Building standards through expertise
With the growth of air traffic, airport operations have become increasingly complex. More and larger aircraft manoeuvring on crowded airport surfaces, an increase in ground support equipment, and faster turnaround times all contribute to the challenge of improving operational safety on the ground.
Complicating this task is the fact that the ground handling area lacks standardised oversight and harmonised requirements for ground operations procedures, processes and general oversight when these activities are outsourced by airlines. As a result, over the years, the airlines and the providers had to develop their own ground operations manuals and practices/checklists used when performing station provider’s oversight audits. Since these are not standardised, there is more room for error or large gaps of efficiency.
The IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) is the industry’s first global standard for the oversight and auditing of ground service providers (GSPs). It aims to improve safety and reduce airline costs by drastically reducing ground accidents and injuries, while driving down the number of duplicate or redundant audits.
In tandem, the IATA Ground Operations Manual (IGOM) provides the ‘how to do’ ground operations in an industry accepted manner, while the IATA Ground Damage Database (GDDB) provides performance monitoring for both IGOM and ISAGO. Until the launch of the GDDB, there was no worldwide source for reliable data regarding ground damage—which is vital in order to understand the scope of the issue and to reliably measure improvements brought about through the implementation of ISAGO and IGOM.
Both ISAGO and IGOM have been put together with industry partners including airlines, GSPs, regulators, airports, and cargo handlers, in order to support standardisation, and efficiency, resulting in less confusion when handling aircraft and a reduction in costs. One example is in the area of ground staff training.
Modelled on the hugely-successful IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) framework, ISAGO is conducted on a two-year cycle at both headquarters and station levels of a ground handling company. ISAGO is applicable to independent ground handlers as well as airline-owned subsidiaries or airline embedded GSPs, regardless of size. The scope of the audit is tailored to the range of activities conducted by the GSP to be audited at a particular airport. Therefore, any GSP is welcome to apply for the ISAGO registration audit. Typically, audits that take place at headquarters are conducted by IATA-accredited audit organisations and take two days to complete. Station audits are conducted by airline auditors and their duration is dependent on the scope of the audit.
As of 31 December 2013, more than 700 ISAGO audits had been completed; close to 200 audits were performed in 2013. There are more than 140 ground service providers in the ISAGO registry providing services at over 240 stations and 170 airports worldwide.
The growth and development of ISAGO is attributed to the 44 ISAGO pool member airlines that have made the programme stronger than ever. Each one of them has provided an army of auditors in the implementation of standards that typically exceed relevant regulatory requirements. For some pool members, audit reduction is as high as 53%, depending on how ISAGO is incorporated in their own quality assurance program (QAP). The more ISAGO is incorporated in the airline’s QAP, the more effective ISAGO becomes and the greater are the benefits achieved.
ISAGO around the world
In general, the programme is very well accepted by the ground handling community as ISAGO is offering a solution for airlines, GSPs, as well for airports and regulators. Many GSPs switched from ISO: 9001 certification to ISAGO registration. Several countries have mandated ISAGO registration as a condition of receiving an operating license, for example, Lebanon, Turkey and Kazakhstan. Individual airports including Seattle-Tacoma (US), Montego Bay (Jamaica), Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and Toronto (Canada) also require ISAGO registration for ground handlers.
IATA also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) to help increase awareness of the audit programme among ECAC members. Three ISAGO workshops were held in 2013. One more is to be held this spring in Paris. The feedback received from these sessions clearly indicated that regulators should make more use of programmes such as ISAGO.
Why sign up to ISAGO?
Working with the members, GSPs, audit organisations, regulators, airports and others, IATA’s internationally recognised auditing activities aim to achieve the following benefits:
• Safer ground operations, fewer accidents and injuries
• Elimination of redundant audits from airlines – one ISAGO audit in place of multiple airline audits
• Reduced injury and ground damage costs
• Uniform audit process and consistently applied harmonised standards
• Improved safety oversight
• Improved quality standards
• Enhanced understanding of high risk areas within ground operations
• Direct feedback from ISAGO audits to standards and procedures groups to address areas of concern means rapid correction of inconsistencies
On average, 22% of audits can be reduced per operator via their participation in the ISAGO pool. This occurs in terms of reduction of cost for oversight, though it varies depending on the size of the operator. For example, how many GSPs do they use? How ‘big’ is their contribution to the pool (meaning number of ISAGO audits they need to perform under the pool concept)? But in all cases, the latest studies prove that all the operators experience significant cost saving in the area of audit performance.
IATA, through our regional offices (where we are closer to the stakeholders and can better address their needs – based on our vision ‘Global development and regional delivery’), is encouraging operators to join the pool by communicating the present benefit cost savings. Our regional colleagues are also in close cooperation with regulators explaining the benefits of the ISAGO and encouraging them to support the airlines to join the pool and accept ISAGO as the acceptable means of compliance to the operator’s oversight of outsourced services in the ground handling area.
What’s next for ISAGO?
In 2012, the ISAGO pool members developed the ISAGO Strategy, which is a five-year plan (2013-2018) for further development and worldwide implementation of ISAGO. It is based on several strategic pillars that cover areas such as:
1. Stabilised audit allocation approach and introduction of off-pool audits done on commercial basis.
2. Endorsement for reporting of ground damage to the GDDB and introduction of a risk-based approach to renewal audits. With GDDB, ISAGO will have the means to receive and analyse ground damage data. ISAGO will then be able to introduce a risk-based approach to its audit and, given sufficient data collection, the industry will be able to measure whether it is reducing the number of accidents and injuries, which if validated, will result in significant cost savings.
3. Alignment of ISAGO Standards with the IGOM requirements and introduction of SMS requirements for providers.
4. Simplification of the audit standards and processes and requirements for audit report completion and the streamlining of the auditor qualification process.
5. Extension of the ISAGO pool membership to non-IATA member airlines that are on the IOSA registry and introduction of motivation factors to attract more pool members.
6. Harmonisation of audit procedures and management among various ground operations audit programmes.
7. Sustainability by shaping regulatory framework and working with regulators and airports to bring in the airlines’ and GSPs’ perspectives.
Using ISAGO, an airline can bring to its ground operation a degree of consistency in operating procedures and processes that are aligned worldwide, as ISAGO’s standards are linked with the IGOM. Furthermore, through participation in ISAGO, airlines have the opportunity to collect ground damage data through the GDDB that will help establish a baseline for ground damage performance, identify negative trends and contributing factors and enable the development of proper mitigation actions which can lead to fewer injuries and reduced costs reduction in the ground operations area. Ultimately all stakeholders will benefit from broader implementation of ISAGO and adoption of the IGOM through improved safety, reduced costs and greater efficiency through standardization of processes and procedures.