How to use TravelTag for ground handling operations at airports

As air travel keeps growing, so do the challenges. How can they ensure safe and efficient equipment tracking? (Photo by Skyler Smith on Unsplash)

Airports and airlines are fully innovating, as they get ready for the future of aviation.

Biometric data for security checks, personal assistant robots, and virtual reality experiences are just a few examples of exciting developments in the industry.

But as they prepare to immerse their passengers in unparalleled experiences, it’s important to also keep track of current challenges, such as efficient ground support management.

Because what is a cool but expensive digital display worth if passengers can’t rely on basic ground handling equipment, such as coaches, electric carts, or wheelchairs?

The fascinating world of ground operations at an airport

Equipment for baggage handling, stairs and steps for passenger boarding, vehicles for food catering,…

The airport is equipped with a massive range of vehicles and equipment to make sure ground handling operations run as smoothly as possible.

Ground operations at the airport have to work like clockwork to minimize turnaround time and get all passengers to arrive at their destination safely and happily.

To categorize and map GSE, the airport often differs between landside assets and airside assets.

  • Landside is the area accessible to the public, so everything before security. Assets here include wheelchairs and rollators for passengers, communication service, baggage handling equipment, or security equipment
  • Airside refers to the area you access after going through security, such as boarding gates and runways. Think of assets like dollies for baggage, refuelers, passenger buses, or catering vehicles.

5 challenges in ground operations in an airport

Managing ground operations at airports is a complex dance of precision, timing, and coordination, causing challenges for everyone involved. Let’s look at 5 problems that industry experts often mention.

1. Staffing issues

A pressing issue in the aviation industry in general is a shortage of skilled employees. As airports juggle a multitude of tasks, such as baggage handling, passenger services, and asset management, every employee counts towards the success of airport operations.

Airports have to find the delicate balance between having enough employees to meet peak demand periods. At the same time, they have to avoid overextending during slower times. Sophisticated planning and tracking of equipment is essential to ensure the efficient allocation of resources in keeping the staff sheet balanced.

2. Maintaining and replacing GSE

Because of the constant use of GSE in difficult circumstances, including extreme weather conditions, wear and tear is all too common — and often unexpected. As stated by a Forbes article, unplanned downtime can lead to significant delays and disruptions. Anticipating breakdowns can be hard. If some of the GSE is suddenly no longer available, it is important to be able to locate and move replacements quickly and efficiently. Clear and direct mapping of all GSE would improve overall safety, while also having a strong positive impact on turnaround times.

3. Meeting the needs of passengers

To make sure that every passenger gets the care they are entitled to, airlines and airports need a wide range of ground handling equipment. Just think of the array of wheelchairs, rollators, and electric carts at an airport. As passengers look for swift support, being able to locate this ground handling equipment is essential for high customer satisfaction. Not complying with passenger’s standards can reflect negatively on both the airline and the airport.

The right GSE is important to drive passenger comfort and happiness.

4. Dealing with rising costs in ground handling operations

In a lot of cases, airlines pay for the infrastructure and operating costs at airports through airport charges. Maintaining airport investments at a feasible rate and using capital for essential maintenance is important. But material has become more expensive worldwide, also affecting the costs of ground-handling equipment.

Rigid airport operations management is crucial to avoid unnecessary costs and maintenance. This includes knowing where your material is at all times and mapping incidents and damages quickly and easily. But it goes further than being able to take instant action. Long-term data collection for analytics can provide a deeper understanding of the usage of GSE, and offer a framework for improvements.

5. Collaborating with various stakeholders

Airport operations are dependent on regional regulations and agreements. For example, airport buses can be operated by either the airport, the airline, or a third-party operator.

Providing GSE to passengers with disabilities, such as wheelchairs and electric carts, also differs between different regions. In America, airlines carry this responsibility, EU rules say the airport has to provide these, and in South America, there are no regulations at all.

This complicated play of different stakeholders having various responsibilities makes it essential for GSE managers to be able to track assets. Only with meticulous tracking and planning can they ensure that their equipment is being handled properly and maintained to the highest standards.

TravelTag for equipment tracking: how does it work?

In a recent webinar, Timos Korosis from Aegean Airlines already pointed out this labyrinth of challenges at airports.

These issues might easily be solved if there was a rigid, steadfast system for equipment tracking available across the airport.

Not only would it enable all stakeholders with real-time airport equipment tracking data, but it would also ensure data collection for permanent improvements.

As we are working with airlines to enable them with live baggage tracking data, we are also often approached to discuss the possibility of TravelTag for equipment tracking.

TravelTag works with a private network of hardware devices, so equipment tracking is an interesting and realistic use case for airport ground staff operations.

Airports are expressing interest in the potential of TravelTag to track GSE.

The TravelTags would then be added to equipment, such as wheelchairs, dollies, or passenger boarding steps. As the tags send out Bluetooth signals, the network can pick up on the location of the equipment in real-time.

With this live tracking information, mapping the process of ground handling operations in an airport was never easier.

This smooth integration of data with an airport panel showcasing the location of all GSE ensures that airport operations can anticipate problems, react instantaneously to passenger and airline demands, and collect data for future usage.

As we are seeing the revolution towards the usage of the Internet-of-Things at airports, TravelTag could play a crucial role in reshaping GSE maintenance, and open new possibilities for operational efficiency, revenue growth, and passenger happiness.

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