Aircraft ground handling

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Aircraft ground handling of a Lufthansa Airbus A380 at Frankfurt Airport in Germany. Airbus A380-800 of Lufthansa in Frankfurt Germany - Aircraft ground handling at FRA EDDF.jpg
Aircraft ground handling of a Lufthansa Airbus A380 at Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

In aviation, aircraft ground handling defines the servicing of an aircraft while it is on the ground and (usually) parked at a terminal gate of an airport.



Icelandair Boeing 757 being serviced by another airline; SAS at Gardermoen Airport Icelandair Surtsey TF-FIJ boeing757-200.JPG
Icelandair Boeing 757 being serviced by another airline; SAS at Gardermoen Airport
A ground-handling tug pulls a British Airways Boeing 747-400 at Heathrow Airport, England Ground.handling.arp.jpg
A ground-handling tug pulls a British Airways Boeing 747-400 at Heathrow Airport, England
Airbus A380-800 operated by Qatar Airways on apron outside Heathrow Terminal 4 with a wide range of ground handling equipments around such as aircraft container, pallet loader, ULD, jet air starter, belt loader, pushback tug, catering vehicles and dollies. Qatar Airways Airbus A380-800 at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 before Flying to Doha, 6 Jan 2015.jpg
Airbus A380-800 operated by Qatar Airways on apron outside Heathrow Terminal 4 with a wide range of ground handling equipments around such as aircraft container, pallet loader, ULD, jet air starter, belt loader, pushback tug, catering vehicles and dollies.

Many airlines subcontract ground handling to airports, handling agents or even to another airline. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), conservative estimates indicate airlines outsource more than 50 per cent of the ground handling that takes place at the world's airports. [1] Ground handling addresses the many service requirements of an airliner between the time it arrives at a terminal gate and the time it departs on its next flight. Speed, efficiency, and accuracy are important in ground handling services in order to minimize the turnaround time (the time during which the aircraft must remain parked at the gate). [2] Faster turnarounds for lower ground times are correlated to better profits. [3]

Airlines with less-frequent service or fewer resources at a particular location sometimes subcontract ground handling or on-call aircraft maintenance to another airline, as it is a short-term cheaper alternative to setting up its own ground handling or maintenance capabilities.

Airlines may participate in an industry-standard Mutual Assistance Ground Service Agreement (MAGSA). The MAGSA is published by the Air Transport Association (the current version is from 1981) and is used by airlines to assess prices for maintenance and support to aircraft at so-called MAGSA Rates, which are updated annually based on changes in the U.S. Producer Price Index.[ citation needed ] Airlines may choose to contract for ground handling services under the terms of a Standard Ground Handling Agreement (SGHA) published in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Airport Handling Manual. [4] Airlines may also contract for ground handling services under non-standard terms.

Most ground services are not directly related to the actual flying of the aircraft, and instead involve other tasks. The major categories of ground handling services are described below.

Cabin service

The primary aim of this service offering is to ensure passenger comfort. While cabin cleaning comprises the bulk of the effort, it also includes tasks such as replenishing onboard consumables (soap, tissues, toilet paper, reading materials) and washable items like pillows and blankets.


Catering includes the unloading of unused food and drink from the aircraft, and the loading of fresh food and drink for passengers and crew. In flight airline meals are delivered at the seats in airline service trolleys. Empty or trash-filled trolley from the previous flight are replaced with fresh ones. Meals are prepared mostly on the ground in order to minimize the amount of preparation (apart from chilling or reheating) required in flight.

While some airlines provide their own catering, others have either owned catering companies in the past and divested themselves of the companies, or have outsourced their catering to third-party companies. Airline catering sources include the following companies:

Ramp service

Luggage being unloaded from a Northwest Airlines Boeing 757-200 at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Boeing 757-251 - Northwest Airlines - N538US - EHAM (2).jpg
Luggage being unloaded from a Northwest Airlines Boeing 757-200 at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
A British Airways aircraft being refueled Airbus A321-231 - British Airways - G-EUXH - EHAM (5).jpg
A British Airways aircraft being refueled
KLM Pushback tractor and a ground power unit KLM Pushback tractor and ground power unit.jpg
KLM Pushback tractor and a ground power unit
Lavatory drainage Aircraft lavatory service.jpg
Lavatory drainage

This includes services on the ramp or apron, such as:

Passenger service

Business jet cleaning Immaculate Flight working on a Global Express Aircraft.jpg
Business jet cleaning

This includes services inside the airport terminal such as:

Field operation service

This service dispatches the aircraft, maintains communication with the rest of the airline operation at the airport and with Air Traffic Control.

List of notable handling agents




  • Flag of India.svg Air India Airport Services Limited - All Indian Airports - presently providing services at 74 airports in India.
  • Flag of India.svg Air India SATS - Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Mangalore
  • Flag of India.svg LAS Ground Force Handling - Goa, Udaipur & Bagdogra
  • Flag of India.svg Bhadra International India Pvt Ltd - Chennai
  • Flag of India.svg Bird Worldwide Flight Services Pvt Ltd - Delhi, Mumbai & Kochi
  • Flag of India.svg Livewel Aviation -Mumbai & Delhi
  • Flag of India.svg Globe Ground India - Ahmadabad, Bangalore
  • Flag of India.svg Indo Thai Airport Management Services Pvt Ltd - Amritsar, Lucknow & Mohali
  • Flag of India.svg Agile Airport Services Pvt Ltd - presently providing services at 8 airports in India.
  • Flag of Qatar.svg Qatar Aviation Services - Delhi

Hong Kong








  • Flag of the Philippines.svg Airmach Aviation
  • Flag of the Philippines.svg 1 Aviation
  • Flag of the Philippines.svg dnata Philippines
  • Flag of the Philippines.svg MacroAsia Airport Services Corporation
  • Flag of the Philippines.svg MDFS PHILIPPINES
  • Flag of the Philippines.svg Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions



The Caribbean



St. Vincent and the Grenadines




  • Flag of Cyprus.svg LGS Handling
  • CTT Aviation Ltd.
  • Flag of Cyprus.svg SWISSPORT





  • Flag of Greece.svg Goldair
  • Flag of Greece.svg Skyserv


  • Flag of Italy.svg Airport Handling


  • Flag of Latvia.svg HAVAS Ground Handling Co.









United Kingdom

Middle East

North and Central America




United States

South America



  • Flag of Uruguay.svg Candysur S.A.

See also

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