EU Proposes First-ever Regulation for Ground Handling

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has just announced a groundbreaking proposal to regulate ground handling at EU airports. This marks a significant step towards enhancing safety, cybersecurity, and operational consistency in one of aviation’s most crucial areas.

🔹 Why It Matters

  • This is the first-ever such regulation, impacting approximately 300,000 workers in the ground handling sector.
  • The regulation aligns with the EU 2022/1645 on cybersecurity, ensuring comprehensive safety coverage.
  • Key activities like aircraft loading/unloading, passenger management, de-icing, refuelling, and securing aircraft during turnaround are all included.

🔹 The Change

Previously self-regulated, ground handling will now see standardized procedures across EASA Member States. This shift promises increased safety and efficiency for passengers and airlines alike.

🔹 Efficient Oversight & Reduced Audits

  • Ground handling organizations will now be overseen by competent authorities, reducing repetitive audits.
  • Aircraft operators can focus more on critical operations, leveraging the oversight results from these authorities.

🔹 Safety Culture & Compliance

Organizations must demonstrate compliance with EU requirements through robust safety management systems, staff training, and maintenance of ground support equipment.

🔹 Timeline

The regulation is expected to be published late 2024 or early 2025, with a three-year transition period for implementation.

🔹 EASA’s Vision

Luc Tytgat, EASA Acting Executive Director, emphasizes that “aviation safety starts on the ground.” This regulation fills a crucial gap, offering an end-to-end approach to aviation safety and cybersecurity.

This Opinion proposes an EU regulation on ground handling (GH) and subsequent amendments to Regulations (EU) No 965/2012 on air operations, (EU) No 139/2014 on aerodromes, and (EU) 2022/1645 on information security. The purpose is to ensure a level playing field for organisations providing GH services in Europe, including when these are provided as self-handling by aircraft operators, and to establish a baseline for the safety of these services.

The Opinion proposes an efficient approach on the oversight of ground handling organisations by competent authorities. This is expected to avoid multiple verifications of the same activities and organisational aspects and gradually reduce the significant number of audits performed mostly by aircraft operators. This way, organisations should be able to better allocate their resources from auditing to managing the safety of their operations. As now, aircraft operators will retain overall responsibility for aircraft safety and flight safety.