Clearing the air on the government's ground-handling policy, approved by the Union Cabinet in 2009, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Thursday told airline chiefs at a meeting here that air carriers could do their own ground handling in six metro cities too. They could form their own subsidiaries and offer services to other airlines too, he added.
The country's air carriers were apprehensive that the 2009 policy would increase their expenses.
A ministry statement said: "The airline representatives initially raised their apprehensions regarding problems they will face after implementation of the proposed policy in terms of increase in the cost of ground handling and adjustment of their employees engaged in ground-handling operations. They emphasised they be allowed self handling at six metro airports, on the pattern of non-metro airports."
Singh told Business standard: "At the air side (runway, tarmac), airlines are already allowed self-handling and can create their subsidiaries for ground handling. These subsidiaries can participate in the process to become designated ground handlers."
According to the existing policy, in the six metro cities, ground handling can be done only by: The airport operator or its joint venture partner; subsidiary companies of the national carrier, or its joint venture specialised in ground-handling services; or, a ground-handling service provider selected through competitive bidding on revenue sharing by the airport operator.
Singh added: "The meeting with airlines was a clarification over the already stated ground-handling policy.We have formed a committee and it will look into the rationalisation of royalty to be paid by ground handlers to airport operators, including the Airport Authority of India, so that the cost of ground handling remains reasonable."
Singh highlighted there could be security issues if ground handling was outsourced at cheaper rates.
Jet Airways, SpiceJet and IndiGo had in 2010 challenged the 2009 policy through a writ petition in the Delhi High Court. After the court dismissed the petition in March last year, a petition was filed challenging the high court order in the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear the case on November 6.
An email sent to Jet Airways remained unanswered, while SpiceJet did not respond to the development.