New EASA Regulation: EU to Regulate Ground Handling
The ground handling industry may be facing its biggest regulatory change in Europe since the EU Ground Handling Directive of 1996. Right before summer recess and after two and a half years of deliberations, the new EASA Basic Regulation was adopted by EU member states and the European Parliament. It will enter into force in the coming months upon its publication in the EU’s official journal.
The revision aims to bring safety regulation into the 2020s, most notably by adding ground handling and drones to EASA’s remit. ASA lobbied hard for these changes, as it gives the ground handling industry a unique opportunity to be seen as equal with manufacturers, airlines and airports, which are already regulated at the EU level. Furthermore, harmonisation across a market of 500 million consumers would increase efficiency, enhance safety and reduce training costs.
Patrick Ky, EASA Executive Director said: “In a sector facing unprecedented technological transformation, it was important to provide EASA with the proper tools and legal foundation to support the development of the aviation industry in particular in domains like drones and digitalisation. At the same time, we need to preserve the European societal aspirations for a safer and environmentally friendly world.”
The inclusion of ground handling is an important achievement for us, but let’s be clear. The Basic Regulation is only, well, basic. It establishes the principle that the EU can regulate ground handling. For that to happen, EASA needs to prepare more detailed regulations, starting now.
As always, the devil will be in the fine print. Whilst ASA is keen to standardise operations in order to reduce risks and complexity, we must also stress that Europe should not become prescriptive in terms of how the ground handling industry operates. Our major concern is that over-regulating, or attempting to “reinvent the wheel”, could paralyse the ground handling industry. In addition, various stakeholders, as well as some EU member states, oppose new regulation on principle or because they are too invested in the status quo.
This means there is a risk that regulations could be too detailed, but also that nothing will happen because there is too much resistance from airlines, airports and member states.
So, we need to get this done, but we also need to get the balance right. The aviation industry has already recognised the benefits of common standards. The IATA Ground Operations Manual (IGOM) has been a key tool to implement standard operational processes and procedures. With the new EASA Basic Regulation, we can build on what we currently have to harmonise the entire ground handling services. Crucially, the industry should standardise operations based on aircraft type, not airline.
What will happen next? EASA will soon start consultations with key stakeholders, including ASA. As the implementing legislation is drafted, we promise to be the eyes and ears of the ground handling industry. We will ensure that our position is made clear and that our voice is heard.