Exclusive - Airport Services Association Critical of IATA Resistance to Change

The world of airport handling is made up of many different organizations which at the end of the day have the same goal - namely, give the airlines and airports a top service.
The Airport Services Association (ASA) represents many of the global ground handlers but is highly critical of what they see as a selective lack of cooperation from the world’s largest aviation representation – IATA.

ASA Chairman Samim Aydin
ASA Chairman Samim Aydin

The above became apparent at the IGHC (International Ground Handlers Conference) held in Istanbul in July.
The issue, according to ASA’s Chairman Samim Aydin, is that his organization feels that a change in the way in which the ground handlers interact with their airline partners is long overdue within the present IGHC and market structure.
It is ASA’s view that IATA is blocking any move in this direction.
A get-together of both IATA and ASA at the Istanbul conference seemingly ended with IATA disagreeing with the ASA members move to redefine and redirect the structure.

IATA getting cold feet?
A strange turnaround considering that there was an initial meeting between both in Geneva early in 2014 which was aimed at paving the way for what ASA considers as a constructive dialogue. The Geneva meeting was also attended by IATA’s top man, Tony Tyler.
It seems that all came away from this meeting with the feeling that ASA’s proposals were being seriously considered.

Spreading their wings
ASA’s portfolio of members is made up of the world’s major airport ground handling service providers and suppliers and boasts a membership of more than 90 different companies. The actual amount may run into a couple of hundred when counting the subsidiary companies of the main members which are also on board.
Cargo handlers also play an important role in the ASA structure as well as GSE producers, software and marketing companies.
Mr Aydin explains further that his organization is currently busy with covering the vacuum left by NATA in North America and that they are presently breaking ground in South America by setting up a cooperation with ABESATA members in Brazil.
He adds that despite being the recognised association for the ground handling community, ASA wants to strengthen its position in the USA, South America, Africa and Asia.

ASA wants to be taken seriously by IATA
The board members of ASA are requesting that there be a more equitable arrangement between the airlines and the ground handlers specifically regarding a rotating chairmanship within IGHC between the carriers and the handlers.
Another important aspect according to chairman Aydin is that there should be a far greater recognition for the input made by ground handlers in the different IATA task forces.
These task forces deliver at the end of the day the SGHAs and AHMs which the ground handlers are obliged to adhere to even if they have had no say in the way they were put together.
The escalation went a step further with ASA’s criticism of the fact that IATA gains revenues from the AHM without even considering any form of revenue sharing and has full copyright control.
This, says ASA is another example of what they see as a one-side relationship.

One industry voice - one global association?
Nothing much has changed – that’s at least what the members of the ground handling community think.
After 16 months of discussion the board has reported to its members that the Istanbul meeting only confirms that IATA has no intention whatever to change the structure of the Ground Handling Council.
So, why all the talk in the first place?
A further slap in the face for the ASA members was to hear from IATA’s Senior VP for Airports, Passenger, Cargo and Security, Thomas Windmuller, that requests put forward by ASA in Geneva over a year ago have not been considered and he wonders why ASA is requesting them in the first place.
There seems to be some hope that a positive dialogue may be struck again since Windmuller’s recent retirement.

IATA seems to ignore ASA’s wealth of knowledge
Too difficult to change the structure of the IGHC – that’s IATA’s conclusion without any substance behind this statement it seems.
One industry voice - one global association!
It seems IATA thinks it’s there already but why then do they not give the ground handlers more of a say?
Afraid of (constructive) competition, could that be the answer?

Abundant common topics
There are quite a few IATA members who would welcome positive change and steering from IATA which seems to bog itself down in rules and regulations and looses sight of what the industry really wants and needs.
It is our view that the lithium-ion battery debate, to name one of many, is one of these issues.
A lot of talk - pushing directives back and forward - no concrete regulations and a very persistent danger in the airline industry remains at status-quo.

Don’t get us wrong! - IATA is an important organization for the aviation world and has done a lot to further safety, regulatory issues and many other important aspects relating to aviation.
However, would it not be more of an advantage for the industry as a whole if they were to listen and counteract more with important handling entities such as ASA who in turn bring a mine of experience with them.
No danger there!

John Mc Donagh

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