Jo Murray finds out about the way in which IATA is enhancing its training offering in relation to ground services and associated activities
The IATA Training & Development Institute (ITDI) offers professional training at both management and operational levels to aviation professionals and other relevant groups. The ITDI’s main aim is to achieve safety, efficiency and growth through training.
The training courses are accessible to anyone – IATA member and non-member airlines, government bodies, individuals, professionals wishing to make a career change or professionals who are new to aviation. The Institute offers courses all over the world and in 2010 it trained more than 30,000 people on five continents. Training is done either through regular classes or in-house company classes, ITDI courses are taken up by a wide range of organizations, including airlines, ground service providers, airports and civil aviation authorities. It even trains United Nations staff all over the world.
IATA believes strongly in a continuing professional education approach to training. The ITDI does indeed offer a staged approach so that training continues through an individual’s career. A professional’s first step is simply to undertake one course and achieve a certificate for that. Or they can choose to take an IATA Diploma – which is a group of courses related to a specific subject – in, for example, ground operations, airport strategic management or airline commercial management. ITDI trainers stress that all certificates are awarded to the individual – not to the company that employs him or her – and so all IATA accredited qualification are portable like academic achievements.
The IATA training team comprises eight professionals who oversee courses in the fields of: quality, cargo, security, air navigation, safety, law, airports and ground operations, the environment and airline management for example. “In 2011 we have 700 classes around the world,” says Dimitrios Sanos, responsible for all courses related to airport management, design and operations; as well as ground services – both operations and management. “We have IATA training centres in Miami, Montreal, Geneva, Singapore, Delhi, as well as additional classroom facilities in London, Madrid, Istanbul, Athens, and some locations that we are testing at the moment.” During the second half of 2011, IATA is planning classes in Lima, Peru, as well as other locations chosen to accommodate the needs of the local market. “We also have a new training centre in Beijing that serves China but anyone can register to train there – it is an open class. It has been successful for the last year and a half,” he says.
IATA is rapidly ramping up the number of courses available to the ground handling community. In the past there were only two such courses available – Station Ground Handling Management and the Standard Ground Handling Agreement Workshop. In recent years, the offering was enhanced, adding the Corporate Negotiating Skills course and operational courses such as Aircraft Weight and Balance (the theory rather than training associated with any specific departure control system) and Station Operational Control.
A further course available is called the Documentation Control and Passenger Assessment course which trains check-in and gate staff to check visas, immigration requirements and identify forged documents or potentially disruptive passengers. Training in this area is important as it helps airlines and their agents avoid immigration penalties. After all, in the EU, the minimum fine is €5,000 per passenger for failing to detect problems in this area. The regulations stipulate that it is up to the airline to ensure that the passenger has the right travel documents at the departure point but any penalty resulting from infringement can be passed on to the handler if the airline subcontracts check-in and gate services to ground service providers.
And IATA has even more courses under development, including one that may revolve around training for severe weather conditions.
Sanos adds: “All the courses are designed in such a way that the participant will leave the classroom with a toolkit. He or she will have the background knowledge to support him in his decisions in the future, get access to accurate information, including the manuals, and gain practical knowledge, often through case studies.”
Ground services training at IATA is largely related to safety and also to ISAGO standards. At the end of the training, students are supported with additional information or through distance learning courses.
IATA wishes to see member airlines gain access to strong services from well-trained ground service providers; by the same token it expects handlers to be able to run a profitable business as a consequence of achieving excellent standards through training. To this end, by the end of 2011, IATA will have issued the IATA Ground Operations Manual (IGOM) which will be the first ever set of harmonised ground handling procedures. This will assist with consistency of services, enhanced safety and higher efficiency.
Of course the Airport Handling Manual will continue. It has existed for many years and is the bible for delivering ground services. But the difference is that while the Manual says what to do, the IGOM will tell Ground Handlers how to do things.
These notions of safety and efficiency are not just abstract ideas; they have very real consequences. In financial terms, IATA has estimated the cost of accidents on the ramp to be about $4 billion per annum. Doing things better, more consistently and in an educated manner will deliver real benefits to airlines and ground handlers. Ultimately, the rewards will revolve around safety, but they will also be commercial.
“We are aiming to provide assistance to the airline and airport services market,” Sanos states as the Institute’s raison d’être.