The standards of ground handling at airports in Africa vary widely due partly to the lack of or inadequate oversight by the responsible authorities. Similarly, infrastructure and facilities for handling passengers/cargo in many airports are inadequate, dilapidated or limited. The effect of this is that, quality standards are low in many airports while handling cost is high. The handling charges and fees in African airports are among the highest in the world.
While airlines sign ground handling agreements with service providers and expect to be provided with the full complement of support staff and facilities, often times the same airlines, are compelled to hire additional support staff and incur other costs to ensure their operations are conducted smoothly. Safety and pilferage are other major costly challenges faced by airlines at many African airports.
This concept paper is aimed at reviewing options for ground handling cooperation among airlines with the view to adopting and implementing cost-effective common solutions that will address some of the handling challenges faced by airlines.
Purpose of the concept paper
The purpose of this concept paper is to identify and bring together interested airlines to constitute a Task Force that will review the challenges airlines are faced with at various airports and propose joint solutions that will improve service delivery, safe costs and ensure accountability by airport service providers. The Task Force will conduct due diligence and undertake cost/benefit analysis to ascertain the viability and cost effectiveness of the project and also carry out implementation of the project objectives.
Possible Areas of Cooperation
1. Improve safety and safety governance at airports: Many airports do not adhere to the stipulated ICAO standards for ground handling and this often results in accidents and damage to aircraft and other properties of airlines. Supervision or provision of oversight for handling companies is often inadequate or non-existent. The Task Force will propose measures through which it could pressurize the responsible authority to intensify oversight and bring about quality assurance by handlers.
2. Adoption of ISAGO: The Task Force will encourage the adoption of ISAGO by handling companies while working with ACI-Africa to seek assistance to fast-track the adoption of safety improvement measures.
3. Sharing of airport audit findings to reduce cost resulting from multiple audits: Instead of each individual airline conducting separate airport audits on their handling service provider, a joint audit could be conducted at regular intervals and the report shared by the airlines. This will reduce the cost associated with duplicate audits.
4. Pilferage and baggage theft: There is widespread baggage theft and pilferage at many airports and though all airlines suffer from this bad practice, they keep the information/data to themselves. The Task Force will collate data on baggage theft and pilferage at airports so that AFRAA can use the information to lobby the relevant stakeholders to improve security and deter theft.
5. Provide assistance to each other in the event of unscheduled diversion of flights: Explore opportunities of reciprocal handling assistance at airports in the event of a diversion, especially in situations where the diverted airline has no ground handler at the airport but another airline does.
6. Share and effectively utilize handling staff and other resources at airports: Despite signing ground handling agreements with handling companies, airlines often have to employ additional staff. In cases where such staff are under-utilised, e.g. due to low frequencies, airlines may wish to use one pool of staff to handle the different airlines flights instead of each employing its own complement of local staff. This will result in effective utilization of staff and lower staff cost per airline.
7. Commensurate level of services for charges/fees levies and transparency in fixing airport charges and fees: There is lack of transparency in the way charges and fees for services rendered to airlines are arrived at. Often, there is a disparity between the charges/fees and the level of services provided. There is a need to pressurize airports to involve airlines in the determination of the cost of the services they consume.
Work of the Task Force
Some of the deliverables for the Ground Handling Task Force will include among others the following:
• Identify airlines willing to cooperate in the above ground handling areas
• Determine the viability of each of the above areas of cooperation
• Develop a business case for each of the viable cooperation propositions
• Seek support for implementation
• Cooperate and work with ACI-Africa
AFRAA together with the Task Force will identify a Project Champion and Chairman of the working group.
The Task Force is expected to complete its work by March 2013. Should it be found that the project is viable; the implementation process will need to begin. In this regard, a Steering Committee made up of participating airlines will be set up to drive the project forward.