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EU may scrap plans for more competition in airport ground handling

[BRUSSELS] The new European Commission may scrap plans to open up airport ground handling services to more competition amid criticism from airports, which say such a move could hit the quality of services.

The reform would give airlines more choice of service providers and increase the minimum number of providers at large airports.

But the Commission said in a draft document seen by Reuters that it was unlikely to get wide agreement on the scheme.

Ground handling includes services such as marshalling aircraft, loading and unloading planes, baggage handling, and refuelling. The biggest providers worldwide include Swissport/Servisair, DNATA, SATS, Menzies and Fraport .

Currently, European airports with more than 15 million passengers a year should allow at least two core ground handling providers, and the Commission had wanted to increase that number to three.

However, the Airports Council International Europe (ACI), which represent 450 airports in 45 European countries, argued that increasing the number of ground handling providers at airports could make operations more complicated.

It said more ground handlers would mean more space needed for equipment and would make it more difficult to coordinate services in events such as extreme weather.

ACI, and German airports association ADV, said further liberalisation and competition for tenders would also put pressure on already low wages in the sector because staff costs make up around 70 per cent of the costs of service providers.

A spokeswoman for the Commission said its work programme had not yet been adopted and was still under discussion.