Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice-President with responsibility for transport, today welcomed Member States support for the Commission's proposal on the revision of current EU rules on groundhandling services.
Vice-President Kallas said: "Airports are facing a capacity crunch and three out of four flight delays are caused by problems on the ground, not in the air. There is an urgent need to improve the quality and efficiency of groundhandling services. The agreement today strikes the right balance between giving airlines more choice of quality service providers while strengthening protection for workers in what is a very labour-intensive sector."
The agreement with ministers safeguards the two key elements at the heart of the Commission's groundhandling proposals:
1. Airlines need more choice in who provides their services on the ground – that means at least three providers at every major airport.
Ensuring full opening of the self-handling market for airlines and increase in the minimum number of service providers (in restricted services) from two to three at large airports: this will ensure that airlines have an increased choice of groundhandling solutions at EU airports.
2. High-quality services rely on a high-quality workforce – that means reinforcing stable employment terms for those working on the ground.
Allowing Member States to go further in protecting workers' rights so staff can transfer under existing conditions when a contract goes to a new provider: this is essential to provide the stable employment conditions necessary to maintain a high-quality workforce in what is a labour-intensive sector.
The Commission's groundhandling proposals
A comfortable, safe and reliable flight requires a whole range of ground services such as cabin cleaning, refuelling, de-icing in wintertime and baggage handling.
The Commission's proposals aim to ensure airlines have a greater choice of groundhandling solutions, give airports more control over the coordination of groundhandling services, and clarify the rules on the training and transfer of groundhandling staff.
To achieve these goals, the Commission adopted on 1 December 2011 a proposal for a regulation on groundhandling services at EU airports, in the context of the "Better airports package", together with proposals on airport slots and noise restrictions at airports (see IP/11/1484 and MEMO/11/857). On groundhandling, the Commission proposed to repeal Directive 96/67/EC and to replace it by a new regulation.
Groundhandling covers a wide variety of services for airlines delivered at airports to support the airline's operations. It includes not only technical services such as aircraft maintenance, fuel and oil services and freight handling, but also services which are essential to passenger safety and comfort, such as passenger check-in, catering, baggage handling and surface transport at the airport
The proposal must still be voted by the European Parliament in first reading. The proposed regulation on groundhandling services is the first of three legislative proposals of the "Better airports package". Further to today's discussion on groundhandling, the Commission expects the Council to work on the noise and slot regulations, with the Presidency indicating that it will start with noise as early as next week in the working group.