India changes rules to allow US airlines to carry out own ground handling
INDIA will permit North American, Canadian and Australian airlines to perform their own ground handling activities after the Union Cabinet agreed to amend regulations that previously prohibited international carriers from operating beyond the check-in area
INDIA will permit North American, Canadian and Australian airlines to perform their own ground handling activities after the Union Cabinet agreed to amend regulations that previously prohibited international carriers from operating beyond the check-in area. However, the changes will only initially apply to US carriers.
Following the changes, airlines operated by these countries will eventually have access control to aircraft, can screen unaccompanied baggage, and will have security control of cargo, reported The Hindu, New Delhi.
To qualify, the airlines will have to allow a security audit by Indian agencies, and ensure that Indian employees are tasked with sensitive operations.
Until now, foreign carriers had to enter into an agreement with an Indian airline for performing these activities. The Cabinet had in 2006 barred all foreign carriers from conducting such operations, a senior government official said.
The Cabinet approved a draft standard operating procedure (SOP) detailing security measures to be adopted for such operations. As a result, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Ground Handling Services) Regulations 2018, can now be amended so that they are on par with provisions of air services agreements India had entered into with the above three countries.
The reason US, Canada and Australia are singled out is that the bilateral agreements with them were the only time India allowed international carriers to conduct their ground handling services on their own or to self-handle.
India has been forced to bend over backwards to appease the US after the latter objected to the discrepancy between the ground handling rules and the Air Services Agreement of 2005, asserting that the former denied its airlines their bilateral right. Following several warnings, the US banned Air India from self-handling in an order on July 30 2019, in a retaliatory move.
'There were also warnings that Air India may be asked to submit details about its flight schedule afresh, causing inconvenience to the airline, which is the only Indian carrier operating between the two countries following the collapse of Jet Airways,' the official explained.
When US carriers self-handle in India, a standard operating procedure will have to be followed requiring airline security staff and baggage screeners to be Indian citizens and on the direct payrolls of the airline, who will be subjected to a thorough background check by aviation security watchdog, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS).
These airlines will also have to be open to 'security audit, inspection and test' as and when required and data pertaining to movement of cargo will have to be made available through real time feed of CCTV coverage.
BCAS can also ask airlines for validating facilities at all points of departure and the Aviation Security Group (comprising different security agencies such as CISF, BCAS, among others) will be deployed at airside during cargo operations. The BCAS will also have the permission to intervene if the central security agency feels the need for it.