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Airports Coordinator

Some IOCs have an Airports Coordinator or liaison representative. This position serves as a contact point between the IOC and the Station Managers (or Port Coordinators), thus providing direct two- way communication and, importantly, a channel for directing information and decisions affecting that port. These port functions are the eyes and ears of the IOC and are vital cogs in the operational environment. The relationships among the airport staff and the IOC representation clearly need a high level of interdependence and cooperation, remembering that in times of disruption, each airport will be vying to secure its own recovery and won’t have the overall network tolerance needed to balance the airline’s operation. Thus, the role as airport spokesperson within the IOC needs to argue each case on its merits, while at the same time being well aware of the overall impact and the need for everything to knit together. This requires individuals with an in-depth knowledge of the ways in which the various airports function, including the subtleties of ownership and control, and the internal and external pressures upon them to perform. They need to be well aware of the tools used for measuring airport performance, such as a Precision Timing Schedule whereby each process and task (e.g., baggage unloading, fuelling, catering) has a specific time moment and duration during the turnaround time of an aircraft. Importantly, they also need to acknowledge the nature of the critical relationship between the airport and the airline customer.

Freight Liaison

Having freight representation within the IOC is another vital cog in the operational wheel. The freight function has oversight into what is loaded ‘below the wing’. Maximising payload on every flight includes maximising the freight uplift where possible, and the airline company in partnership with freight agencies need to avoid lost opportunities for freight carriage. During the final trim of the aircraft they are constantly liaising with Flight Planning and Load Control to maximise the cargo space when weight is paramount to the operations, as is the case in ultra- long-haul flights. In these more critical operations, it is highly desirable to accommodate at least the premium freight.

There are a number of reasons why freight uplifts are so important to the IOC. For example, the airline may have leased out cargo space to a large freight or mail organisation and honouring those contractual agreements is a high priority. There may be carriage of live animals, perhaps as transfers between zoos or other organisations or in association with a worldwide breeding program, for example. There may be a need for live human organ transfers requiring precise coordination and especially an awareness of environmental conditions both on board the aircraft and at airports being served. On some occasions, there is a need for repatriating human remains, requiring a high level of coordination and organisation, and of course a degree of compassion. In certain cases, some countries may also require a military escort to accompany the remains with particular attention given during an aircraft transfer.

The freight representative(s) is responsible for liaising with external and internal sources such as suppliers to ensure consignments are carried correctly and to enable any special needs, and engineering to ensure the aircraft hold capability and serviceability are suitable and methods for securing items are appropriate. A key role for freight representatives in the IOC is their ability to ensure a high level of customer focus. In the event of a sizeable delay, for example, they are able to contact a shipper of perishable items such as fresh flowers or seafood for a particular market prior to the perishables leaving the cool rooms, thus enabling maximum product life and freshness as far as possible.

Social Media

The presence of a social media section in the IOC has become one of significance. Social media monitoring can be a powerful tool. In some instances, the social media function may provide the first indication of an issue that could impact a departure - even one occurring outside an airport environment (e.g., a transport stoppage or accident may hinder or prevent customers arriving at an airport. Airport staff may not be aware at all, but social media platforms may have prior information). In terms of any perceived threat event (e.g., political or social unrest) posted on any social media platform, they may also have a role to play in helping to track electronic footprints. So they can serve as a main point of contact, both inwards and outwards in relation to customer-related events and communications related to airline issues such as disruption management and recovery, systems issues, and incidents, for example. They have the ability to assist business areas of the airline, especially where external contact is needed, through a number of means including telephone, web chat, SMS, and email.

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