USD$200 Million Smiles

In 2004. an open bidding was initiated for a mega scale airport project which could potentially brings in an additional income of USD$200millions annually, many well known competent local and oversea conglomerates took parts in this highly competitive bids and a Chinese operator and Korea’s Incheon airport was selected as the finalist. A team of executive was dispatched to disguise as fare paying passengers engaging the existing airport terminals for final appraisal. Both scored similar high points in their respective area and led to a selection dilemma, however, one detail was brought up as some of the committee’s checked-in luggage was damaged and dirty upon collection at the Chinese airport whereas the one in Incheon were found to be in good and pristine conditions consistently.

An audit was carried out on the spot on the handling process at both airport to identify the root-cause; Older ground staff at Incheon was found to carry out their physical and boringly routine tasks with dedications with a smiles by handling the baggage slided down from the plane’s cargo compartments with cares and passions and even included a final simple cleaning process by wiping down on all the boxes, bags, backpacks, luggage before releasing them into the arrival’s rotating baggage claims channels respectively. A stunningly different process was witnessed at the local Chinese crew at the local airport, all much younger, they worked hard relentless by pushing the checked in items around sometimes by tossing and missed. Most had no facial expressions and looked impatient and cant wait to clear the items and back to the rest area. 3 Months later, un surprisingly, Incheon won the bid for the project. The Chinese airport management was told;” We cant let our beloved passengers handling over their precious goods to an uncommitted ground crews to mess around”.

There could be many reasons behind the slacking of the baggage ground crews; lower than market salary, high turn over rate, incompetence management, cold outdoor weather, peak travelling session, focusing on productivity of turn around clearing time, cost cutting measures, no sense of belongings in the department, whole handling team was actually outsourced and so on. In facts, its all about management’s commitment in paying attention to the details; either by elimination of human handling, having a much efficient sliding down mechanism or simply by paying more attentions to the crew’s both financial and psychological needs. The bottom lines are to have a dedicated team with members each contributing her or his best larger than themselves purposes individually.

In other words, a smart executive management team knew about the important of placing priority in the details for overall high level of quality of products and services instead of just focusing merely on competing for unsustainable low cost. Incheon airport operator probably had a strong dedicated team leader in the baggage handling department, making sure his or her staffs are well taken care of, all the trivial things; birthday celebration for the crews, pats on the back for jobs well done, open compliments for individuals or teams on promotions, completion of projects, meeting targets and so on, annual company trip and retreats for team building which led to lower than average turn over rate, its explains the general older age in the actual baggage handling team, each and everyone of the crews takes high level of prides in what they do and feeling proud clad in Incheon Airport uniform and perform their duties faithfully daily with a smile on their face unknowingly. Now, that’s USD$200 million dollar smiles.


Uncle Garfied enjoys his hot chocolate at Charlie Brown Cafe@313 Somerset. Orchard Road, Singapore.



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