ASA: Representing the Ground Handling World

: Samim Aydin of handling agent Celebi chairs the ASA /  source: Celebi
: Samim Aydin of handling agent Celebi chairs the ASA / source: Celebi

The problems that airline handlers have to face are many. One problem is solved, then along comes the next one. This seems to be the daily routine of handling agent operation departments worldwide.
It would be of benefit to them and their clients if they were able to speak with one voice. This would surely lead them collectively to ideas and solutions which are common to all.

CargoForwarder Global intends in its future publications to bring ground handling entities more into the limelight since we feel that this group of very important people for the industry does not receive the public recognition that it deserves.
We start this report with a general outlook on their own umbrella organization.


ASA, the Airport Services Association, with its headquarters in Basel and with more than 90 members, strives to keep abreast of what is going on in the airport ground handling sector. In addition to this it is instrumental in steering the various (new) regulations which are continually being placed upon the ground handling community.
ASA is a relatively new organization when one compares it to the older institutions like IATA, FIATA and so on. It was actually established in 2011 after its predecessor, IAHA (the International Airline Handlers Association), decided that it was time to change course and offer its members a new kind of handling association.

Many members of the old IAHA are today embedded within ASA and are active on various committees built into the organization.
The decision to change the name was simple, says ASA’s Chairman, Samim Aydin.
“In view of our decision in 2011 to change, we’d decided that IAHA had been the ideal platform in past years and that the time was ripe for us to work more on a stronger recognition factor for the industry as a whole.”
IAHA, which was founded back in the 1980s, was thus the catalyst and ASA carries on this tradition, in a different form, today.

What’s behind ASA - and who does it function for?
Its 90 plus members includes a Working Board of ten who are voted into service every two years. ASA also has its own secretary general whose main responsibility is to ensure co-ordination, co-operation and working rules alongside other aviation and airline-related societies worldwide. These include, to name but a few, IATA, ACI, ICAO, EASA, IGHC and DG TREN of the European Commission.

Traditionally, organizations, headed by IATA, have laid down the rules and regulations for airport and aircraft handling. It was not common in the past, for example, to include the handlers themselves in these negotiations with carriers who, for the main part, were members of IATA. The result was easy enough to figure out...

Consequently, many handlers believed that they had become the whipping boys of the industry. “Do it all - but have no say”: this was common consensus until the old IAHA and today’s ASA started to give them a voice.

ASA’s aim is not to unnecessarily confront the carriers or other organizations, but rather to act as an intermediary on behalf of the global handling community and ensure that regulations are implemented for the benefit of all.

“It has not been an easy road to travel down,” admits Samim Aydin. “In the beginning, there was some mistrust from others as to our aims. In the meantime, this has become a thing of the past and we at ASA are very proud of our track record over the past few years and our close-knit ties with IATA, ACI, ICAO and suchlike organizations.”


Who does ASA work and co-operate with?
There are many names, and to list them here would require two or three pages.
One of ASA’s latest achievements is that of its membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency‘s (EASA) Safety Standards Consultative Committee. This is a group of 35 members who follow safety standards at aerodromes and in engineering and maintenance, flight standards, general aviation and design and manufacturing. ASA believes that it can, through its members, offer detailed and important input into the above-mentioned areas.

A memorandum of understanding was drawn up with IATA with the aim of joining forces on a combined Aircraft Ground Damage Database. The aim of this is to pool information supplied by IATA members and ASA, compile the reasons for such damage and suggest solutions to the handling community to ensure safer aircraft handling on the ramp in the future.
IATA has an offshoot organization which is termed the IGHC: IATA Ground Handling Council.
Both the IGHC and ASA are now working quite closely together and three of ASA’s Board Members are also IGHC officers, a group that consists of three airline and three handler members.
“This is a big step for us,” comments Samim Aydin. “The mistrust of the past has been put behind us; and IATA, as the spokesman for the carriers and we, for the handlers, have gone a long way in putting this co-operation together,” he adds.

Cargo handling issues also play an important role in ASA
ASA is now joining forces with IATA Cargo on the formation of a Cargo Operations Advisory Group (COAG), which will report to the IATA Ground Handling Group. This group will jointly re-evaluate the current IATA Airport Ground Handling Manual relating to cargo operations standards and will present ideas for future changes and amendments.
This is a good step for the cargo handlers, since they can, together with IATA, look at what’s good for all of those working “in the kitchen.”
ASA has also joined forces with the C2K, which is being revitalized.

It does not stop here!
ASA sees itself as the spokesman for the handling community and is intent on doing everything possible to ensure better, safer and more cost-effective solutions in this area. This can only lead to a better and more fruitful co-operation between carriers, handlers and the organizations who represent them.
CargoForwarder Global plans to bring regular updates in this area, especially those relating to cargo handling issues. We are also interested in seeing how the above-mentioned COAG agreement will take shape in the future.
ASA and its members are confident that the way has been opened for a far better dialogue, which will in their view lead to better conditions for all.

John Mc Donagh

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