Airports Authority of India to seek bids for ground services

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The agency controls nearly 125 airports, including 78 domestic aerodromes and 26 civil enclaves.

Domestic airlines are allowed to do self-handling with the condition that they will not engage staff from third party.

New Delhi: State-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) would start appointing ground handling operators through a competitive bidding across its airports from October onwards. The agency controls nearly 125 airports, including 78 domestic aerodromes and 26 civil enclaves.

The AAI shared timelines for the exercise at a meeting chaired by aviation secretary RN Choubey. Senior executives of airlines, private airports and ground-handling agencies attended the meeting last week.

“The bidding process has already begun. We should shortlist agencies for various airports by September-October,” said an AAI official.

Ground handling services include baggage-handling, aircraft cleaning and servicing, loading and unloading of food and beverages and movement of cargo, among others.
As per the new aviation regulations, airports handling 10 million or more passengers annually are required to have three ground handling agencies, including that of the airport operator/its joint venture (JV)/its wholly-owned subsidiary or a JV or a subsidiary of Air India or any other agency appointed through a bidding process. However, airports with less than 10 million passengers can hire up to three agencies for carrying out ground handling operations.

Further, domestic airlines are allowed to do self-handling with the condition that they will not engage staff from third party. This means that airlines will have to put all the staff on their payrolls.

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An airline industry executive said that 6 out of the 22 major airports (Ahmedabad, Pune, Bhubaneshwar, Guw-ahati, Indore, Patna) have not complied with the basic requirements of ground-handling regulations and the same is the case with 13 non-major airports. “We have urged the government and AAI to give four months from the date of finalising the new ground-handling operator for transition,” he said.

Amidst security concerns posed by unregulated manpower agencies at airports, the government had brought the new ground-handling policy. While many domestic carriers do self-handling, they source contractual staff from third parties. There are multiple such agencies operating at some airports numbering 10-15 but once the new policy comes in place their number would go down to three.

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