Arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), we whizz through customs, pick up our luggage, and are often out and on our way within 20 minutes - without a thought about what makes this possible. In fact, every step has been minutely planned so that the aircraft's turnaround time is minimised, while the pleasurable travel experience is maximised.
Of the three companies responsible for providing ground services at HKIA, Jardine Airport Services Limited (JASL) has the largest third-party market share in terms of aircraft movement, and handles the biggest number of airlines at the airport at a staggering total of 35 operators.
"A ground services provider handles full passenger and ramp services, from arrival to departure, baggage and cargo services," says Sharon Chung, learning and development manager at JASL.
But the detailed list of tasks is long, and a duty manager - trainees for which post JASL is now seeking - needs to know all the inner workings of every department. "On a day-to-day operational basis, the duty manager is the most senior person. He or she has to monitor everything, making sure things go smoothly, and that flights depart on time," explains Christina Li, JASL's human resources manager.
JASL's two-year duty manager trainee programme provides an understanding of operations, and prepares duty managers to deliver. The curriculum includes check-in, departure and gate control and boarding, for which the duty manager must be familiar with the computer system, and different functional areas, such as passenger services, lounges, and dispatch and station control.
By the time the flight leaves, JASL has prepared the flight plan, weather information, the cargo load sheet, import-export documentation, and ensured load control - that is, the weight and balance of the aircraft.
For incoming flights, the duty manager must ensure turnaround co-ordination, including baggage unloading, and make sure the cleaning team is ready to board. Crew administration also falls under their duties, on behalf of airlines with no headquarters in Hong Kong. It includes arranging the per diem for the crew, booking hotels and arranging shuttles.
"The duty manager trainee has to undergo intensive training. They spend at least a month in each department," Chung says. "The duty manager is the final decision maker; they have to thoroughly understand the airport operations."
Classroom training is arranged for the technical aspects of the job, such as learning regulations regarding dangerous goods, and the different airline products.
"There are close to 2,000 people who are indirectly under the duty manager and who may need guidance in difficult situations. The position also requires communication with airlines, the airport authorities and other external parties, so people skills are important," says Li.
Applicants should have two to three years' work experience, and a stint in the aviation industry is a plus.