New ground handling priorities: Labor shortages, modernization, safety

  • Many skilled ground handling employees have left the industry and are not coming back. 
  • Two key tools for ground handlers are the IATA Ground Operations Manual (IGOM) and the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO).
  • Digitalization can drive process improvements that will be critical to improving both sustainability and productivity. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is focusing on standards, digitalization and addressing the skilled labor shortage to build resilience and ensure long-term sustainability post pandemic for ground handling activities. 

“There will be challenges as ground handling operations ramp up to meet growing demand as the aviation industry’s recovery from COVID-19 progresses. Overcoming labor shortages, ensuring safety with strict adherence to global standards and digitalization and modernization will be critical to achieving a scalable restart,” said Monika Mejstrikova, IATA’s Director of Ground Operations, speaking at the 33rd IATA Ground Handling Conference (IGHC), which opened in Prague today.


Ground handling providers are facing severe skills shortages and challenges in retaining and recruiting staff. 

“Many skilled employees have left the industry and are not coming back. And recruiting, training and accrediting new staff can take up to six months. So, it is critical that we retain current staff and find more efficient ways of onboarding new personnel,” said Mejstrikova, who also outlined a number of priority solutions.

  • To retain skilled staff, governments should include ground handlers in wage subsidy programs
  • To speed up training processes, the use of competency-based training, assessments and online training formats should be increased, and training requirements harmonized 
  • To increase the efficiency of staff utilization, a training passport should be developed that would mutually recognize skills across ground handlers, airlines and/or airports
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