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What is groundhandling?

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.).

What is the difference between self-handling and third party handling?

An airline may choose to provide groundhandling services for itself (self-handling), or contract with another company (third party handling), be it another airline or a dedicated Groundhandling company.

What is IAA’s role in groundhandling?

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).

S.I. 505 of 1998 provides for, amongst other things, an approvals process which requires that the groundhandling activity of a self-handler or supplier of groundhandling services is conditional upon obtaining prior approval from the IAA. The IAA administers an approvals process in this regard which involves approving groundhandling operations in advance and monitoring ongoing compliance of approval holders on a regular basis.

Why was the European Directive on groundhandling introduced?

The Directive, adopted by the European Community in 1996, was intended as a first step towards the gradual opening up of access to the Groundhandling market and to facilitate effective competition in that market. This was necessary as the market in groundhandling services used to be monopolised at many EU airports by airport operators/airlines. The objective was also to help reduce the operating costs of air carriers and to improve quality of service to airlines.

Who needs a groundhandling approval?

Any company intending to provide groundhandling services to airport users (i.e. airlines) or any airline intending to provide groundhandling for itself or to other airport users requires an approval from the IAA.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. Only companies operating at Irish airports which meet certain passenger/freight thresholds as specified in the Groundhandling Regulations need to obtain a groundhandling approval from the IAA. At present, only Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports meet this threshold.

Groundhandling services are defined under the Regulation as the services provided to airport users (i.e. airlines) at airports. Any company wishing to provide services directly to passengers (e.g. Escort/VIP services, VIP car transfers to/from the terminal etc.) do not need to obtain a groundhandling approval but should contact the relevant airport authority directly.

How do I apply for a groundhandling approval?

Applications for a groundhandling approval should be made to the IAA using the Application Form for a Groundhandling Approval. Completed forms and all supporting documentation should be forwarded to the IAA along with the relevant application fee.

What requirements do groundhandlers need to meet in order to secure and maintain a groundhandling approval?

In order to qualify for a groundhandling approval, an applicant must be able to demonstrate competence in a number of areas such as experience, financial resources, equipment, organisation, staffing, maintenance and operating procedures. An applicant must also meet certain insurance requirements and comply with relevant social legislation in respect of its employees.

For third party handlers, the company must be established in the European Community.

The documentation supplied with an application must be sufficient to demonstrate to the IAA that the applicant company meets the above criteria.

The IAA monitors compliance with the terms and conditions of the groundhandling approval and the requirements of the Groundhandling Regulations on a regular basis. Ongoing compliance with regard to financial and insurance requirements is monitored in particular.

How long does the application process take?

Applications should be made well in advance of the commencement of operations (minimum 2 weeks) as it is important that the IAA has adequate time to process applications.

The above timeframe assumes that all necessary information has been received with the initial application and is sufficient for the IAA to take a decision. However, should the IAA require further information, the processing time then becomes dependent on a number of issues including how soon an applicant can respond to any queries arising etc.

Applicants are reminded to ensure that the application form is completed in full and no questions should be left unanswered. Where appropriate, indicate “not applicable”, “none” etc.

If an applicant does not engage with the IAA for a period of three months in relation to any queries or requests for further information, the application will be treated as abandoned and thereafter a fresh application will be required along with the relevant fee. 

For how long is an Approval valid?

Groundhandling Approvals are issued for a period of five years and can be renewed on expiry. Approvals can be withdrawn for failure to comply with any of the criteria for granting an approval under Section 12 (3) of S.I. 505 of 1998.

What is the application fee?

For further information on the fee structure applicable to Groundhandling, please click here.

Do I need to contact other organisations before commencing groundhandling operations?

Yes. You will need to contact the relevant airport authority in order to satisfy certain requirements before commencing groundhandling operations. Contact details for the Groundhandling units at Dublin, Shannon and Cork Airports are included in the IAA’s application form and links to the relevant documents for each airport can be accessed here.

Where can I find copies of the relevant legislation governing groundhandling?

European and national legislation governing groundhandling is available at Legislation.

Where can I find a list of approved groundhandlers?

Up-to-date lists of approved self-handlers and third party handlers is available here.

Do any restrictions apply in terms access to the Groundhandling market at Irish airports?

Where for certain categories of Groundhandling services access to the market may come up against specific safety, security, capacity or available space constraints, the Groundhandling Regulations provide that the managing body of an airport may apply in writing to the IAA to restrict access in respect of the core groundhandling services, provided it is restricted to no fewer than two providers for each category of service at a given airport and a minimum of two self-handlers.

The Regulations also provide for the possibility to request further restrictions for defined locations and periods.

Currently, there are no restrictions in place at Dublin, Shannon or Cork Airports.

How do I contact the Groundhandling section the of the IAA?

You may contact the Groundhandling section of IAA by: