DLA has scooped new instructions from the Airline Operators Committee (AOC), a representative body of all 95 airlines using Heathrow, following a recommendation from British Airways (BA). The firm hopes the deal will provide it with a contact to new clients in the airline sector.
DLA is advising the AOC on a procurement agreement with Ferranti Air Systems for a new IT and telecoms system to assist with baggage reconciliation. Ferranti is being advised by its in-house team.
DLA was recommended to the AOC by BA's UK counsel Maria DaCunha. It then faced a three-firm beauty contest to win the work. David Parish, chair of the AOC shared systems board said he picked DLA “on the basis of its experience with airline contracts and its expertise in IT contract work”.
DLA partner Mark Critchard is leading the project. He worked closely with the executive committee of the 95-airline group, comprising BA, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, British Midland, Japan Airlines and United Airlines. Of these, Virgin Atlantic is already a DLA client and the others will be targets in a push to build up the firm's airline portfolio.
Critchard was recruited from Garretts in June with this type of work in mind. The firm believed his experience with airline clients would marry well with its own aviation practice.
Garretts was on BA's panel until the firm imploded post-Enron. Garrets advised on outsourcing work and promotions, and worked on the merger of BA's UK holiday business with Thomas Cook. Critchard now hopes to take advantage of what he believes is a gap on the BA panel.
The AOC decides on the many airport issues that are of joint interest to all airlines. The implementation of the baggage reconciliation systems comes as part of a series of new security measures post-11 September 2001. The system checks that the right bag goes to the right plane and checks contents for items such as firearms.
According to Critchard, one of the most challenging aspects of the deal was to draft an agreement that was acceptable to all 95 companies.