Red alert: How dnata helped Virgin's Little Red service take flight

At the end of March 2013, dnata started work on its first short-haul operation, the UK’s Little Red by Virgin Atlantic. The new service required 50 dnata employees to be trained and ready for action. Operating from London Heathrow, the service offers multiple daily flights to Manchester, as well as Edinburgh and Aberdeen in Scotland.

One of the most jaw-dropping facts about Little Red – aside from Richard Branson wearing a kilt at the launch ceremony – is that dnata hired a team of nearly 50 and trained them for six weeks prior to the launch. After start-up, the team received a further six weeks of training support.

Operating in three different shifts at London Heathrow, the team – including 39 ramp agents – is responsible for aircraft handling for arrival and departures and also baggage sorting.

Training the team did throw up a few challenges, according to Keith Wood, Service Delivery Manager. “The biggest challenge we faced in training was the fact that the Little Red operation involves the loose-loaded narrow-bodied aircraft type.

“This type of operation was new for dnata at London Heathrow Airport. Therefore the training package had to be bespoke for the Terminal 1 operation.” He continued: “However, as most of the staff had no airport experience, we were able to train them with best practice habits from the start.”

When it comes to resourcing the new talent, Stuart Matheson, Project Delivery Manager, explains how a fluid shift strategy allows the teams to react to the situation on the ground.

“Shifts work as one group, so they are all responsible for the safe and on-time departure of all the flights on their shift. When one of the teams on shift has a few spare minutes before their allocated task, they assist the other teams. It builds the ability to react according to what is actually happening in the operation, without having to be told by a manager.”

Stuart explained that this method helps to smooth out any peaks of activity followed by troughs of inactivity.

“The duty management can concentrate on quality and safety in the knowledge that the teams already have the resourcing issues covered,” he added.

  • 6 weeks of training
  • 39 ramp agents
  • 46 dedicated dnata staff