The term ‘Groundhandling’ covers a wide variety of services required by airlines for their aircrafts while they are on ground between landing and take-off. These services include passenger handling, baggage handling, marshalling aircraft, loading/unloading, refueling, aircraft maintenance etc. An airline may choose to provide services for itself (self-handling), or contract with another company (third party handling), be it an airline, airport operator or a dedicated groundhandling company.
Until 1997, groundhandling services in the EU airports have been offered on monopoly bases by either airport operators or a dominant airline at that airport that was usually a national carrier of that state. Since 1997, the provision of groundhandling services in the EU is covered by Directive 96/67/EC which opened up groundhandling services to competition. In the Republic of Kosovo, this Directive has been transposed into the national legal order through CAA Regulation no. 4/2011 as amended by Regulation no. 5/2019 on access to groundhandling market. Under these rules, free competition for the majority of groundhandling services at airports handling more than 2 million passengers per year has been granted, resulting in more choice for airlines and lower operating costs for them. This competition 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 national authority 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.
Studies undertaken for the application of these rules at larger airports in the EU across the years have revealed that market opening has brought competitive pricing for the airlines and this should be considered beneficial only if it is ensured that acceptable level of safety is maintained at all times by all involved suppliers at an airport.