IATA emphasizes digitalization and labor shortages at its Ground Handling Conference

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At its 33rd Ground Handling Conference (IGHC) in Prague, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) focused on industry standards, digitalization and addressing the skilled labor shortage.

With ground handling providers facing severe skills shortages and challenges in retaining and recruiting staff, the organization declared its intention to build resilience and ensure long-term sustainability for ground handling activities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. To retain skilled staff, IATA proposed that governments should include ground handlers in wage subsidy programs. Similarly, to speed up training processes, the organization highlighted the use of competency-based training, the increase of assessments and online training formats as well as the adjustment of training requirements. In addition, IATA suggested the need for a training passport that would mutually recognize skills across ground handlers, airlines and airports to increase the efficiency of staff usage.

Regarding safety, IATA highlighted its Ground Operations Manual (IGOM) and Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO). The organization called for the accelerated global adoption of the IGOM to promote worldwide operational consistency and safety. To support this, IATA has launched the IGOM portal, an online platform where airlines and ground handlers can share the results of their gap analysis between their company procedures and IGOM. IATA intends this platform to offer a global benchmark for coordination and drive efficiency.

IATA also urged governments to recognize ISAGO in their regulatory frameworks for oversight. This is expected to deliver significant benefits, including greater standardization, the implementation of the Safety Management System (SMS) by ground handlers and the reduction of duplicate audits that providers are facing.

At the conference, IATA focused its Connected Ecological Digital Autonomous Ramp (CEDAR) initiative on the digitalization of aircraft turnaround, the modernization of ground support equipment and processes, and the improvement of stand design. With this initiative, IATA declared its intention to modernize the air transport industry while improving sustainability and productivity.

Speaking at the conference, Monika Mejstrikova, IATA’s director of ground operations, said, “There will be challenges as ground handling operations ramp up to meet the growing demand of the aviation industry’s recovery from Covid-19. Overcoming labor shortages, ensuring safety with strict adherence to global standards, digitalization and modernization will be critical to achieving a scalable restart. As many skilled employees have left the industry and are not coming back, it is critical that we retain current staff and find more efficient ways of onboarding new personnel. Finally, harnessing data to improve safety and efficiency is crucial for the ground handling industry. CEDAR is the blueprint to address this. The overall aim is to be able to make data-based operational decisions that will cut costs, improve performance and contribute to the industry’s net-zero commitment.”

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