SLA shake up looms as airports call for extra ground time to counter Covid-19 threat


ACI recommends staggered bag offloads and strict social distancing under longer turnaround procedures

SLAs must be revamped to allow ground handlers extra time to complete a raft of additional Covid-19 combatting protocols during turnaround, ACI Europe has recommended.

SOPs should be overhauled to incorporate enhanced cabin cleaning, staggered bag offloads and capping the number of passengers on airport buses, the airports trade body said.

Successful implementation would require handlers and airlines to reconsider contractual arrangements measured on minimising ground time. ACI Europe noted: “Baggage acceptance gaps should be wider than usual so that the bags are offloaded and well separated onto the belts…This would mean that the total offload time would increase, and handlers might not meet their SLAs agreed with airlines.”

ACI Europe urged stakeholders to factor in additional precautionary measures against the pandemic and consider adjusting minimum connection times for lengthier procedures.

The comments came in a 140 page report outlining guidelines for delivering a healthy passenger experience at airports as part of a bid to restore public confidence in flying.

Standout measures include an overhaul to baggage handling processes to minimise virus transmission on luggage and enhancing social distancing in reclaim areas.

Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UGVI) disinfection tunnels to cleanse bags before collection are recommended by ACI Europe. Flight allocations to delivery belts should also be carefully scheduled so handling staff don’t breach social distancing when loading bags in the make-up area, the airports body advised.

Passengers should also be alerted by SMS when their bag had arrived on the carousel to avoid loitering, ACI Europe added.

Minimising virus transmission was also a key principle behind recommended adaptions to apron areas made by ACI Europe within the report. Airports should enhance the availability of stands offering walk in, walk out boarding, the airports trade body said. Operators may need to reconfigure aprons to boost the availability of stands in closer proximity to the terminal, ACI Europe recommended. Doing so would: “Maintain the effective separation of flows and physical distancing between passengers and employees during airside operations”.

The ACI Europe guidelines have been developed in coordination with the European aviation safety agency, EASA and in keeping with its Covid-19 Aviation Heath Safety Protocol. The ACI guidelines aim to provide detailed step-by-step guidance and advice to airports on how to achieve the EASA Protocol.