Spring 2020

dnata handles first ‘fully green’ turnaround

Dubai-based ground services provider dnata is keen to minimise its environmental footprint. As evidence of this, in December it handled its first ever fully-electric-GSE serviced commercial aircraft turnaround

dnata handled a flydubai B737-800 aircraft turnaround at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 2 at the beginning of December last year using only what it describes as “zero-emission” GSE.

Calling it “a significant milestone in its sustainability journey”, the ground handler employed stairs for passenger disembarkation and boarding, electric conveyor belts for loading and unloading baggage and cargo, and electric baggage carts to move luggage to and from the 737-800.

An electric towbarless pushback tractor was used to push the aircraft out to its taxi point, while throughout the turnaround the aircraft was powered by Dubai International’s Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) infrastructure.

dnata forms part of the Emirates Group and Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Group, flydubai and Dubai Airports, comments: “Sustainability is a key focus across operations at the Emirates Group, flydubai and Dubai Airports.

“The UAE is a major global aviation hub, and in line with the country’s vision to ensure sustainable development while preserving the environment, we are committed to taking meaningful initiatives and continually challenge our processes to deliver the highest possible value for all of our stakeholders.

“The green turnaround, involving a collaborative effort from airline, ground handler and airport operator, highlights Dubai’s commitment and ability to make a difference by using resources in a sustainable manner.”

Long-term strategy

This green turnaround is the latest step in what has been an ongoing focus on minimising the Emirates Group’s environmental footprint. As part of that strategy, dnata has sought to move across to green GSE as and wherever it can.

It has already has replaced a large number of its ramp vehicles, GSE and warehouse forklifts with hybrid or electric variants, while refurbishing selected GSE where appropriate to extend life-cycles, decrease engine emissions, reduce waste and update equipment to the latest safety and quality standards.

According to the handler, dnata currently operates more than 100 ‘eco-efficient’ vehicles at Dubai’s two airports – Dubai International and Dubai World Central (DWC).

In fact, dnata is currently looking seriously at the possibility of converting all its passenger handling operations at DWC to an entirely electric ramp GSE operation by late autumn of 2020.

Robert Powell, vice president, technical services, UAE operations at dnata, tells Airside that dnata has been progressively inducting electric GSE into the fleet as part of its environmental commitment and fleet planning strategy for some time now, and the green turnaround in December was not really a pre-planned event. It just happened to all come together that day.

“Although we had no specific plans to complete a green turnaround, we reached a critical mass of electric GSE that allowed us to facilitate this in our operation at Dubai International’s Terminal 2,” he recalls.

“DXB is a large operation, so rather than having electric GSE assigned to specific flights, it is now embedded through various parts of the airside operation across Terminals 1, 2 and 3,” he points out. The next milestone in the handler’s “sustainability journey” is the objective to make all the GSE in dnata’s DWC passenger handling operations zero-emission in time for Expo 2020, which begins in late October.

Of course, dnata is not the only ground service provider to be improving its environmental credentials. “There is growing awareness around the role that the private sector plays in combating climate change and supporting the shift towards a more sustainable economy,” Powell acknowledges.

Moreover, “Transparency around sustainability practices in operations is increasingly important to our customers. In many cases it also makes economic sense. Improving energy efficiency, cutting fuel consumption and reducing waste generation all result in a more cost-efficient as well as environmentally friendly operation.”

But perhaps what sets dnata apart on this issue is its commitment to making the green issue central to its ongoing corporate strategy, he suggests. “We are dedicated to [minimising] our environmental responsibility and this underpins our core values as an organisation,” Powell observes.

“To support the industry on the ground, we invest in the most modern, eco-efficient ground equipment possible. We also operate our assets in the most environmentally responsible manner, and in compliance with all local applicable environment regulations and standards.

“Furthermore, we develop and implement specific policies relating to energy, waste management and minimisation, as well as ground transport.”

dnata’s green GSE fleet currently takes in conveyor belts, aircraft tractors (both towbarless and conventional, baggage tractors, towable passenger steps with electric pedestrian control, and forklifts and material handling equipment.

That environmentally friendly fleet will only grow in size. “Consideration of electric, hybrid and alternative fuel options is now enshrined in our GSE procurement policy, where commercially viable,” Powell declares.

“Like many airport operators, the infrastructure to support battery charging is a challenge, but we are working very closely with Dubai Airports on this. The reality is that across the range of GSE types, different solutions will be applicable to different operating environments and scenarios, with electric, hybrid, range extenders, fuel cell, alternative fuels, fixed services and even clean diesels forming part of the overall picture.”

dnata is, for example, using propane-powered vehicles at Los Angeles International Airport; when asked if propane might be seen as an alternative to electric GSE as part of the handler’s green strategy, Powell explains: “As noted above, different operating environments and scenarios will drive a range of different solutions.

“Propane is a more mature option in California and hence a viable alternative; for Dubai and indeed any other airport across our global network, the mix and availability may be different, but the common theme is our commitment to lowering our carbon footprint.”

Established in 1959, dnata provides ground handling, cargo handling, travel, and flight catering services in 35 countries across six continents. It serves over 300 airline customers and, each day, the company handles more than 1,900 flights, moves over 8,500 tons of cargo, books at least 16,000 hotel stays, and uplifts over 320,000 meals.