The IATA Ground Handling Conference Turns 30

March 23, 2017
The IGHC is the premier annual ground handling industry conference in the world.​ The 30th annual event will be held May 21 - 24 at Centara Grand Hotel at CentralWorld in Bangkok, Thailand.

In today’s fast-paced world of ever-changing levels of service and technology improvements, three decades is quite a milestone.

The IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, is now one of the longest continuous running industry conferences – delivering access to the heart of the ground operations industry’s top decision makers. From the outset the IGHC has always been about safety, ground damage reduction and operational efficiency, and this pattern continues to this day – offering its delegates insight into industry trends, leading edge advances in ground operations technology, standards and procedures, as well as first class opportunities for networking with stakeholders from all parts of the industry.

IGHC Changes

While it may not be apparent, the IGHC has undergone a bit of a change during 2016.

The IGHC is now firmly IATA’s annual event on ground operations and is managed separately from the IATA standards setting activities, while the old IGHC membership has been restructured under the newly established Ground Handling Partner (GHP) program. The links between both are strong, and this is mirrored in the conference program where Sunday afternoon is reserved for bringing our delegates up to date on the latest news on IATA’s Ground Operations initiatives.

There is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes at IATA Ground Operations than meets the eye. Even the task of updating the Airport Handling Manual (AHM) and IATA Ground Operations Manual (IGOM) is one that involves considerable time and effort. Both these manuals are kept current with input and feedback from multiple sources that are initiated and/or considered by IATA's Ground Operations Technical Subgroups (GOTS). The GOTS comprise airline representatives, ground service providers, airports, airframe manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and solution/service providers.

The expert members in these groups provide the materials and means of ensuring that what is in IATA's manuals is representative of current industry best practices. Participation in the GOTS is drawn from members of IATA's recently established Ground Handling Partner (GHP) program for ground service providers, airports, regulators and non-IATA airlines, as well as from the IATA Strategic Partnership program for the aviation industry’s manufacturers, suppliers and solution providers.

In addition IATA also calls on similar groups that operate under other parts of the association where the content of the manuals is not directly within IATA's remit. Delegates will be able to get updates on new developments, standards and procedures at this session – including the new Load Control XML Toolkit, guidance and considerations for electric-powered GSE and the upcoming revision of the SGHA.

That Ground Operations is a “hub” function, interconnecting and impacting almost every aspect of the aviation industry, is a well-known fact. For this reason IATA compiles its program together with industry partners from Airports Council International (ACI) and Air Services Agreement (ASA) so that it ensures it gets as many points-of-view as possible.

In line with the comments received from IATA's delegates in past years, the association continues to tailor the event to accommodate the sometimes conflicting needs to network and gather up-to-date information on the state of the industry. At the conference, IATA has split the days up to cover specific topics so that delegates have the best opportunity to customize their program to suit their preferences.

IGHC Day One

Business, Management and Development is the theme of the first day, which also covers the opening and the more commercially orientated aspects in both the morning plenary sessions and the afternoon workshops.

The focus is on the economic outlook and business opportunities – globally as well as with more emphasis on Asia. The sessions also cover change management, employee retention programs, training, alternative payment channels and processes and what’s coming for the new issue of the Standard Ground Handling Agreement in 2018.

IGHC Day Two

The second day deals with the theme of Enhanced Operations in which the focus is extensively on ISAGO’s new model.

The ISAGO program has become highly respected in the industry to the extent that it has had to evolve to cater to more audits than the original model could accommodate. In the sessions, the New Operational Audit Model and its implications and benefits for the industry will be examined.

IGOM implementation is another program, which IATA introduced recently. It has been gaining global acceptance and is being adopted around the world – the opportunity is offered to hear the latest developments and meet with people who have implemented the program. From the safety perspective, it will be debated whether safety comes first when handling services are contracted out. In addition, a look at the issues and challenges facing cargo security and the transportation of lithium batteries will be offered.

IGHC Day Three

New Technology is a term that is often abused, but IATA's Innovation-themed day has got this covered when the questions of whether or not the industry is ready to manage and implement new technologies is explored.

The recently included requirements for enhanced GSE into the AHM help address the serious matter of ground damage, and there is an ongoing project looking at aircraft fuselage markings that can be used by GSE and passenger boarding bridges for more consistent and non-damaging docking at aircraft. But how ready is the industry for the next steps?

Do driverless vehicles have a place on the ramp? Can robots practically replace manpower in the baggage halls? The third day’s program addresses these issues and gets the ball rolling on what needs to be done to ensure that what the industry ultimately comes up with as solutions can perform consistently and efficiently.


What would the IGHC be without training? In 2017, IATA offers two training sessions at the end of the IGHC Conference:

  • The Standard Ground Handling Agreement training course, which is particularly relevant given that the new issue of the SGHA will be released in 2018.
  • The IGOM Implementation and Standardization Procedures course. With well over 50 IATA airlines having adopted IGOM, together with a considerable number of ground service providers, this is an opportunity to learn and experience what is needed to implement IGOM.

Another key feature of the IGHC is the exhibition. Companies from all different aspects of the ground handling industry have the opportunity to showcase their products and services at our event. The exhibition is integrated with the program and the meeting points to provide delegates with a smooth flow between all the different facets of the conference. To keep up to date on who is exhibiting please see

None of this would be possible without the help and support of IATA's sponsors, who have contributed over the years to making the IGHC the premiere annual ground handling event.

For the latest news on the IGHC, please go to


This article was provided by IATA Ground Operations