Logistics

Ground handlers at airports brace for tough times

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on March 21, 2020 Published on March 20, 2020

Ground handling companies do a variety of jobs, including cleaning the aircraft, toilets and packing meals, all within the short turnaround time. File Photo   -  The Hindu

Post ban on foreign flights from Sunday, staff may face pay cut or work without pay

The one-week ban on entry of foreign scheduled aircraft into India from Sunday will hurt the accredited ground handling agencies and could lead to a situation where their employees either take a pay cut or work without pay.

“From a peak of 950 weekly international departures, it (the number) came down by about 60 per cent last week and will hit zero on Sunday,” a company spokesperson for Celebi Aviation Holding Inc told BusinessLine. He added that with a high fixed-cost base and no revenues coming in, the industry will have to take serious measures to remain viable. Ground handling companies do a variety of jobs, including cleaning the aircraft, toilets and packing meals, all within the short turnaround time.

“We may have to look at various options, such as a pay cut or work without pay, for some time,” he said. Celebi does ground handling, mostly for foreign flights, at seven airports, including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi and Kannur. Pointing out that the situation was “very very grim” Prem Bajaj, Chairman and Managing Director, Bhadra International India (Pvt) Ltd, said the government can declare a force majeure situation and help the industry by deferring statutory payments. Ground handlers have to pay for rentals and a royalty on the payments they receive.

Almost 99 per cent of the ground-handling business for Bhadra comes from international airlines at Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Coimbatore. It employs about 4,000 people and handles about 1,600 flights a month, while Celebi has about 8,300 people.

There are about 50,000 accredited ground handlers in the country, and the employee cost is one of the highest for the industry, estimated at around ₹120 crore a month.

What will provide respite for some ground handling companies is the fact that domestic airlines have revised or cut back only a few of their flights till now.

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Published on March 20, 2020
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