The coronavirus pandemic has hit the French Riviera airports at Nice, Cannes and Saint-Tropez hard. But Joseph Azzaz, Directeur, Aéroport du Golfe de Saint-Tropez, says new lessons are being learned, ready for a safe return to operations
As spring turns to summer, the Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur airports on the French Riviera at Nice, Cannes and Saint-Tropez, would normally be moving into their busiest time of year. That same period in 2020 inevitably has them managing as best they can under severe travel and operational restrictions, but managing nonetheless, and looking forward to a new future.
Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur owns and manages all three facilities, delivering handling activities under its Sky Valet brand. Created in 2013, Sky Valet ensures a consistently high quality of service, since the Sky Valet FBOs and airports belong to the same company.
Now Directeur, Aéroport du Golfe de Saint-Tropez, Joseph Azzaz moved to the airport after six years managing Sky Valet’s Cannes FBO. He describes the company’s Cannes airport operation: “We run the airport, the hangars and the handling. All aircraft types up to 35-tonnes maximum take-off weight are welcome, so long as they are compliant with noise regulations.”
Although relishing the challenge, even in peculiar times, of his new position at Saint-Tropez, Azzaz is proud of his time at the Cannes FBO. “I became manager there in 2014 and every year the quality of our handling services was placed among the top FBOs in industry surveys. Cannes offers ramp, customer services and crew facilities, and a crew car is always available. Sky Valet’s Cannes FBO was certified IS-BAH Stage 1 in 2015, the first European facility to achieve this landmark. In 2017 it became the first to gain IS-BAH Stage 2 certification.” Sky Valet service provision at Saint-Tropez, which Azzaz describes as an ‘iconic destination’ is similar, but with the addition of AFIS (aerodrome flight information service) capability.
“The airport enjoys overwhelming support from all the cities in the Golfe de Saint-Tropez,” Azzaz says, “the local authorities working closely with airport management to help develop its activities while taking into account the need to reduce noise and pollution.
“Most of our customers live in the Golfe de Saint-Tropez area. They are frequent flyers throughout the year, but we usually experience a huge amount of extra traffic during the summer. In addition, our helicopter operations are extensive, with most flights from the airport to homes or yachts.”
With many years’ shared experience behind them, Sky Valet’s agents have a deep understanding of their mission and what’s required to achieve it. Azzaz also reckons: “Our customers and crew members appreciate that they are always welcomed on the ground by familiar faces. It’s their guarantee that they will receive tailor-made service that exceeds expectations.”
Of course, the COVID crisis is causing some expectations to change and forcing operators to look at new ways of doing business. “We are taking every measure to safely welcome passengers and crew,” Azzaz says. “Our spacious facilities mean we can easily accommodate social distancing and all the other requirements of safe services. We will get through this crisis and be resilient, defining and applying new protocols under the mantra ‘Safety, Security, Service’.”