Havas Ground Handling delivers – together with its subsidiaries – a wide range of ground handling services, including ramp, passenger and cargo handling, at 29 airports across Turkey, as well as at Riga Airport in Latvia and Medinah Airport in Saudi Arabia. General manager Mete Erna explains how the TAV Airports subsidiary has made significant changes to the way it operates in response to the Covid-19 crisis
How has Havas Ground Handling adapted its operations to meet the danger from Covid-19, whether in Turkey or at other stations?
Our priority has always been the health and safety of our employees, passengers and operations. Hence, we have rapidly adapted to newly required standards in the provision of service and maximised safety measures in conformity with all Covid-19 rules specified by international and local authorities where we operate.
From the first days of the pandemic, we immediately provided protective equipment (PPE) to our employees in line with their fields of operation. Furthermore, we have invested in new practices to increase mobility in our operations and facilitated contact-free procedures. Safety measures have included various practices such as social distancing; regular disinfection procedures in the offices, stations and warehouse facilities; equipment disinfection; and adjustments to ventilation systems.
Our ground handling support equipment (GSE) is disinfected after each operation. We undertake handling operations [only] once all our equipment fleet – including passenger ramps, luggage tractors, pushback vehicles and passenger busses – has been disinfected for every single flight.
We raised awareness in terms of the personal measures that need to be taken by our teams. All our personnel in charge of GSE act responsibly and disinfect all devices they use during operations, including headsets, tablets, radios, etc.
We continue to update our employees about new information and required practices through all available means of communication, including the mobile phone applications we developed for internal use.
Moreover, we closely follow all developments related to Covid-19 and make sure we implement measures in line with the latest requirements in Turkey, Latvia and Saudi Arabia [where we operate]. We are also closely following and adopting new guidelines laid out by international aviation industry bodies.
In our home market, Havas quickly adapted to decisions taken at national level, such as the availability of the contact tracing application introduced by the Ministry of Health in Turkey.
Plus, as a subsidiary of TAV Airports, a member of Groupe ADP, we have had the opportunity to carry out all-purpose assessments in terms of adaptation to new systems. We work with TAV to adopt the new approaches it has implemented in order to offer uninterrupted travel experiences wherever possible.
Have handling processes besides physical turnarounds on the apron also changed as a result of Covid-19?
The pandemic has increased the pace of digitalisation at airport operations and I believe that this trend will continue to develop. Digitalisation of handling processes minimises human contact and therefore increase the safety of our operations. At Havas, we had already initiated a digitalisation roadmap before the pandemic and during the subsequent period we stepped up our efforts, together with our stakeholders.
Moreover, solutions developed by TAV Technologies, another subsidiary of the group to which we are affiliated, have also enabled us to adopt new technologies relevant to handling processes. Thus, for example, we recently began digitalising all airside operations. Our operation officers can now manage operational processes remotely and swiftly via their tablets.
These measures increase our operational efficiency while protecting our employees and passengers.
To what extent have the various changes you have made been effective in minimising the danger posed by Covid-19?
The measures we have taken at our workplaces and the reorganisation of our operational procedures have proved to be very effective in protecting our employees and stakeholders.
To date, we have not identified any case of Covid-19 transmission in our workplaces. Nine percent of our staff have been infected with the virus but all these cases were traced back to contacts outside the workplace. In such cases, we closely follow up their isolation and treatment processes through our healthcare personnel.
To what extent have the changes introduced by Havas impacted on other aspects of your business? How long are you expecting the downsides of the pandemic to last?
Due to social distancing and the varying rules of different countries, our staff have to take extra time and pay more attention during each and every check-in process. Our operational productivity has decreased, as the process gets more and more complicated with the varying travel requirements of different countries, as well as frequently changing restrictions.
Of course, there has been a significant increase in the use of PPE and cleaning materials. In Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the government began providing financial support to mitigate the financial and commercial impact of the pandemic on employers. In particular, the ‘Short Time Work’ practice in Turkey and the SANED [unemployment insurance] scheme in Saudi Arabia have been supportive for us in terms of balancing the increasing financial burden of the pandemic.
We have managed to maintain our income and costs balance thanks to the optimisation of equipment/employee resources, as well as these financial support programmes. Plus, the pandemic has encouraged us to offer new products. We have been providing cabin disinfection services and cargo handling services for those flights with cargo carried in passenger cabins.
We hope the risk assessments of the competent organisations will allow us to ease our precautionary procedures following the implementation of mass vaccination programmes in various countries.
Easing the procedures and quarantine requirements will encourage more people to travel. We believe the uncertainty and the risk of being quarantined are the greatest barriers for travellers.
Do you feel that Havas has played its part in keeping the global aviation industry functioning, and allowing it to do so as safely as possible?
During the first wave of the pandemic, the majority of countries closed their borders; this action led to a dramatic drop in passenger traffic figures worldwide. Due to these unprecedented circumstances, airlines had to ground their fleets and took significant cost-cutting measures.
During these critical times, we have closely monitored the recent developments and immediately taken necessary operational measures in order to be able to support the industry. Since the first wave of the pandemic, we have not suspended our operations at any of our stations and we have served many repatriation and medical flights. Beside this, we have also maintained our cargo and warehouse activities, handled a tremendous volume of export traffic and supported the delivery of critically important medical supplies.