On the Ramp in Kosice with Filip Klimko
We do not come up with excuses why something is not possible, we look for ways how to get it done. This simple response sums up Filip Klimko’s approach to any flight support request he receives as Euro Jet’s Country Manager for Slovakia. With almost two decades of aviation experience and being a third-generation aviation professional in his family, he manages a team of local agents spread across five Slovak airports. Filip introduces us to his day-to-day work as well as to his beautiful mountainous country while sharing important perspectives from his aviation career.
Filip, we hear you are from a family of aviators, is it true? What is the story of you and aviation?
It is true. I am in fact a third-generation aviator in my family. My grandfather worked in aviation his entire life and as a Station Manager for Czechoslovak Airlines in Kosice he would sometimes bring me to the airport with him. My earliest aviation memory is riding on a baggage carousel when I was around six years old. My father also spent his whole career at Kosice airport so when deciding about my future, the choice fell naturally in a similar direction. When I was in high school, I started working part-time at the Baggage Claim Office and continued to do so until I graduated university in Safety and Protection Management. Coming to the airport, putting your ID card around your neck – that is the thing for me, and always has been. I cannot imagine doing anything else for my career.
You have been working in Euro Jet for the past 10 years. How did this cooperation begin?
In 2013 I met Euro Jet’s CEO Charlie Bodnar at Bratislava airport and started working for the company in September of the same year. Charlie grew up at the airport in Kosice just as I did, and he has a great knowledge of the aviation landscape in Slovakia and the connections that go with it.
The job description of a Country Manager sounded very attractive to me – developing relationships with vendors, managing teams at several airports around Slovakia, taking care of both passengers and crews. I decided to give it a go.
Moreover, after my first couple of months with Euro Jet, I was asked to also work as a Flight Rider for a Slovak hockey team playing in the KHL. On these trips, I got to work at many foreign airports across Germany, Finland, and Russia which gave me a wonderful international training in general aviation ground services and helped develop me in my role as Country Manager.
What do you like about your job in Euro Jet so much that it made you stay for an entire decade? And what, on the other hand, is the most challenging part?
I definitely prefer the on-the-ramp part of my job compared to the office tasks. With this job, all monotony or regularity goes away. There is no long-term scheduled airline traffic; you have to react on the spot to the immediate needs and wishes of your customers. I enjoy very much the dynamic nature of my job.
Though one of the biggest challenges for me is the paperwork. Contracts, invoicing, sitting behind a desk – of course I get it all done but it is not as fulfilling as meeting crews on the ramp and making their time in Slovakia perfect in every way.
Talking about meeting all customers’ needs, can you recall any remarkable requests you had to accommodate over the years?
It all revolves around arranging top quality service – from the best hotels and cars to special requests and catering on board. I remember this one time when we received a catering order which included an entire case of Dom Perignon 2006 Rose. I had to drive to several liquor stores in different towns across Eastern Slovakia because each store would only have one bottle in stock. Anything our customers request, we are here to make it happen.
Euro Jet is celebrating its 15-year anniversary this year. What do you think has been the biggest step forward in the past decade and where do you still see room for improvement?
The best thing are our IT innovations. Euro Jet continuously works on improving its IT software – there is our own new database system, the LegTime application, an app for us agents on the ramp so we can share information with other Country Managers and colleagues all across our core region. All these innovations make my everyday life much easier.
The sharing of information is something I appreciate a lot and I believe that Euro Jet’s power lies in the network of its people on the ground. I make use of this communication network all the time. When there is a customer flying to Kosice from Zagreb, I call Brixy (Davor Brixy, Euro Jet’s Country Manager for Croatia) and ask him to let the crew know I will be the one welcoming them in their destination. If there are any last-minute special requests, I can find out about them and meet them right away. And when the crew lands, they greet me “Hi, Filip”, feeling safe and taken care of. Our customers see us, the real Euro Jet people supporting their flights, and can rely on the fact that at any airport within our core region they will receive the same perfect service.
As for what could get better, every company has room for improvement. We always welcome when we obtain more ramp vehicles, open new VIP crew lounges, extend our agents network, and expand our service offer at selected airports.
You live in Kosice in the eastern part of Slovakia but as Country Manager you oversee airports all over the country including in the capital city of Bratislava located in the West. How do you manage to cover it all?
I am based out of Kosice airport (LZKZ/KSC) where I also support all Euro Jet flights. At each Slovak airport – Piestany (LZPP/ PZY), Zilina (LZZI/ILZ), Poprad (LZTT/TAT), and Bratislava (LZIB/BTS) – we have our own Euro Jet representative. I visit them regularly to check on them as well as to make sure all services supplied by our vendors meet our standards. The whole team has a group chat, and we keep in touch regularly.
Can you please introduce us to this team of local agents?
At Bratislava airport we have Eva Dureckova and Lenka Glasova. At the airport in Piestany there is Alexandra Peskova while our flights in Zilina are managed by Zdenka Pistikova. In Poprad we just hired a new agent, David Dolinay. All of them live close to their airports so in case of any changes or diversions my team can be at the airport in a few minutes. We are truly available for our customers 24/7.
I am not going to pretend it cannot get stressful sometimes, but this bit of pressure makes us push ourselves to find a solution for any unexpected issue or last-minute request. We do not come up with excuses why something is not possible, we look for ways how to get it done.
All agents on my team have extensive aviation experience and local knowledge of their airports. They know exactly who to call or talk to and sometimes even that extra minute makes a difference. This is critical for our work and a great advantage for Euro Jet’s operation.
Are the Slovak airports well set up for general aviation flights?
Both Bratislava and Kosice have separate general aviation terminals which greatly minimizes the time spent at the airport for our business aviation customers. All Bizav passengers arriving in Poprad, Zilina or Piestany have to go through the commercial terminal, however, given the small size and traffic at these airports, there is no waiting time.
Another advantage of Slovak airports is their convenient location near each other so there is always a back-up airport in case of problematic weather conditions or lack of parking. Kosice and Poprad are one such example. Poprad is Slovakia’s highest airport above sea level, while Kosice is located much lower. Frequently, Kosice airport has fog, which makes landing impossible while the sky is clear blue at Poprad. They are just an hour drive away from each other – an ideal alternative – so we can arrange all services including transportation very quickly.
Do our clients mostly travel to Slovakia for business, tourism, or perhaps some special events?
As many international corporations have offices in Slovakia, we support a considerable number of business jets, mainly in the capital of Bratislava. Thanks to the Tatras mountain range, Poprad and Kosice airport see a lot of seasonal tourism-related traffic. We also service diplomatic flights during special governmental summits, and there are also sports flights with football or ice hockey teams. Because of the unfortunate events in Ukraine, Kosice recently served as an evacuation airport for many Ukrainian citizens who could not use any other mode of transportation, offering a gateway to safer parts of the world.
Let’s explore a bit your wonderful home country. What would you recommend every visitor to see while there?
The first stop has to be Bratislava, the capital. The historic city center of Kosice as well as the picturesque mining town of Banska Stiavnica are also well worth visiting. Then we have the High Tatras mountain range with their breathtaking scenery. And a bit further away from it all is a national park called Slovak Paradise, full of waterfalls and adventurous hiking trails.
How about a favorite Slovak dish and drink?
Let’s not spend too much time talking about the traditional three-dish combination of Pirohy, Strapacky and Halusky and get to my favorite stuff. Any customer is invited to join me at our weekend house for the best goulash cooked in a pot over a campfire. Served with a freshly baked bread and perfectly cooled beer, of course. Which brings us to the famously strong Slovak alcoholic drinks – there are the classic fruit brandies made of pear and all other kinds of fruit, or the super strong Tatra Tea which is a crew favorite to take back home.
How do you like to spend your time when you are not working at the airport?
With my family, we go to our vacation house in the Low Tatras on my days off. The house is deep in the mountains with no electricity or cell reception – it allows you to disconnect from everything and enjoy some quiet moments. When I am with my friends, we do a lot of hiking. And I also like to get on my bike every now and then.
Filip, thank you so much for sharing your aviation story with us as well as for introducing us to Slovakia and Euro Jet’s operations there. One last question, when looking ahead, what are your goals and plans?
My plan is to continue growing professionally. I want to contribute to developing our network of airports and agents, and with my team we are determined to further increase the quality of our services. We plan to expand our aviation knowledge and improve practical training so that we can maintain the highest level of support for our customers.
Images: Euro Jet Archive, Filip Klimko's Archive, Shutterstock