You might not be aware of this, but soon after your plane lands and you finally make your way our of the aircraft, a team of workers then boards it, doing so with military precision. Members of the ground crew are responsible for a lot of things. They unload passengers and their luggage, mail and cargo. They also refuel the airplane, clean it, and usher in a new flight crew and passengers – all in the space of minutes.
Aviation industry insiders call this turnaround time. It refers to the time required to unload a plane after its arrival at the gate and prepare it for the next departure. For every minute an aircraft is on the ground, the fewer money-making routes it can fly. Airlines, therefore, are constantly working to improve their on-time performance and reduce turnaround time without compromising quality.
According to Sabine Trunk, Senior Director Aircraft & Cargo Processes Hub Airlines, Lufthansa Group, having an optimized turnaround time is one of the factors for efficient airplane operation. “Lufthansa is continuously improving its ground processes, always with a focus on passenger convenience and a safe and punctual operation.”
Apart from passenger boarding – enplaning and deplaning – Trunk says that several processes have an effect on the ground time. “Aside from the aforementioned ones, cleaning, catering, fueling or unloading and loading of the aircraft, among others, are taken into consideration. Crew processes also have to be observed.”
Lufthansa works with airports to make certain that planes are flying and not kept on the ground longer than necessary. “Lufthansa Group’s station managers are in close contact with the airports to monitor the local turnaround times and evaluate optimization potential. Furthermore, they are supported by Lufthansa Group’s Aircraft and Cargo Processes Hub Airline team, which is continuously monitoring changes in the different processes and developing aircraft handling solutions together with all process partners,” she adds.
Heini Noronen-Juhola, Vice President, Aviation & Safety at Helsinki Airport, says that punctuality is very important both for the airlines and for airports. “The same aircraft flies many routes during the day so schedules must be followed.
The airport has facilities that are in common use, so everybody has to be able to utilize them very punctually. A good example is the usage of the passenger bridge positions.”