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Easy does it

One year on after DHL took over easyJet’s ground handling operations at London Gatwick, the partnership is expanding even further. Keith Mwanalushi looked behind the scenes at Gatwick

Customer satisfaction, employee engagement and technological innovation are key elements of easyJet’s partnership with DHL, the two companies stated during a recent media tour of their ground handling operation at London Gatwick Airport, which includes handling everything from arrival at
the airport to boarding.

Gatwick is easyJet’s largest operation, and DHL has been transferring its logistics expertise into delivering ground handling operations for the airline at Gatwick since winning the contract in 2017.

“Going back to about 18 months, we were approached by easyJet to look at the end-to-end solution at Gatwick,” states Martin Willmor, DHL UK and Ireland’s Managing Director. He says the station previously presented challenges, with punctuality and employee turnover being some of the key areas of concern at the Gatwick operation.

“That is where we are good from an organisational perspective. Looking at customer challenges and problems, and identifying through our DHL tool kit solutions how to improve the end-to-end customer experience.”

In 2017 easyJet signed a five-year agreement with DHL to provide ground handling services for the airline, and the scope of the operation is rather colossal as some numbers show. Over 900 DHL employees cover services from business support, baggage services, airside ramp to front of house personal, all dedicated to the easyJet operation. Also, some 480 pieces of ground handling equipment were brought in by DHL to cater to the airline’s needs, including 30 electric pushback tugs.

So how did DHL end up being the ground handler? Well, it’s obvious that DHL is also one of the largest airlines globally, and the experience gained from parcel services with the DHL Express unit comes into play. Parcel delivery is often very time sensitive to ensure they make their connections to reach final destinations.

“We have applied a lot of that logic here [Gatwick] with our ‘Express’ colleagues to come together and provide the solution that we are really proud of, but more importantly, we have really invested in our people here,” Willmor continues.

Gatwick is the largest station in the easyJet network, and as Willmor states, it was one of the ‘most troublesome’ stations, but a year on, that has now changed. “I think there is still a lot more that we can do to really raise the benchmark even further. Certainly, looking into next summer, we have a lot of plans and initiatives to look at; broadly, how to approach the operation,” he says.

Since being awarded the contract, Willmor admits that there were a few sleepless nights in readiness to get everything in motion. “It’s a very high-volume operation, it’s very time sensitive, and it requires everything coming together in perfection to ensure we get the aircraft pushed away on time and in full.”

Essentially, easyJet passengers that turn up for travel at Gatwick are processed by DHL employees but wearing easyJet uniforms, and Willmor feels the operation over the past year has made some good strides to make people feel welcome at the airport, and in using some of the technology and solutions that DHL has brought in with easyJet.

The easyJet bag drop area is fully self-service, and is the world’s largest automated bag drop area, as indicated by the staff during our media tour. Training was a big part of the process to give the employees the tools they needed. DHL say they have a consistent approach in the processes of managing staff that has allowed them to have the right people in the right place.

The management team had to learn new ways of working, and got heavily involved in the HR process to allow for staff development. Interestingly, there is cross- functional role sharing going on, which means when staff express an interest in something else, they can be allowed to go and experience another department, allowing them to progress through the roles.

It was essential for staff to feel a connection to easyJet. “Before we actually transferred the team over to DHL [from the previous ground handler] we actually listened to their feedback – there were a number of things that we needed to do to improve that experience, and how to make sure they felt connected to the easyJet brand," recalls Millmor. >>


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