The ground handling community is facing widespread global challenges as passenger traffic grows at pace and industry professionals will come together for IATA’s annual event, writes Justin Burns
The 32nd International Air Transport Association (IATA) Ground Handling Conference (IGHC) will take place in Madrid, Spain from 26-29 May at the Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center.
More than 700 delegates will gather from across the global ground handling (GH) industry to develop business, network, share best practice and discuss the future of the sector through plenary sessions, an exhibition, workshops, meetings, training sessions and social events.
This year’s event will attended by delegates from across the industry with 50 per cent of them coming from GH providers and airports, 25 per cent from airlines and the rest from manufactures, solution providers, suppliers, media and other delegates.
In 2018, IATA reported that airlines generated more than $821 billion in revenues and flew 4.34 billion passengers, that created about 240,000 GH jobs and $59 billion in revenues for ground service providers and caterers.
Focus on the future ramp
This year’s IGHC is firmly focused on the future of the ramp in the GH industry and the opening Plenary Session on 27 May moderated by Joseph Suidan, Head of Ground Operations, IATA, entitled ‘Ramp of the Future’ reflects this and will see panellists debate how operations will look like in the future.
Among those on the panel giving their insight will be Steve Allen, DSVP UAE Airport Operations, dnata and Uschi Schulte-Sasse, Senior Vice President Aviation, Inform.
The ‘Ramp of the Future’ session will also detail the new IATA project, which will define how advanced technology and advanced data processing can be interlinked and connected to deliver capacity improvements and enhanced processing of the aircraft turnaround operations.
The project’s aim is to enhance three major areas on the ramp, including digitalization of ramp services, ground support equipment and aircraft stand design while the principal benefits of it are to enhance ramp safety and efficiency.
‘Sustainable Ramp’ will also be one of the sessions and a panel of experts will discuss various issues such as types of equipment are available to make ramp operations more sustainable, practices being implemented around the world, the drivers for this and where the industry sees itself moving in regards to electric, autonomous, GSE and other vehicles.
Moderating will be Haldane Dodd, Head of Communications, AENV, Air Transport Action Group who will be joined by Florian Eggenschwiler, Head of Innovation, Swissport International; Denise Pronk, Head of Sustainability, Royal Schiphol Group; and Steve Savage, Senior Analyst, Ground Operations, IATA.
Safety, baggage technology and jobs
The first session of the Plenary Session on 28 May will see a keynote by Patrick Ky, Executive Director, European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on regulators, airlines, ground service providers and airports – dubbed a ‘Potent Mix for Success’.
EASA has recently published a draft GH Roadmap and is developing a European approach to ensure safety in GH. In future, EASA will initiate a rulemaking task and a safety promotion task to develop the necessary requirements and non-regulatory activities with the aim of increasing the safety level in the GH sector and sees close cooperation with the GH industry and national aviation authorities.
This will be followed by a panel session identifying, creating and presenting meaningful safety performance indicators with Michael Green, Manager, Network Ground Safety – Airports, WestJet Airlines, who will be joined by IATA’s Hyuntae Jung and Jordi Vicens Obrador.
Technology will then take centre stage in a session entitled driving competitive advantage through RFID in baggage which will tie into IATA’s Resolution 753 on baggage tracking that is now in place. This will feature a case study showing implementation of a project and a panel will discuss challenges and best practices to implement RFID globally.
There will also be topics of the one ID program, the biometric recognition and identity management in the passenger process and discussions on how the future of the passenger process will look.
Meanwhile, a panel debate on the final day of the Plenary Session will focus on the major growth in aviation jobs expected in ground operations as per an IATA survey of human resources professionals that found more than 73% saying there will be significant growth in ground operations, customer service and cabin crew.
This survey tackled current as well as new challenges the industry needs to deal with such as the lack of human resource, high turnover and retention, training effectiveness and costs and impact of innovation and technology.
New IGHC innovations
Among new sessions at this year’s IGHC will be the IGHC BizZone, where business meetings can be held. Delegates can schedule meetings with other industry representatives at reserved tables using the IGHC Event and Networking Tool.
There will also be the first Ground Operations Executive Summit (GOES) on 28 May which will attended by senior decision-makers from across ground handling stakeholders, who will look to decide on key industry priorities and the IATA ground handling department’s future strategic direction.
The NEXTT Innovation Bootcamp looking into emerging technologies will also take place on 28 May with any conclusions from the bootcamp then shared on the final day of IGHC.
Also, for the first time, IATA will facilitate a speed networking session called ‘Getting to Know Your Airlines’ helping handlers and suppliers to open doors and establish connections with member airlines.
For the third time, the IGHC Innovator competition finalists will also have the opportunity to present their innovative ideas at IGHC. The winner will be selected by delegates and announced on the last day of the event.
Madrid will be the perfect stage for IGHC and this year’s programme is as packed as it has ever been before, giving industry professionals the platform to discuss pertinent issues, share best practice, grow industry relationships and do business.