Aircraft Service International Group is moving in a number of directions, including a strategic purchase, designed to allow it to grow and diversify in an industry that is highly competitive. "We've always got our eye on strategically growing our business. There are opportunities in Europe and Asia and we have an outstanding network to grow here in the US," VP-Marketing and Business Development Dan Sellas tells AE&T.

ASIG has signed many new contracts recently for its numerous ground handling functions. At Los Angeles International Airport it was awarded a five-year contract to provide interline baggage service to all domestic and international carriers operating at the airport. At Denver and Chicago it won substantial deicing contracts for the upcoming winter. In its entrance into the Asian market, it was awarded a concession to provide into-plane fueling services at Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi Airport. And deepening its reach in the commercial ground handling market, in October it purchased Airport Group International.

AGI, a 75-year-old provider of commercial aviation and airport facility support services, was purchased from parent TBI Plc. It serves 17 airports, primarily in the US, with sizeable operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Honolulu, Charlotte, Ontario, Los Angeles and Guam. It specializes in ground and cargo handling, passenger services, fueling and airport facility activities.

"What attracted us to AGI was its network, but another point is the diversity of services it has. Cargo, ground handling and technical services fit well into what we are trying to grow and expand. Fueling operations dovetail nicely into what we are doing as well," says Sellas. ASIG's employee numbers were 6,500; with the addition of AGI this will grow to about 7,500.

ASIG is part of the BBA Aviation Services Group that includes Dallas Airmotive, Signature Flight Support, International Turbine Service, Barrett Turbine Engine Co., H+S Aviation and Premier Turbines. Parent BBA Group Plc is a publicly held company traded on the London Stock Exchange.

In February when Virgin Atlantic Airways moved to JFK International Airport's Terminal 4, ASIG was awarded the contract to supply ground handling, cabin and deicing services, an important step in its reach to become a total service provider at all gateways in North America. It was the first contract for the company at JFK and complements its other deals at LaGuardia and Newark. There are 75 ASIG employees handling Virgin at JFK, but it hopes to add more contracts and employees soon. It currently is leasing about 4,500 sq. ft. of office and break room space and in early 2005 will begin construction of a new 6,000-sq.-ft. maintenance facility adjacent to T4.

Sellas says the Virgin Atlantic contract has run smoothly and the T4 management team is very good to work with. He says "repeatability" is the key to providing top-quality ground handling functions at JFK. ASIG heard of "hit-or-miss" services for other airlines at the airport so it is focusing on a consistent level of service. "Each and every flight is done well and done safely. The feedback we have gotten back from Virgin and the group at T4 is that we are doing that," he says.

ASIG has invested $3.5 billion in new equipment. "We have a strong preference for new equipment if for no other reason than safety and reliability," Sellas says. "We have found that when you take an old refurbished piece, the costs are greater than buying new after maintenance and refurbishment expenses. We have invested in our fleets every year and this has helped us to remain cost-competitive and reliable."

ASIG made its first mark in Asia with its concession for into-plane fueling services at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi. The contract is one of two 20-year licenses allotted by the airport authority. Novatech Co. Ltd., a local Bangkok firm, is ASIG's joint venture partner.

The new airport is scheduled to open in late September 2005. It will handle all of Bangkok's scheduled passenger and freight traffic, replacing Don Muang and eight times the size. Its initial capacity will be 45 million passengers per year, but that number is expected to grow to 100 million. Last year Don Muang handled 30 million passengers. Four of the 51 loading bridges at Suvarnabhumi are sized for the A380. Cargo capacity is planned in the first phase to be 3 million tons but is expected to grow to 6.4 million tons eventually.

Other large-scale ASIG fueling contracts are at London Heathrow, Gatwick, Munich, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco airports.

ASIG also performs significant deicing services and recently won two large contracts at Denver International and Chicago O'Hare. It will furnish secondary deicing services to both United and Ted at DEN for 250 combined daily departures and won a contract from SkyWest. It also renewed DEN contracts for primary deicing services for Alaska Airlines, America West, American, Delta, Frontier, Lufthansa and Northwest. Daily flights for these carriers combined total 325.

Elsewhere, Air Wisconsin signed ASIG as its primary deicer at O'Hare for a total of 280 daily flights. At LAX, the new five-year interline baggage contract adds another dimension to services the company has been providing since 1961. It also performs ground handling, into-plane fueling, fuel facility services, cabin cleaning and jetbridge and GSE maintenance services there.