Fast 5: Airbus’ Customer Service Aims For Agile

Valerie Manning
Credit: Airbus

Valerie Manning, Airbus senior VP customer support, provides a glimpse of how the OEM is working with customers through the pandemic and what’s its strategy is for the global network.

Did Airbus make any customer service network changes over the last year? If so, what were they?

Airbus, especially in the customer services side, has a strong regional network of people and infrastructure placed in many worldwide locations. The most significant change we made late last year was to reinforce our Africa Middle East region and our Dubai-based customer services teams. This includes customer support, supplier support, engineering, quality, aircraft structure embodiment and repair services sales and marketing, flight training and flight operations. They are co-located to better serve African and Middle East carriers, lessors and MROs and the fleet of more than 1,000 aircraft there. The Africa Middle East team joins our regional concentrations in China, Asia-Pacific, South Asia, Latin America, North America, and of course, Europe.

How are you handling the day to day, and do you have any projections for the rate of recovery?

It is premature to predict precisely how, where, how fast and under what conditions operations will resume. Nevertheless, Airbus is trying to remain both agile and proactive in the meantime, to anticipate and meet customer needs.   

We continue to support our customers via remote and on-site technical assistance when required and via our AOG resolution center, which never stopped operating 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Airbus also considers customer proximity a key aspect of our service; we have teams in all main world regions close to customer bases and we intend to maintain such an organization. This proximity is highly appreciated by our customers during the crisis.

Are you seeing changes to digital services because of the pandemic?

The current crisis highlights the relevance of digital solutions to provide airlines with ever more efficient means to manage fleet performance in real time and in a tailored manner--helping airlines to make the most of their sometimes reduced or constrained resources. We have thus accelerated our digital services, such as our Skywise-based Parking Management App, which helps customers to administer their fleet in terms of aircraft location, maintenance needs, and storage procedures by “tagging” their grounded aircraft in Skywise, and virtually parking them into airports/stations (hangar, gate, taxiway, etc.). They can then quickly pull contextual data such as the aircraft's age, latest and next checks, last major assembly overhaul, and more.  We’ve received strong feedback about the resulting savings and efficiency improvement.

In addition to the parking app, how is Airbus helping its customers during this period of parked aircraft—and their return to service? What have airlines been requesting?

Since the start of the mass grounding period, we immediately received requests for support on parking, storage, maintenance task holidays, cargo in the cabin, and even bird nest protection.   

Among our first actions was to organize webinars with customers worldwide to help them through some of the basic parking and storage procedures, provide first work alleviation recommendations, and to take inputs and requests. We held more than 20 webinars; in each session, 100-150 customers were connected and their feedback was generally very positive.

How have you helped airlines adjust maintenance requirements, given the parked situation?

The second major effort, which is still ongoing, is to work on technical solutions for maintenance burden reduction. I can give three examples:

Recommendations for tasks with calendar intervals that become ‘due’ during the period of parking/storage. When an aircraft is grounded, some of these tasks can be postponed to the time of return to service. Solutions were found to grant further extensions of some calendar intervals until several months after return to service. 

*Parking and storage tasks: Recommendations for tasks designed to preserve the value of the aircraft, maintain it in an airworthy condition, and facilitate its return to service. Some tasks, such as periodic engine runs, require special conditions and generate a high workload, especially when so many aircraft need to be maintained simultaneously. Again, solutions were found to reduce the related workload without compromising safety. For instance, on the basis of accumulated experience, the team could grant performing “Parking Periodic Ground Checks” only every 15 days, instead of every seven. 

*Cargo in the Cabin: To address the sudden need to transport cargo in the aircraft cabin, we issued a number of technical recommendations and we held a dedicated webinar with our operators in late April. As we may see this desire remain, we are working on a long-term cargo in the cabin solution. (Note: the tech recommendations were OIT 999-0033/20 “Cargo Transportation in the cabin”; ISI 00.00.00370 “How to transport cargo in the aircraft cabin during COVID-19 outbreak? via FOT 999.0028/20)  

How about training changes?

We are also active in the flight and maintenance training domain, where in addition to operating our training centers worldwide, we also enable remote learning solutions via virtual classroom instruction and a ‘relaunch program’ to help pilots prepare to restart after a period of grounding.

Lee Ann Shay

As executive editor of MRO and business aviation, Lee Ann Shay directs Aviation Week's coverage of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), including Inside MRO, and business aviation, including BCA.