ISAGO Update

A hot topic at the IATA Ground Operations Symposium, the safety audit program moves forward.

IATA’s Safety Audit for Ground Operations is gaining momentum throughout the industry based on strong interest and discussion at the recent IATA Ground Operations Symposium held in May. The topic arose in many different sessions throughout the day. That’s a good sign we’re building momentum and the industry is starting to see how ISAGO can add value in many areas.

ISAGO is designed for ground handling companies operating at airports. The aims of the program are simple — improving operational safety, reducing ground damage, and promoting audit efficiency. The first 50 ISAGO audits are now completed, in locations as diverse as Harare, Vilnius, Hong Kong and Beirut. And 12 ground handling companies are on the ISAGO registry, meaning that their corporate audit and at least one of their stations has been fully audited (the registry listing can be found at

ISAGO corporate audits — which focus on organization and management systems — are carried out by the same audit organisations that IATA uses for IOSA audits. At the station level, where the audits are more numerous, IATA has formed a pool of auditors drawn from existing auditors in its member airlines that would normally be doing station audits for their own airline. To date, 35 IATA member airlines have joined the pool.

Demand for ISAGO audits arises on two fronts, and it’s not always easy to find the balance. Especially in these early stages of the program, we have on the one hand the companies and stations that our pool members are listing as their priorities. On the other hand, we have ground handling companies coming to us independently and wanting ISAGO audits. Fortunately, we have a match in many instances. This issue is mainly a teething problem, and that once more airlines are in the pool, any likelihood of a ground handler not being able to be matched with a pool member airline will be greatly diminished.

Getting a new program moving during the aviation industry crisis is also a challenge. With both airlines and handlers stretched to their financial limits, the program has had to recognize these limitations. In terms of making the audit simpler for both airlines and handlers, IATA has embarked on a program to rationalize and reduce the audit standards. We are aiming to achieve the same audit result — in terms of assessing operational safety capability — but in a smaller package. The original suite of standards requires the presence of a three-person audit team on-site at a station for up to three days, depending on the scope of services offered by the handler at that station. We will be looking to shave at least 20 percent off that timeframe, with further improvement as we go along and build experience.

New Audit Cost Structure – savings for handlers
Using a pool of airline auditors to conduct station audits has enabled IATA to keep this part of the program cost-free for handlers, since the airlines doing ISAGO audits are essentially doing those audits in replacement of a regular airline station audit they would have done anyway. But with the corporate audits, IATA is currently committed to using audit organizations, and since these are commercial entities, they need to be compensated. The corporate audits occupy an audit organization auditor for just two days on-site, but with preparation, evaluation of corrective actions and close out of the audit, the total audit effort is evaluated at $5,000, which is billed to each ground handler. Corporate audits are done every two years, and even though these amounts are relatively small, IATA has found them to be an impediment for many handlers wanting to move forward with ISAGO. Accordingly, IATA has been evaluating how best to solve this problem. I was pleased to announce in Cairo that for any ground handler doing its corporate audit in the remainder of 2009, IATA will fund the $5,000, thereby removing that final cost barrier. The handler will still be responsible for the travel costs of one auditor but IATA works closely with each handler, and the auditors, to utilize available auditors with minimal travel distance.

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