Heinrich Gericke

Operations Duty Manager, Malta

How have things changed with COVID-19?

As a preemptive measure the company set up a safe house in Malta. Earlier on in the year, 13 of us moved into the facility to work as a support unit. Our team consisted of Duty Manager, Technical Dispatcher, Crew Communications, Facts point-person, Operations Supervisor, Crew Planner and Member Services.

My role didn’t change too much during this time, I took care of the day-to-day scheduling and running of flights in a technical capacity. Anyone working within the safe house was mainly looking after the day-to-day function of our operations. The guys working remotely from home worked more on the strategic side; they looked into the future and accounted for the long term.

Did you encounter any difficulties or challenges working from the safe house?

I’m used to working in a closed team of around six to seven people, so being enclosed with a small group of people was not a problem. What I did find a bit challenging was communicating with teams externally. It’s important that information flows, and not having people from all the different departments around you was less than ideal. I’m used to getting up, speaking to someone directly and getting the answers I need.

How do you stay on top of government regulations?

Regulations change hourly, sometimes even in minutes. The best we can do is remain vigilant and think fast. It has required a lot of people working diligently and quickly to find solutions, but that’s what we do. We find solutions for our passengers every day.

We also have a dedicated COVID-19 Task Force which consists of a Supervisor, Pilot and Duty Manager. It’s a full-fledged process. They run a good 16 hour day collecting information. Any flight that comes onto the board that might impact the passengers. We need these guys to use their resources on the ground to gather information, as countries can be slower to publish new regulations than they are to enforce them.

As a company, we always try to find a solution for our customers. Do you think we are still able to do that?

Absolutely, we don’t say no. We will try our best - sometimes we don’t get the desired results, but we never say no. We will reach that one person that can help us, even if we have to go through a hundred phone calls and twenty others first, it doesn’t matter; we will always look for solutions. We are in a much better position as a company because we have this attitude.

What have you learned from this experience so far?

One thing I can see now is how everybody has pulled together. Everybody is having conversations, sharing suggestions. Even small things like a crew member coming back and telling us that a parking spot is too expensive. Things like that helps to improve our operations and make us better as a company.

With regards to staying motivated, I’m pretty lucky that I have been in the safe house with a very diverse team, with great personalities. We encourage each other to exercise, and generally keep each other positive.

I’m excited about what the future is going to bring and we’re all working as hard as we can to get ready for the next step. We will continue to get busier and busier.

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