Menzies builds on electric GSE roll-out at airports

Stephen Gallagher, Senior Vice President GSE and Equipment, Menzies Aviation speaks to GHI about plans to roll out more electric GSE at airports.

GHI: Congratulations on being the first handler at Manchester Airport to have electric hi-loaders. How did this move come about in the first place?

Stephen Gallagher: To facilitate this transition, we’ve worked in close collaboration with the airport to ensure that adequate charging infrastructure is available at the stands, as this can be a significant obstacle to overcome when introducing electric equipment for ground-handling purposes. Rolling out eco-friendly ground service equipment across our global operations is integral to achieving our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2033 - our 200th anniversary.

GHI: Are there further plans to roll out the electric hi-loaders to other airports?

SG: Yes, wherever it’s possible we will opt for electric equipment, however this will always be dependent on the airport infrastructure available, as well as the progress that manufacturers make with facilitating this shift. Overcoming these obstacles will require significant investment, as well as the potential reconsideration of airport layout and logistics, to ensure that charging stations are accessible and readily available. Accelerating the roll-out of this infrastructure would have a notable impact on the implementation of electric GSE into ground-handling operations.

GHI: What brand of electric hi-loaders are in operation at Manchester? Can you describe their main benefits?

SG: We use Trepel hi-loaders. The main benefits of these machines are that their CO2 emissions are very low, and they are much easier to maintain, leading to longevity of use within our operations. Moreover, there is a lower total cost of ownership related to such hi-loaders.

GHI: How important is Menzies ‘All in’ sustainability strategy when it comes to purchasing lower emission GSE at airports where it operates?

SG: The principles set out in our ‘All In’ strategy form the basis of our decision-making when introducing GSE, as the business is constantly challenging itself as well as other stakeholders to increase and improve upon the opportunities to introduce the lowest emitting assets possible. We commit to prioritising the use of electric GSE and it will always be our preference over other equipment.

GHI: Are there more choices for handlers when it comes to greener assets? Why is this an advantage now compared to the past?

SG: Yes, the choice is improving across the major suppliers, giving us more flexibility across a larger range of assets. The technology is advancing all the time, and whilst the initial outlay is currently more expensive, it is only a matter of time until the cost will be comparable or better than diesel/petrol options. They support with reducing our CO2 output and are easier to maintain, which, in turn, improves levels of availability and therefore airline on time performance. They also hold their charge for a longer period and are quicker to charge than previously.

GHI: What are the main challenges prohibiting the electrification of the ramp?

SG: Adequate investment must be allocated to the implementation of infrastructure that will allow service providers to execute their work in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. Configuration of the stands is integral for the provision of suitably located charging areas, therefore close cooperation with the airports is essential. Finally, space limitations and subsequent congestion on the ramp can causes issues with efficiency and streamlining of operations.

GHI: Are they any further contracts in the pipeline in 2022 similar to the one signed with Rushlift GSE last year to provide Menzies with high quality and reliable GSE?

SG: Yes, we are in discussions with several suppliers across the network. We introduced three new suppliers in 2021 and are in discussions with others that should come on stream in 2022/23.

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