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Highlights from the 32nd IGHC in Madrid, May 2019

News | 31st May 2019

We recently attended the 32nd IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC) in Madrid. With 900+ delegates and 40+ exhibitors, it was the largest IGHC to date, event sponsors included; AENA – the number one airport operator by passenger numbers, Iberia and Qatar Airways. 

The Opening Addresses 

Iberia’s opening address highlighted one of the key issues facing the ground handling industry – the lack of appeal to potential employees. Ground handling can be seen as “unsexy” and less attractive than flight operations.  In Spain alone the ground handling sector employs 17,000 people, Javier Marin (MD for Airports, AENA) stressed the fundamental and essential role ground handling operations play. 

IATA went on to cover the need for the ground handling industry to be more action orientated, with a focus on standardization and getting away from the ‘blame culture’. In particular IATA felt more innovation was needed – with the stark difference between above the wing and below the wing progress demonstrating the lack of development in ramp operations. IATA also stressed the need for different approaches to training being adopted, incorporating VR (virtual reality) where possible to improve training efficiency. 

EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) 

Patrick Ky, EASA Executive Director announced that they now have a mandate to become involved in regulating ground handling. They have met and spoken to 47 organisations, including airport operators, associations, ground handling service providers and country level regulators to get a picture of what is needed. From these meetings a ground handling road map has been created with 42 actions points covering these five areas: 

  1. Mandatory Safety Management Systems 
  1. Operational Standards 
  1. Minimum Training Standards (including practical training and examinations) 
  1. Equipment 
  1. Reducing Staff Turnover 

Implementation of the road map has started, and EASA expect to start to see results in 2020/2021. 

ISAGO Update 

Paul Fleming, IATA’s Head of Ground Operations Audits delivered an update on ISAGO – IATA’s Safety Audit for Ground Operations. The updated ISAGO program was launched in September 2017, with the aim of helping airlines select good ground service providers- currently there are just 16 airlines involved. 

IATA now have their own pool of 70 auditors – all registered on the IATA Charter of Professional Auditors, 245 audits were carried out in 2018 with 4776 findings in total. 

The updated ISAGO program focuses on management and oversight of ground operations and links to other IATA standards such as IGOM (IATA Ground Operations Manual). 

Center of Excellence for Training Validation Program 

During IGHC, IATA ran a workshop on their new Center of Excellence Training Validation (CETV) program, launched in April 2019. CETV addresses the need for training standardization – a topic which is very important to us here at RTITB Airside. 

The key aim of the scheme is to check the effectiveness of training, CETV is a voluntary scheme and IATA confirmed they have no plans to make it mandatory. Training Validation looks at the training organization processes and also at the training programs themselves. The team here at RTITB so that we can support you to ensure your programs meet IATA’s 6-point training program checklist. 

Ground Handling – Recruiting & Developing People 

One of the final sessions of the conference looked at the need to recruit, develop and retain more people in the ground handling sector. B2B International have been conducting research in conjunction with IATA and ran the session. Key findings included: 

  • Attitudinal skills were deemed more important by ground handling service providers (GHSP) than operational skills. 
  • GHSP’s were looking at ways of exposing potential candidates to the realities of the ground handling world during the recruitment process in an attempt to reduce attrition rates. For example potential night workers had their interviews in the middle of the night. 
  • The tipping point for employee retention is six months – after this the chance that the person will leave is dramatically reduced. 
  • Training new entrants is taking longer. 
  • Competition for new entrants comes not from other GHSPs but from retail and food service (e.g. Walmart and McDonald’s). 
  • Most ground handlers have a staff turnover of 30-50%. 


https://www.rtitb.com/contact/  to find out how RTITB Airside can help you address many of the issues raised during IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC) 2019.