Ground Services

IGHC 2024: IATA hones in on importance of safety and training

IGHC 2024: IATA hones in on importance of safety and training
Industry leaders answer journalists' questions at IGHC 2024. Left to right: Willie Walsh, Bogi Nils Bogason and Monika Mejstrikova

The 2024 IATA Ground Handling Conference, hosted this year by Icelandair in Reykjavík, restated the industry’s focus towards increased safety on the ramp through an emphasis on the need to improve training and step up stakeholder collaboration.

Indeed, “collaboration” formed a central part of the industry’s message to better the level of safety for handlers on the ramp through the various discussions and presentations heard by conference delegates.

In the opening session of the conference in Iceland, Monika Mejstrikova, director of ground operations at IATA, told delegates that “to ensure the industry’s future growth is supported through safe, efficient and sustainable ground operations … we must continue to focus on improving safety through reducing operational risk, harmonising the implementation of global standards and putting sustainability, people, planet and prosperity at the heart of what we do”. Safety “is our top priority”, she added.

And whilst cross-industry engagement is vital to achieve this, industry leaders agreed, new technology will really help drive the initiative as tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are rolled out as part of new training programmes.

IATA sees its own role in this, having launched the Enhanced GSE Recognition Programme in Reykjavík, which aims to encourage handlers to adopt ground support equipment with anti-collision and inching technologies.

According to Mejstrikova: “Transitioning to enhanced ground support equipment, which uses the anti-collision and inching technology to improve vehicle control and increase docking accuracy, we can make the ramp a safer place for people and aircraft, and reduce ground damage costs by 42 per cent.”

On the need for improved training, perhaps one point overlooked post-pandemic is the knowledge gap.

The staffing shortfalls in the ground handling sector today are well-acknowledged, as many experienced handling staff left the industry and never returned after Covid – which has had a knock-on effect on staff knowledge, as Iva Pluhackova, IATA’s head of operations and standards recognised.

A full IGHC 2024 report and interviews will be available in the Autumn 2024 print edition of Airline Routes & Ground Services.