The Start of Something Big?

Turbulent times in the Indian ground handling industry mean the coming year could define the levels of service far into the future.

Khosla reveals that while audits have yet to be confirmed by any Indian companies, ISAGO is “welcomed by the carriers and the ground handlers.”

He suggests the audit will provide the following benefits:

  • safer ground operations, less accidents and injuries
  • elimination of redundant audits from airlines
  • reduced costs
  • improved safety oversight
  • improved quality standards
  • a better understanding of risk exposures, essential for prevention
  • enhanced company image and reputation

IATA is already on the Indian ground handling scene. Its Airport & Inflight Services team has been holding workshops for ground handling agencies on specific areas like service level agreements and standards.

New standards
Markers are in any case being set. New Greenfield airports and new joint ventures have been able to input fresh ideas away from the congestion experienced at older gateways such as Mumbai.

Menzies Bobba — formed from Menzies Aviation and local company, the Bobba Group — offers services at Hyderabad’s new Rajiv Ghandi International Airport. Airlines handled include Blue Dart, Lufthansa, British Airways, Oman Air, Saudi Airlines, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air and Air Arabia.

Spokesperson Sudha Prasad says the newly designed airport — which opened in March 2008 — has really helped with the level of ground handling services provided by the company. For example, check-in counters provide great flexibility while passengers are not inconvenienced by having to put bags through X-ray machines before check-in thanks to an infrastructure that includes inline screening.

“Customer feedback has been good,” says Prasad. “They are delighted with the facilities offered for smooth processing. Duty-free shopping, food outlets, strategically located flight information displays, Premium Plaza lounges and VIP lounges are all greatly appreciated by customers.”

Airlines are also benefiting from what represents an innovative approach to Indian aviation handling. The baggage delivery process can be expedited using free “swing” belts which cover both domestic and international traffic, while on the ramp a Visual Docking Guidance System (VDGS) ensures precision parking of the aircraft.

Other minor enhancements such as Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) — which is both environmentally friendly and a space saver — add up to a package that is in the vanguard of Indian ground support services.

Hopes and fears
Hopes are that other airports will also raise the bar, developing an infrastructure that allows ground support to realize efficiencies across the board. Recently a team from Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) visited the new Terminal 3 at Indira Ghandi International Airport in Delhi. The BCIA team was responsible for developments at Beijing prior to the Olympics, and they expressed every confidence that the construction of the enormous 34-million capacity terminal would be ready before the city hosts the Commonwealth games in 2010.

Indian ground handling is currently an exciting blend of business models operating a variety of infrastructure for an array of airline types. Bringing order to the sector will not be easy.

The regulators have some tough decisions ahead but so do the ground handling companies themselves. They will need to position their companies to meet exacting international standards even though the future environment — in terms of new facilities, falling demand and changing regulations — is a cloudy one. The next 12 months could be crucial.

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