Laying out the green agenda

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Iberia Airport Services, which describes itself as Spain’s leading airport handling service provider, added more than 650 new pieces of equipment to its ground vehicle fleet at Spanish airports during just the first half of this year. And, over the course of the past two years it has replaced more than half of its ground vehicles, the handler confirms. Much of that new equipment is very much of the ‘green’ variety

In what it says is an element of its environmental strategy, Iberia Airport Services is replacing its conventionally powered equipment with electric-powered GSE. Indeed, these ‘greener’ vehicles now account for 29% of the total fleet. All of its tractors and lifting equipment at Madrid-Barajas Airport’s cargo terminal are now electric-powered, for example. Most of the new equipment recently acquired is in use at Spain’s Madrid, Barcelona and Majorca airports.

​“These measures are due to the company’s strategy and commitment to reduce the environmental impact of all our activities,” observes Angel Marcos, Iberia’s airport services director.

​And David Uclés, Iberia’s manager ground equipment, adds more detail: “The move towards a more electric fleet is part of our strategy and the commitments made when we bid for ramp handling licences at Spanish airports. But, we also want to cut our CO2 emissions and reduce the impact of Iberia operations on the environment. The electric fleet also brings maintenance and fuel consumption benefits.”

​Uclés explains that while the initial cost of electric GSE may be high, it is all about the total cost of ownership (TCO). “The cost of the electric GSE depends on the GSE types and the procurement leverage. Though at the moment of purchasing it, the investment to be made may be higher, in the long term, electric GSE’s TCO is better.”

​Another priority for the handler when acquiring GSE is the rapidity with which any such equipment can be put into service. “For us, the delivery time of the GSE and the customer support services offered by the provider have weighed a lot in our decision-making,” Uclés notes.

​Iberia Airport Services currently owns and operates around 400 electric-powered vehicles, mainly baggage tractors, stairs and conveyor belts, Uclés confirms. What is more, looking ahead: “Among our future targets are to operate electric-powered cars, vans and aircraft tractors.

​“At Iberia in general, and Iberia Airport Services in particular, our aim is to operate in a sustainable way. We analyse the different possibilities to replace conventional vehicles with electric-powered equipment. At Iberia Airport Services, we are currently complying with the legal requirements to reduce CO2 emissions and our intention is to go further than that.”

​What more could or should be done? Uclés considers: “In the process of becoming an environmentally friendlier operation, the engagement of the airport authorities is quite important. Infrastructure is one of the most expensive parts of the chain, so electricity suppliers and airports should help airport handling services operators in this process.

“An important aspect of the process of purchasing electric vehicles is the availability of the airport infrastructure needed to be able to operate them, such as charging stations,” he emphasises. “The approval processes for this equipment at airports needs to be faster too.”

​Between January and June this year, Iberia Airport Services served more than 161,200 aircraft at the Spanish airports at which it handles. It also served more than 41.8 million passengers, a 3.6% increase over the first half of 2016. Amongst the carriers that Iberia Airport Services added to its customer base in the first six months of this year were Air China and Avianca in Barcelona, and Finnair in Mahon, Ibiza and Alicante.