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The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is the competent authority in Ireland for the purposes of Council Directive 96/67/EC on access to the Groundhandling market at Community airports. This Directive has been implemented into Irish Law by the European Communities (Access to the Groundhandling Market at Community airports) Regulations, 1998 (S.I. No. 505 of 1998).

The Directive was intended as a first step towards the gradual opening up of access to the Groundhandling market and also to help reduce the operating costs of air carriers, to improve quality of service and to facilitate effective competition in that market. Groundhandling broadly comprises all those services required by an aircraft between landing and take-off (e.g. marshalling aircraft, loading/unloading, refuelling, baggage handling, passenger handling, aircraft maintenance etc.). An airline may choose to provide services for itself (self-handling), or contract with another company (third party handling), be it an airline or a dedicated Groundhandling company.

The Directive also provides that access may be restricted in respect of the core groundhandling services, provided it is restricted to no fewer than at least two providers for each category of service at a given airport and a minimum of two self-handlers.  Airport authorities are entitled to charge a fee for access to airport installations and to establish rules of conduct for the proper functioning of the airport.

Where a decision is taken by the airport authority to impose a fee in respect of access to airport installations, the airport authority is required to submit to the IAA in advance, a request for approval of the proposed fee in accordance with the criteria set out in S.I. No. 505 of 1998.

Prior approval must be obtained from the IAA before engaging in Groundhandling operations. Applicants must complete an application form and also meet a number of requirements before an approval to operate as a groundhandler can be issued. Groundhandling approvals are issued for a period of five years and approval is subject to the holder satisfying certain conditions at all times. After the five year timeframe, Groundhandling approvals can be renewed following the successful completion of the IAA’s renewal process.