Future Ramp: Digitalize Your Ramp!
Are you a digitalized airline? I am sure, you will say “Yes” or “We are just transforming”. I totally agree with you, when looking at the area of the passenger travel experience. But do your digitalization activities also include the ramp? If not, I would like to invite you to follow this blog series about the “Future Ramp”.
Digitalized passenger travel experience
All Airlines are moving very fast forward when digitalizing the passenger experience to make their operational processes more efficient and more convenient for their airline customers. You can book / re-book your flight, and receive information about any flight changes – all directly on your mobile device. But what if we look behind the curtains? When visiting airlines and entering the apron I many times experience a more or less “70s scenario” when observing the Ramp Agents working conditions: Walky-talkies are often in use – as well as clipboards, pens, pencils - and a lots of paper!
The Ramp Agent provides an important range of services
Ramp agents are hired by companies that provide airport terminal services, as well as airlines and airport authorities. They play a crucial role in delivering airside services to the air transport industry and make sure the plane is safe and ready to take off.
In detail as a ramp agent you cover a range of important services starting from the safety of the aircraft, over ensuring that the plane is properly secured and checking of correct loading of luggage, cargo and mail into the plane to guiding it to the proper terminal and gate. Some extra duties might include supervising the cleaning of the aircraft or other providers, and operating the ground equipment necessary to secure, load, and unload the plane. Finally the Ramp Agent also might be responsible for observing relevant occupational safety regulations.
These are only some of the ramp agent’s work duties. But most important not to forget this: In case of any deviations during the turnaround / ground time, the Ramp Agent will be the trouble shooter or the person in charge to contact the right people (at Operations Control, Boarding personnel, etc.) for solving all kinds of operational problems to let plane to take off right on time.
Trouble shooting in a Black Box?
But looking at this important range of services during the short aircraft turnarounds / ground times and their time-criticality it always puts me wondering, why the Ramp Agent still faces a lot of time-consuming paperwork and handles with means of in-efficient information exchange and communication when dealing with all the other stakeholders involved. Do I really have to call the cleaning company and ask if I can have an enhanced cleaning crew to accelerate the cleaning process for a punctual departure? Especially when the line is always busy? Isn’t there another way? And I say: Yes, it is!
What come on top is, that many times the turnaround process or the passenger and bag situation, especially for the transfer passengers, still remains a “black box” for the Ramp Agent. This is a sort of remarkable – in times of many airlines claiming to be digitalized, and where the Ramp Agents’ counterparts in the back-offices – for instance Operations Controllers, Crew or Hub Managers- utilize applications that give them full transparency about the operational situation and - more important – about the deviations. Solely in Load Control I noticed a tendency among airlines to have mobile solutions in place for the Ramp Agent to simultaneously update the core Load Control system directly from the apron. My personal conclusion therefore is that the ramp still remains a “step-child” when it comes to paperless work and digitalization.
The solution: Digitalize Your Ramp!
Coming now from the problem to the solution: It´s time that digitalization also reaches the Ramp Agent. So I take this as a reason for this blog sequence, where I would like to take a look on “best practices for digitalized ramp agents’ tasks” I encountered when visiting advanced airlines. I will also additionally share my ideas, about how IT support can make the life of this important key person on the ramp easier.
In detail the future blogs will cover the following “Ramp Agent Mobile Solution” topics:
- Configurability of differing Ramp Agent tasks within one airline organization.
- Overall Transparency: The Ramp Agent Workspace Dashboard
- Management of Turnaround Activities
- Management of Cargo & Load Control
- Passenger & Baggage Handling (Local and Transfer Passengers / Bags):
- Directing Aircraft
- Observing Safety and Quality of Ground Handling
- Other important Ramp Agent tasks (e.g. calling ambulance, doctor)
- Communication between all involved stakeholders:
- Decision Support in Trouble Shooting
- Workflow support
Above topics should cover more or less the whole broad spectrum of the Ramp Agent’s important services range. Please feel free to contact me, if you would like me to add any other.
I look forward to receiving your feedback and ideas for this blog series about the “Future Ramp”. Please stay tuned!