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What can F1 offer the GHA market

Rowland Hayler looks at the unlikely lessons to be learned by Ground Handling from Formula 1.

Southwest Airlines was formed in the late 60’s and is the world’s largest low-cost airline. Their formula for success is based on short-haul, point-to-point flights with high frequency, low ticket prices, good service and quick-turnarounds. It exclusively uses Boeing 737 aircraft, does most of its own ground handling and owns 99% of its ground servicing equipment. Today, Southwest’s business model and operational performance is seen as the role model for low-cost operations. It’s not a coincidence that many similarities exist between Ryanair, Europe’s leading low-cost airline and Southwest Airlines.

Like many airlines however, Southwest have had their problems, including at one point, a dismal On Time Performance record. Airlines only make money when their aircraft are in the air, so minimising time on the ground is critical. To gain insights on how it could improve its performance, Southwest took the novel step of benchmarking their turn teams’ performance with NASCAR pit crews. They learned that the NASCAR pit crews’ performance was achieved both by a singular focus of each employee on their unique assignments, and with a great approach towards teamwork.

In Europe, F1 is often cited as a great comparison for Ground Handlers’ turn teams to aspire to. Given Southwest’s experience it’s surprising that more GHA’s don’t invest in the critical success factors proven to be at the heart of a successful F1 pit crew – team ethos, a commitment to continuous improvement, forensic examination of performance, role clarity, and a role relevant physical training regime.

Five Aero enables client organisations to achieve a step function improvement in their performance by applying advanced operational management techniques such as Lean Six Sigma, advanced process data analytics, and proven technology solutions.

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