The term 'Groundhandling' covers a wide variety of services required by airlines in order to operate flights. These services include areas such as maintenance, fuel and freight handling. Groundhandling also covers services like passenger check-in, catering, baggage handling and transport within the airport itself.
Since 1997, the provision of groundhandling services in the EU is covered by Directive 96/67/EC. The Directive opened up groundhandling services to competition. Prior to this, monopolies were the norm for groundhandling services at EU airports and many airlines complained about high prices and poor quality services.
Under the EU rules, there is now free competition for the majority of groundhandling services at larger EU airports, resulting in more choice for airlines. This in turn means improved service levels and lower fares for the passenger. For certain services such as baggage handling, ramp handling, fueling and freight services, the Member State may however decide to limit the number of suppliers. In these cases, the minimum number of suppliers has to be two and at least one of the suppliers has to be independent of the airport or the dominant airline at that airport. Some airlines choose to provide groundhandling services for themselves, which is known as 'self-handling'. Similar rules on competition apply to 'self-handling' airlines.
The Directive has largely achieved its main objective, to open up the groundhandling market. The Commission is continuing to monitor the application of the rules to ensure high levels of passenger safety and comfort, as well as competitive pricing for airlines.
List of airports in the Member States (published pursuant to Article 1(4) of Directive 96/67)