India: The Ground Support Revolution

A macro introduction to the Indian aviation and ground support industries.


Ground handling services in India are regulated by the Airports Authority of India (general management, entry for ground handling services) Regulations, 2000. As per the regulations, an operator or carrier may carry out ground handling services at an airport by itself or engage the services of the following:

  1. Airports Authority of India
  2. Two national carriers: Air India and Indian Airlines
  3. Any other handling agency licensed by the airports

Authority of India

The Indian skies are dotted with a number of private and public airlines, but on the ground there is one clear frontrunner, Air India.

For more than 70 years, Air India has been India's national flag carrier. While it is one of the foremost airlines, it is also renowned for expertise in technical capability, operational reliability and impeccable ground services.

A member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Air India provides quality services at attractive rates and minimum turnaround time.

With a view to provide specialized services and expand, Air India has established subsidiary companies for ground handling, namely Air India Air Transport Services Limited (AIATSL) and Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) for engineering services. Air India also has another subsidiary, Air India Charters Limited, operating Air India Express as a low cost carrier.

Air India boasts a professionally managed workforce of 15,000 employees, including highly trained and experienced engineers and technicians. It has state-of- the-art infrastructure consisting of modern handling equipment, hangars and workshop and training facilities.

Air India's Expertise

  • Experience of providing ground handling services to more than 50,000 flights annually, including over 24,000 flights of 55 international airlines.
  • 5,800 skilled employees engaged in provision of ground services.
  • More than 5,300 pieces of motorized and towable ramp equipment.
  • ISO Certification for Ground Handling Department since 1999, with successful implementation of revised ISO 9001-2000 standards.
  • Modern workshop facilities to help ensure high levels of ramp equipment reliability.
  • Training establishment to make its own employees and other airlines' personnel more skillful and efficient.

Air India therefore provides the following ground handling services to 55 airlines apart from its own carriers at 12 international airports: passenger, baggage, cargo and ramp handling and security, cabin cleaning and technical services.

Revenue generated from the gound handling activity is about Rs.4 Billion (US $90 thousand) from foreign airlines (from more than 400 flights per week). This excludes revenue from self-handling activity for Air India's own flights.

India's ground handling market is estimated to be Rs.11 billion (US $247.8 thousand) per annum, excluding revenue from self-handling of flights by airlines themselves.

Air India presently enjoys 55-percent market share in the Indian ground handling business. Their current market share is expected to remain consistent considering the present regulatory framework.

Indian Airlines provides ground handling services on the ramp (tarmac) for twelve airports in India and Kathmandu in Nepal. They also provide equipment for aircraft handlings at all other airports in India and arrange their procurement and maintenance/repairs.

Cambata Aviation is India's largest privately owned independent ground handling company, who have grown at nine to 12 percent per year over the last five years. Cambata Aviation operates with more than 3,000 employees and annually handles about 10,000 flights for 23 international cargo and passenger airlines operating in India.

THE ROAD AHEAD

At the government-owned airports, the monopoly continues to remain with Air India and Indian Airlines. However, with the imminent merger of our national carriers, the ground support division of both the airlines will—two to three years down the line—become a merged entity. Effectively, this merged entity will be the only "Pan Indian" (across India) company providing ground support at all airports. The most likely international partner for this Pan Indian Entity will be Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS), who have already allied with Air India on specific projects.

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