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Aviation Explained: The importance of Ground Staff in handling flights and passengers

The role of a ground-handling agency is critical for airlines’ smooth run of business and it can be divided into two categories: Ground handling for aircrafts, and passengers.

Aviation Explained: The importance of Ground Staff in handling flights and passengers

Why Europe’s busiest airports have introduced passenger caps? Why do Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and London’s Heathrow airport have extended hours of waiting and check-in queues snaking outside airports? This on-ground chaos has invited airline condemnation and passengers’ frustration. These situations have proven that ground handling is the backbone of the aviation ecosystem. They run the show for airlines from behind the curtains.

The role of a ground-handling agency is critical for airlines’ smooth run of business and it can be divided into two categories: Ground handling for aircrafts, and passengers. Ground handling for aircraft starts from the time the aircraft touches down till the time it takes off for its next destination, whereas for passengers, it starts from the time they enter the airport till the time they exit the airport at their destination.

Ground handling is responsible for the quick turnaround of flights. Turnaround time varies between 30 to 90 mins, depending on the on-board services and the distance travelled. Within this short span, ground handling has to take care of refuelling, aircraft maintenance, passenger and baggage movement, safety checks, and cleaning/dressing the cabins for the next set of passengers. On-ground cleaning teams follow checklists as per the respective airlines' requirements and standards. Aircraft maintenance checks are very crucial for avoiding any technical glitches.

The Director General of Civil Aviation strictly monitors compliance and the quality of aircraft safety and maintenance. Trained and experienced engineers and maintenance staff ensure the aircraft’s health is in good condition before every take-off. They have to follow detailed checklists for declaring an aircraft airworthy. The ground handlers in turn have to process baggage, cargo and passengers keeping necessary safety protocols in mind and also ensure the aircraft is load balanced for a safe flight.

On-ground service is the first impression that airlines leave on their flyers, and this first impression sets the tone for the passenger’s overall experience. The ground handling agency's role starts when the passenger steps into the airport premises or when the plane arrives on its assigned stand. They work round the clock in shift duties and ensure that the boarding passes are issued on time, timely announcements are made, aerobridge, ladders, and wheelchairs are made available, proper tagging, loading, unloading of luggage, etc.

Dedicated ground handling services enable airports and airlines to focus on their core functions and provide a smooth, safe, and hassle-free flying experience for their customers.

The resilience shown by Indian aviation despite the pandemic, lockdowns, travel restrictions, rising fuel prices, inflation, and adverse geopolitics is highly commendable. This was possible due to the consistent and efficient performance of every stakeholder in our aviation ecosystem.

We could sail through the post-pandemic challenges smoothly because a committed, trained workforce backs us. We have excellent human capital; hence we must equip them with the best technology and training to achieve the desired growth without compromising the quality of services.

This article is authored by Murali Ramachandran, CEO of Celebi India. All views are personal. 

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