If you have done any kind of air traveling in the last fifty to one hundred years you have most likely experienced the long drawn out and at times frustrating process of boarding the plane. This is a tale as old as air travel itself. In recent years a huge point of friction for many air travelers is security, but what most air travelers do not realize is the huge amount of work that is put into getting people on to the plane itself. The extensive amount of GSE or ground support equipment that is used to help with the onboarding or deboarding process is often looked over to the normal non-airport or airline employee. There is a ridiculously large amount of hours put into this process of getting baggage, but more importantly, people onto the aircraft. So what is a piece of equipment that not only plays a huge role in the process of loading and unloading the plane but also gives your passengers a huge first impression? Aircraft boarding stairs or what some people call passenger Stairs.
Think of it this way, your passengers just went through the frustrating process of airport security, the long lines of check in, and the seemingly never ending waiting that occurs when a plane arrives for boarding. The last thing you want is for them to have a bad experience when actually boarding the plane. If your aircraft uses passenger stairs there are a lot of ways you can mitigate and slim the chances of a bad experience when people are boarding the plane. Remember when travel of any kind is taking place safety should always be a top priority. With that in mind, here are some things that you can maintain your aircraft boarding stairs.
Keeping your equipment in functioning form is so important. Not only will you save yourself a large financial loss by doing the proper maintenance but the appearance of your equipment will be maintained. Having your maintenance crew routinely inspect and observe wear and tear on your equipment is vital. While most airports, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, require you to perform regularly scheduled maintenance it will only benefit you and the company to go above and beyond to look after your investments. Take the extra mile and time to go above and beyond the minimal requirements and you will be rewarded long term for it.
2.Look for warning signs
When it comes to aircraft equipment, especially ground service equipment, there are always telltale signs of problems with equipment. Rust, paint chipping, audible sounds, shaking, are just a few things that can give you a sign that your passenger stairs may need maintenance. Train your staff to look for these kinds of things and you will be shocked at how much longer your equipment lasts. Remember to be proactive instead of reactive.
It is vital to listen to what the passengers of the aircraft are saying. If you hear of a complaint from someone who had an issue boarding the plane do not take it lightly or brush it under the rug. Listen to what they are saying because there is a huge chance that they aren’t complaining just for the sake of complaining. After all the passengers of the planes are the ones who are putting the most mile son that piece of equipment so do not take complaints lightly. This can also be applied to any number of pieces of equipment including ones that are used by the staff.
4.Obvious breakdowns of equipment
This one goes without saying but it is still important to repeat. If something is faulty or even questionably faulty do not use it. When corners are cut and things are overlooked that is when people get hurt. Especially in the travel industry. Saving a couple of dollars here and there by reusing faulty equipment is a shameful business practice but also something that most companies will pay dearly for should something happen to someone using the aircraft boarding stairs or any piece of ground support equipment.
5.Training the staff
An important step that is often overlooked is sufficient training. Sure, most airports or airline employees have a certain level of training but most of the things taught during training are perishable skills that need to be updated and retrained. Perhaps you don’t use the same model of equipment every time and this one does something slightly different than that one. It is important to stay up to date on any and all training for every piece of equipment that is used. To avoid downtime with the equipment, the personnel that operates it has to be well trained on the operation as well as on the maintenance and repair of such unit. It is suggested that a certain amount of hours per piece of equipment. Nothing beats hands-on experience and on the job training.
It is highly recommended that you have an inventory of replacement parts for all of your equipment including your aircraft boarding stairs. Having spare parts will allow your crew to swap items out and will alleviate the downtime or replacement waiting periods for your equipment. Again, this goes into having a well-trained crew that is comfortable replacing parts and checking that they are up to standards. Having an inventory of spare parts also allows you to save large sums of money that you would otherwise spend on replacing whole pieces of equipment.
At times it is easy to become complacent and comfortable with your ground support operation. Things can go fine for a while but the possibility of injury or disaster is only one equipment malfunction away. Keeping in mind that safety is first and that the well being of the crew members and passengers using your equipment trumps all else is so important. Follow these six steps and you will find yourself saving money, making customers/passengers happy, and experiencing seamless transitions from boarding to deboarding.