New Ground Rules at EU Airports
27 March 2013
New rules to make ground handling services at large EU airports more competitive have been approved in a Transport and Tourism Committee vote. MEPs inserted service quality standards and staff provisions in a move to prevent any deterioration of working conditions. The European Parliament will have the final say in a plenary vote in April 2013. The committee agreed to boost competition for restricted, airside services by requiring at least three ground handling companies in airports handling at least 15 million passengers and/or 200 000 t of freight per year. These thresholds had been set at 5 million passengers and 100 000 t of freight in the Commission’s initial proposal. MEPs inserted common criteria for minimum quality standards to apply to operational performance, staff training, adequate equipment, information and assistance to passengers, safety, security and compliance with environmental requirements. Exact figures, requirements and thresholds are to be set by the each airport and clearly indicated in the tender documents for awarding ground handling concessions, the committee text read.
Rules allowing airport service integrators and air transport companies to supply ground handling services would become more flexible, but all ground handlers – including subcontractors - would have to meet the operational minimum quality standards defined by each airport and comply with appropriate social and working conditions, so as to ensure fair competition. Service providers who fail to meet these standards could incur penalties and even be prohibited from providing further services. According to the amended text, separating the accounts of airports and ground handling operators would suffice to guarantee financial transparency and prevent distortions of competition.