WorldwideFlight Services (WFS) is in advancednegotiations with China Eastern aboutproviding management expertise fortheir handling operations in China,according to its president and chiefexecutive, Olivier Bijaoui.
"They and their China Cargo subsidiaryare already a large customer forus in Europe," he says. "We are talking about some of our more experienced managers over there and transfer knowledge to them, and are hopeful the discussions will conclude successfully soon."
WFS prefers this approach ofworking with carriers in China, Bijaouisays, because they are often theincumbent handlers at key airports."The other alternative would be to make joint ventures with airports, but it would be foolish – in fact, business suicide – to compete against our existing customers."
Any contract would probably be forthree to five years, similar to a threeyear management contract WFS carriedout for Polish carrier LOT. "Atthe end of this time, we could end upwith a joint venture, or at the very leastwe would have tightened up our relationshipwith the airline concerned,"Bijaoui says.
WFS already has offices in Beijingand Hong Kong to explore opportunitiesin China, and is also looking atopportunities in India. In the lattercountry, WFS was an unsuccessful bidderfor handling contracts at Bangaloreand Hyderabad that were eventuallywon by Menzies Aviation. Bijaoui confirmsthat WFS intends to bid for otherIndian handling contracts when theycome up for tender.
In general, Bijaoui describes WFS’strategy as "The World’s Local Handler",echoing the "World’s LocalBank" strapline of HSBC Bank. "Weprefer to have people in charge ofour country operations who know thelanguage and the culture, rather thansending out managers from our headoffice in France," he says.
On the subject of the new Bangkokairport, where WFS has a handling jointventure with Bangkok Airways, Bijaouiadmits that in the first few days of thenew airport there was "chaos", due tothe broker’s warehouse not being availableto clear import cargo.
"Cargo arrived and just piled upday after day and we could not deliverit," he says. "I have seen pictures, and I have to say I have never seen a warehouse so jammed."
It was also initially impossible for WFS to communicate with its ramphandling arm, as communications frequencieshad not been assigned to it.
The import problem persisted forfour to five weeks, and WFS had to de-consolidate all cargo and clear byhouse air waybill. But despite this, Bijaouiinsists that the opening was onlythe kind of problems to be expectedwith any new airport, and was "not asbad as Hong Kong".
There were also some problems with WFS staff, he admits. "Not all our stafffrom the old airport moved over, becausethe new one is so far away, so wehad to train some new people. Howeverwell you train them, they can’t be fully up to speed on day one."
"One lesson WFS learned from the experience was to be modest. We learned that just because you are the biggest handling company in the world, to open a warehouse of this size is still tough. In retrospect, we should have flown in more experienced staff from elsewhere in our global organisation."
– Peter Conway