Ground services provider Iberia Airport Services has submitted bids for ramp handling licences at 41 Spanish gateways to the state-owned airport operator, Aena. Iberia Airport Services already serves more than 150 customer airlines across 29 Spanish airports, but is hoping to widen that presence
Late last year, Iberia Airport Services submitted its bids for handling licences at a total of 41 Spanish airports, the content focusing on ramp handling. At 37 of those gateways it would be handling alone, while at four – Seville, Valencia, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote – it is bidding as part of a joint venture. Iberia Airport Services currently does not handle at those latter four airports, and decided that its best chance of winning business there was to partner with another ground service provider (GSP).
According to Iberia Airport Services, it created detailed and specific terms of offering for each one of the airports for which it has bid. More than 50 employees were part of the team that developed the bids – staff from the handler itself, of course, but also employees from the human resources, sustainability, transformation and legal departments of its parent airline, Spain’s national carrier, Iberia.
The GSP believes that this was “the most complex and competitive tender that Aena has published to date”, in part because of the large number of companies that have shown interest in the tender but also because of what it describes as “the demanding requirements that have been established in the specifications”.
These requirements covered more than 350 pages and covered a range of themes including operational topics, airport security, environmental and sustainability considerations, technical capability and even economic solvency.
To meet these specifications, Iberia Airport Services developed its 41 specific bids based around a number of primary themes:
- Sustainability: it included in its bids details of investment it will make in equipment to minimise its environmental footprint, as well as other improvements relating to waste management, increasing its use of renewable energy and promoting “a culture of sustainability among its employees”
- Innovation: building on its efforts made up to now to digitise its operations, Iberia Airport Services committed in its bids to develop – amongst other things – an ambitious transformation programme with more than 60 initiatives based on biometrics, telemetry and data analysis
- Cost: Iberia Airport Services is committing to measures that will improve productivity in terms of planning shifts and schedules necessary to maintain a high level of competitiveness
José Luis de Luna, director of Airport Services at Iberia Airport Services, comments: “Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we have submitted bids that we are convinced are the most competitive to continue investing in all of Iberia’s people who work in this business, and to continue keeping it within Iberia.”
Building on strength
Iberia Airport Services is already the leading handling provider in Spain, serving more than 100 million passengers served each year, and so its bids also emphasise the strength of its current operations. But bidding has been a complex task and not one that the handler has taken lightly.
Aena puts out the tender for operating licences every seven years. The number of licences per airport varies depends on the gateway’s size, with one going out to tender for small airports, two for intermediate airports and three for larger ones. In 2015, Iberia Airport Services was awarded a licence at 29 Spanish airports.
Francisco López Noguera, director of airport operations for Iberia Airport Services, explains: “The handling business is strategic for Iberia, and under this premise our intention is not only to maintain the licences that were obtained in 2015, but also to increase the size of the business by opting for 41 airports.
“After an individual analysis of the conditions of each airport, it was decided to apply individually as Iberia Airport Services to 37 airports and follow our Joint Venture model in another four, in order to maximise our options for obtaining licences.
“The aim of Iberia Airport Services is to be the main operator in Spain; in this sense, the 41 airports that have been applied to account for more than 99% of Spanish traffic, with Iberia’s offers adapting to the reality and infrastructure of each station. The only stations [airports] that Iberia has not applied to are El Hierro and La Gomera, and the heliports of Ceuta and Algeciras,” López confirms.
While no definite date has yet been given for the decision by Aena on who will handle where, López and his colleagues believe that the final decision will be made in the spring of this year, at the end of March or the beginning of April, leading to any change of operator in the last quarter of 2023 (the tender forecasts a period of six months between the decision and the change of operator).
Once the new licence goes into effect, its duration is – as usual – seven years.
López is convinced that Iberia Airport Services has put forward the best possible bid.
“We are sure that we have made a robust and adapted offer, which highlights our experience in the Spanish sector but also facilitates the transformation of airport operations.
“Not only do we meet the demanding requirements of Aena, but we have gone further,” he continues. López points to four main areas where he thinks Iberia Airport Services offers competitive advantage.
The first is in terms of service, in which regard he points to the fact that, “More than 150 clients already trust us, and we have gone a step further to ensure the quality of our operations.” López also notes that Iberia Airport Services already hold 10 different certificates “that demonstrate the robustness and solvency of our service”.
He points to the above-mentioned issues of sustainability, noting that “We will be carbon neutral by 2025, well ahead of the requirements set out in the specifications,” and the important theme of innovation, informing: “We will develop an ambitious transformation programme… that will allow us to improve our efficiency and the service we provide to our customers.”
And López also highlights the value of Iberia Airport Services’ people, saying: “Our team is the heart of our operations; therefore, in addition to having recently signed a new collective agreement that ensures the stability of labour relations for four years, an ambitious training plan has been designed with more than 80 courses and a thorough risk prevention programme, revolving around 30 security measures.
“All this is backed by more than 50 leading companies from different sectors (technology, training, sustainability, etc) that have shown their explicit support for Iberia Airport Services in the applications for all licences,” he adds.
Iberia Airport Services already boasts a fleet of more than 7,000 pieces of motorised and non-motorised equipment that meets the requirements of the specifications and that “would ensure the continuity of operations”, López observes.
“Additionally, if we are awarded all the airports [in the tender], we will make an investment of more than €100 million [US$106.4 million] to modernise and electrify our ground equipment network.
“Specifically, Iberia has LOIs [letters of intent] with the main [GSE] suppliers to renovate more than 1,000 pieces of equipment during the first months of the licence.
“The specifications have reflected a detailed business plan with a specific sizing of machinery and a plan for its renewal and growth in each of the airports, ensuring consistency between our technical and economic offer.”
And a high proportion of the fleet will be electrically powered. “Iberia Airport Services, in addition to its commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025, is going to make available a fleet of more than 80% electric vehicles,” López says.
“Our motorised fleet will be 100%, capable of tracking through telemetry and geopositioning systems, plus we have a series of initiatives that allow for better use of our equipment.
“Finally, Iberia Airport Services will lead different pooling initiatives to optimise the fleet of ground service equipment across the Spanish airport network.”