• Baggage handling, ramp handling… What does it mean to an airport?

What is handling?

Handling refers to the set of operations that are carried out on the ground to enable an aircraft to load and unload passengers, cargo and baggage.

In addition to these logistical tasks, administrative, bureaucratic and precautionary tasks are performed.

Below, we describe the main handling services, such as passenger handling, baggage and cargo handling, and ramp handling.

Baggage handling

We call baggage handling the set of tasks that allow baggage to be transferred from the terminal to the aircraft: placing the baggage inside the aircraft, delivering the baggage to the belts, and handling the goods and mail to the cargo terminal.

If you want to know more about baggage handling, you may be interested in our post on how your luggage moves through the airport.

The transport of passengers by bus from the terminal to the aircraft and the distribution of catering served on the aircraft is also handled by cargo handling.

And there’s more: checking that the weight of the baggage in the hold is balanced is also the responsibility of this type of handling.

Passenger handling

The people in charge of informing passengers, check-in, boarding, checking documentation and tickets, or taking care of the elderly and children, are part of passenger handling.

Security at airports is essential, so passenger handling supervises compliance with the rules and reports any incident to the airport authorities.

If you have any queries or complaints about check-in, or are unsure about the weight of your baggage, passenger handling staff will attend to your needs.

Ramp handling

Ramp handling is the assistance provided to an aircraft when it is on the ground. This type of handling includes:

Coordination

The ramp handling team coordinates that the cleaning team arrives when the passengers have already left the aircraft and that refuelling is carried out when there are no passengers on board.

Preparation of the load sheet

Before each flight, it is mandatory to complete the load sheet, and this is the responsibility of the handling staff.

It is a document detailing the number of passengers, baggage, cargo, fuel and last minute changes, allowing the aircraft’s performance to be calculated and verifying that the centre of gravity is within limits.

Pushback

Aircraft cannot push back on their own, so it is sometimes necessary to push them back so that they can start taxiing. This manoeuvre is carried out by handling operators.

If you would like to learn more about the process of moving aircraft backwards, we invite you to read our post on how pushback is carried out.

Auxiliary equipment

The ramp handling staff must also place all the auxiliary equipment that the aircraft needs on the ground, such as the Ground Power Unit (external electrical power unit that supplies the aircraft) or the air conditioning system. It is also responsible for positioning the stairs that take passengers to the cabin.

Operational messages

Information about the flight is also sent to the company, in the event that this handling service is outsourced. It is important to have all the information on the status of the flight and the aircraft.

De-icing

Ice is one of the biggest threats to any aircraft, which is why airports have special trucks that spray a de-icing liquid on the different surfaces of the aircraft.

As you can imagine, aircraft de-icing is one of the key processes for ramp handling in the winter months.

Who performs the handling services?

And who offers these services: the airline itself or a different company? There are airlines that opt for AutoHandling, i.e. they carry out the service themselves and do not contract an external service.

Sometimes it happens that airlines that have their own handling service manage the logistics of other flight companies.

The other option is for airlines to choose a handling provider: outsourced companies that provide passenger, ramp and baggage handling.

Some of the best known are Iberia Airport Service, Swissport Handling, Acciona or Aviapartner.

Who does the handling supervision?

The procedures carried out by the different handling companies are regulated by IATA, the International Air Transport Association.

This institution is responsible for ensuring that airlines have the same services at all airports and that the user experience and safety are standardised worldwide.

In addition, it is necessary to obtain, in Spain, an authorisation issued by AENA to provide services in the public airport network.

What would we do without handling?

Perhaps, before reading this article, you didn’t know who to thank for the efficient organisation of airports. Without baggage handling and ramp handling, the airport sector would not be the same.

We hope this post has solved your doubts and has helped you learn a little more about all those tasks that are necessary for a perfect flight.

If you want to discover more interesting facts about aviation, we recommend you to continue exploring our aviation blog, where you can learn from how to differentiate between a Boeing and Airbus aircraft to how the female presence in aviation has changed.

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