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GACA Adopts the Global Standardized Procedures for Ground Handling Operations

The COVID-19 crisis has shaken the aviation industry, putting it into an extremely vulnerable position as airlines and stakeholders strive to remain afloat. Having never faced a crisis of this nature before, one of the greatest challenges within the ground handling community in the context of the COVID-19 crisis remains the lack of the establishment of standardized performance-based procedures for ground handling operations supporting the industry based on ensuring ground handling activities are safely, efficiently and consistently accomplished.

The current crisis offers a unique opportunity for the industry to adopt common ground handling standards, enabling standardisation, simplification and a high level of safety to be achieved alongside the opportunity to reduce costs. and improve efficiency. As such, the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) adopted the global standardized performance-based procedures for ground handling operations, setting an example in their strive towards improved safety and operational efficiency.

GACA was amongst the first governments/partners to adopt the IATA standards into the regulations below;

GACAR Part 151 – Ground Service Providers

The new regulatory framework for the certification of ground services providers defines 11 ground service categories and 30 subcategories, while additional activities may be authorized if it is deemed in the interests of safety or enhances the quality and comprehensiveness of the services offered at an airport.

GACAR Part 68 – Ground Services Personnel

The regulatory framework regarding ground personnel requires all staff working for service providers to obtain a “work permit”. With a total of 13 specific job functions defined, some of the significant elements include;

  • Training records are submitted for acceptance to the aviation authority to ensure that the applicant has undergone the training modules
  • The organization has to assume accountability for assessing the competence of its employees and explicitly attest to their eligibility to perform their functions before releasing them to duty.
  • The ICAO level English proficiency is introduced for all staff who have direct contact with cockpit crew.

This adoption of high international standards raises the bar for quality requirements and puts pressure on service providers to obtain the needed training to provide quality service and achieve customer satisfaction. Additionally, and in line with Saudi’s Vision 2030 to triple the number of passengers and create new regional HUBs at KSA airports, these quality enhancement strategies were put into actions as follows:

  • Prepare ground operations expertise at young age by developing a ground operations diploma at the University of King Abd Al Aziz with the partnership of the Saudi Ground Services (SGS). Agreement was signed in Sep 2020.
  • Agreement between IATA and SGS to sign a long-term “training validation” agreement to have SGS’s organization, material and instructors validated and authorized to deliver the training to all SGS employees and potentially other external stakeholders
  • Discussion between IATA and King Abd Al Aziz university to include the IATA material in the university diploma’s curriculum so graduates can obtain double diploma from the university and IATA upon completing the required courses

IATA congratulates GACA on the efforts put into integrating and adopting common industry standardization that will lead to easing the return of service, minimizing safety and security incidents and achieving effective and cheaper oversight of safe operations.

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