The market in ground handling services has been gradually opened to competition since 1996.
The current Directive essentially stipulates that at larger EU airports access to the market by suppliers of ground handling services is free. However, for certain categories of services (baggage handling, ramp handling, fuel and oil handling, freight and mail handling) the Member State may limit the number of suppliers to no fewer than two for each category of service. In case of such limitations at least one of these suppliers has to be independent of the airport or the dominant airline at that airport.
The Commission’s proposal for a new EU ground-handling Regulation touches upon the following design elements:
- Minimum quality requirements for ground-handling operations
- Compulsory minimum training of staff
- Self-handling definition
- Third-party handling
IACA believes that a Regulation provides for a better legislative instrument to deal with groundhandling issues than a Directive, as it is applicable in a uniform manner throughout the Union.
Nevertheless, IACA considers that the European Commission has proposed unnecessary interference in the contractual relationship between a groundhandler and an airline. Elements such as minimum quality levels and training should be part of the service level agreement, rather than detailed at EU level.
IACA believes that the specification of quality for ground handling services should reflect the liberalisation in the air transport sector. This liberalisation has led to the current diversity in airline business models. These are often based on different levels of service to passengers, including ground handling.
Whilst IACA welcomes the progressive opening up of the groundhandling market with the proposed Regulation, it strongly suggests to make the text stronger with respect to the tender process criteria, as well as the charging mechanisms for centralised structures.
- Press release, 12 December 2012: AEA, ERA and IACA welcome another chance for the European Parliament to realise the gradual opening up of ground handling services at EU airports
- Press release, 10 December 2012: AEA, ERA and IACA Call on the European Parliament to Vote for Gradual Opening of Ground Handling Services at EU Airports
- Position paper, 12 March 2012: IACA's position on the European Commission's proposal for a EU Regulation on groundhandling services