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Ultimate relationship test Vebego Airport Services Belgium and Brussels Airport

Brussels Airport wants to improve the passenger experience and sees cleaning as an integral part of this. Right from the first meeting, Vebego supported the airport’s vision, explains Ine Hox, Head of Passenger Services. The preparations for the new collaboration with Vebego were in full swing when the coronavirus suddenly appeared. The airport came to a standstill and the partnership was immediately put to the test. How did the start-up of this large project and the cooperation proceed in crisis times?

At Brussels Airport , cleaning in the last 25 years has mainly been characterised by technical cleaning. ‘Cleaning was viewed as a necessary task, but that was the end of it,’ Hox explains. ‘That is why we were searching for a new partner who could help us make a difference in passenger and staff experience, also through cleaning. It is crucial for Brussels Airport that the total experience of passengers, employees and customers is central throughout the entire journey. Vebego's range of services, their innovations in cleaning techniques and expertise in the field, but also their explicit appreciation for the cleaners were in line with our goals as an airport.’

Closed borders

The airport entered into the collaboration with Vebego early 2020. A large-scale transition that already requires a lot of time and preparation in ‘normal’ circumstances. On top of everything, the corona crisis occurred. Brussels Airport came to a standstill and Belgium closed its borders. In this uncertain situation, Vebego and Brussels Airport laid the foundation for a solid partnership. Hox: ‘The situation changed each time: lockdown, no lockdown, travel ban or no travel ban. As a new service provider, Vebego faced the challenge: how do we get all of the materials and people in Belgium and how do we deal with a situation that differs completely from what we agreed with each other in advance? Together, we had to constantly coordinate everything. There was also a constant upscaling and downscaling of staff. Fortunately, we saw Vebego put a mechanism of professionalism and project management into effect. The Vebego team sought alternative transport routes, arranged for access permits and ensured that the transition ran smoothly and in a timely manner. We got through the corona year together. That gives me a lot of confidence in the cooperation in the future.’

Roll up your sleeves

Michel Möller is Director at Vebego and first point of contact for Ine Hox. He had similar experiences. ‘Solving the logistics puzzle was a huge task. We had to adjust all of the plans, goals and objectives and therefore focus on what was possible. Only a limited number of employees were allowed to work at the airport, as a result of which we had to get the job done with a small team. Continually adapting our services and adjusting to the constantly changing situation. We really did that together with Brussels Airport. Everybody, literally, rolled up their sleeves. Members of both management teams, for example, helped to unload trucks full of materials, resources and cleaning machines and distribute them over the airport. It was an exceptional situation that put our collaboration to the test, but also immediately strengthened it,” says Möller.

Selfies with a new outfit

The efforts of the transition team were also seen by others. ‘The cleaning team thanked me for choosing Vebego,’ says Hox. ‘They were really enthusiastic about their new materials and outfits. Everyone made selfies right away. The cleaners feel appreciated. This contributes directly to the quality of their work and the more positive experience by passenger and staff employees. We often received complaints about the airport’s cleanliness. We barely had any this year, even in the summer when flying resumed again. A good sign, given the emphasis on cleanliness in this crisis.’

Innovation due to cleaners

The appreciation for cleaning work is crucial in Vebego’s approach, Möller explains. At Brussels Airport, but also with every other customer. ‘We need the ideas from our cleaning staff in order to innovate. They are the closest to their work, passengers and airport employees. At Brussels Airport, we brought ideas together, including the introduction of shift starts and organising workshops with groups of cleaning employees. We will also be introducing an employee innovation platform in the near future.  In addition, management is approachable and visibly present in the workplace. With small steps, we try to make an impact on the cleaners’ work in times of crisis with training, innovations and participation. It gives much more meaning to the work. We also receive feedback from our colleagues that they feel appreciated and that the work they perform also really contributes to increasing the passenger and staff experience at Brussels Airport.’