Millennium Post

Govt lets Indian air carriers ground-handle own flights

In a policy reversal, the government on Thursday allowed Indian carriers to carry out ground-handling of their own flights at all the airports. The proposal was made at a meeting Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had with representatives of airlines here, which came ahead of a hearing of the matter in the Supreme Court soon.

Under the 2007 policy, the main airports were supposed to have only three ground handling companies — the Air India-Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS), the local airport operator in alliance with a ground handling partner and one to be chosen through competitive bidding.

The six airports are at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai. The airlines complained against the policy saying it would lead to large-scale retrenchment and that there would be no alternative use of assets already in place.

‘After taking into consideration views of all stake holders, a Cabinet Committee on Security note was submitted and it was approved that all private airlines, including foreign airlines, may undertake self handling in respect of 'passenger and baggage handling activities at the airport terminals' and 'traffic service including the passenger check-in', which require passenger interface, at all airports,’ a statement from the Ministry said.

Also, all cargo airlines, which have their own cargo aircraft, would be allowed to undertake self handling in their hub airports. But foreign airlines and private independent ground-handling service providers would not be permitted self ground-handling at joint user Defence airfields, it said.

The Ministry had also extended the time limit for exit of non-entitled companies beyond 31 December 2009 up to 31 December 2010.

While the Ministry was taking steps to implement the policy, the domestic airline operators had filed a petition in the High Court of Delhi in November 2010 challenging the new regulations.

The court dismissed the writ petition in March 2011. Thereafter, an SLP was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the order of Delhi High Court.

The ground handling business is estimated to be worth Rs 2,000 crore a year. It involves services like check-in, baggage handling, cargo handling, aircraft cleaning, loading and unloading of food on aircraft, besides ferrying passengers to and from planes
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