The company is contracted by every airline except Delta and American, so the more airlines operating at the airport, the more business for GMD. And with American’s routes being absorbed by a bigger roster of airlines, “this means that we now have more clients and therefore need more employees,” said Carlos Colón, founder and patriarch of this family-run business.
The high flying may soon turn into a hard landing, as the day draws near when the Puerto Rico Ports Authority will announce the winning bid for the private-public partnership (PPP) to turn over management of the airport to a foreign private company.
“Both remaining bidders have said they will come in offering the complete suite of services, and that might very well include just about everything we do,” Colón said. “So of course we’re concerned. The only thing we can do at this point is wait for the winner to be announced and then meet with them to see what they’re going to do.”
An announcement is imminent, and government officials have said they want the new operator to take over before the peak tourism season begins Dec. 15.
The timing could not be worse for GMD. Not only has American’s downsizing in Puerto Rico helped, but so has the local government’s aggressive push to bring in additional airlines and to get the ones already here to add new flights.
“We grow with every new flight that comes in and out of the airport,” added son Raúl Colón, part of a senior management team that also includes sons Rodney and Ronald.
For the time being, it’s business as usual at the 30-year-old company, with GMD personnel receiving every flight at the tarmac, moving the luggage into baggage claim, working the terminals and gates, preparing and stocking the aircraft for the next flight, helping minors and the disabled into and out of flights, and offering other services.
Hence the need for steady hiring, a task which became a lot more complicated under the strict, new federal controls that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York’s twin towers and the Pentagon.
“This is high-turnover work, and every time an employee leaves, it takes us several weeks to find, clear and train a replacement, and not everyone passes the clearance, which is extremely thorough,” explained the elder Colón. “So we have to be looking all the time, since we only get to actually hire some of those we recruit.”
As cumbersome as it sounds, the company would rather keep doing it, provided the PPP cloud dissipates and GMD is cleared for continued take-off.