Keeping departures running smoothly is all in a day's work for this Aircraft Dispatch Manager. Photos: Stuart Bailey

BA PEOPLE • April 2018

The Guru

Joanna Nock
Joanna Nock

Aircraft Dispatch Manager

Joanna Nock joined British Airways 30 years ago. Her first role was assisting customers at check-in, but she soon realised her problem-solving and time management skills could be put to use as an Aircraft Dispatch Manager. In between flights, she told The Club about the ins and outs of getting a plane to leave on time

What exactly do you do?
I coordinate the activities around a departure, from refuelling and legal paperwork to load control – the team that works out the weight and balance of baggage bins and cargo. If goods need attention, such as livestock or pets, we make sure the loading team and flight crew set the heating for them. We look after the ‘nitty gritty’ so the flight crew can concentrate on flying.

What are some stand-out moments from the job?
I’ve had to manage loading Bengal tigers on to a flight. We don’t sedate animals, so have to make sure they’re as calm as possible, covering them so they can’t see anything that would incite fear. For domestic animals, we make sure they have water for the flight and on arrival. We’ve had F1 and F3 racing cars, livestock, priceless art – a very varied selection.

Why do you wear a red cap?
To ensure we are easily identifiable as the senior person on the ground at departure.

What’s the most common complication you encounter
There can be many. However, weather can disrupt the schedule, aircraft availability and working-hour limitations of the crew.

How do you predict how long it will take to board passengers?
We use a departure control system called Fly that monitors when customers check in, so we can gauge how long it will be until they have all boarded.

Which aircraft is the easiest to prepare for departure?
The Airbus A319 can be the easiest aircraft to turn around because it’s smaller, with fewer seats. However, all our planes have challenges. 


What’s the fastest you can board a short-haul flight?
With the new self-boarding gates, I have boarded a full A320 aircraft travelling on a domestic route in 14 minutes.

Where would people see you in the airport?
Everywhere. Once we’ve been allocated a flight, we arrive at the stand, check the aircraft, and ensure the teams are ready to go. This includes the caterers, refueller, cargo deliveries and loading teams. We’ll then brief the flight and cabin crew and ensure their safety checks have been done. Then it’s to the gate team, where customers would see us before boarding.

How has BA’s new group boarding policy been received?
It’s been really positive – customers seem to feel more involved in the boarding process because they’re looking to see which group they’re in, and listening for the announcement to come forward. It’s a more efficient way to board customers, and the gate team introduce themselves over the loudspeaker, which feels more personal.

Interview by Marisa Cannon

This article has been tagged BA, Technology