amr Samir
When was Link formed and has it grown significantly since then?
Link was established in 1992 in Cairo, Egypt with just nine employees providing ground handling services, fuelling and catering. The name ‘Link’ was chosen as a signal to our determination to create the best possible communication with our clients.
Link has handled over 25 million passengers and provided broad services to more than 160,000 flights belonging to 140 different carriers. It has grown significantly over the years with its first international expansion seen in 2003, expanding in the Middle East and North Africa.
Global expansion came in 2005 through the acquisition of a considerable market share in global flight handling support. At the present time, Link employs over 344 skilled, well-trained and multilingual team members.
Link Aero is headquartered in the UAE, but also has offices in locations such as Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, as well as a Global Flight Support operation with a multilingual team that helps with difficult destinations across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Asia and South America.
At how many stations are you currently ground handling?
We cover more than 110 airports in more than 37 countries, offering services ranging from ground handling, fuelling and catering to private handling arrangements for our customer airlines. Egypt and Jordan host our highest volumes of operations.
Do you also offer a range of support services such as sales and flight permissions?
Yes, we handle flight permissions and act as a GSSA (general sales and services agent) for cargo through our subsidiary Link Cargo. We also offer GSSA ticketing services through Link Aero.
What plans do you have for further expansion?
We will continue to enhance our operations by investing in new facilities and growing our team with highly skilled professionals. We look forward to providing quality services and products to increase the number of our clients in the MENA region.
We are soon to come up with a range of complementary exclusive services. One such is catering, for which we are planning an exceptional culinary experience for our passengers on each flight.
We can see clearly a brighter future in Africa and in the Middle East. Preliminary feasibility studies have been made. The final studies should focus more on the roles of the local regulations and law and on the investment constraints in many of the countries in the region. Of course, we will not work on prioritising some stations over others, depending only on the expected volume of operations; rather, we will have a stable and encouraging investment atmosphere that is supported by the countries’ own laws and local regulations and constraints.
How do you feel that the ground handling business is changing these days? How is Link changing as a result?
The squeeze on margins has become quite unbearable in an industry that has zero tolerance for human error. Zero errors requires sufficient wages for employees, which is hard to sustain with the ongoing cost cutting by carriers that is reflected in ground handling.
Link is diversifying into other lines of business and has created subsidiaries like Link Cargo for cargo handling, as well as GSSA services and freight forwarding. Plus, we have Link Dynamics for AVSEC [aviation security], which specialises in introducing and promoting a variety of security equipment and integrated perimeter security systems. Finally, Link Marine is specialised in maritime services.
How else is Link modifying and improving its offering?
We are meeting the needs of African passenger and cargo growth with our multilingual, multinational team. I strongly believe that countries, especially those in Africa, should work on less complicated regulations and internal laws to encourage companies to participate in developing airports and ground handling services.
Moreover, constraints on seventh freedom [rights] should be more flexible to allow carriers to operate more frequently to countries in Africa, thus promoting more airports and creating job opportunities.