Plans to open up ground-handling services at major EU airports to more competition by increasing the minimum number of service providers were backed by Parliament in a vote on Tuesday. To guarantee high efficiency of services and prevent social dumping, MEPs added minimum quality standards and safeguard clauses for staff transfers to the Commission's initial proposal.

The amended proposal was adopted by 455 votes to 239, with 18 abstentions.

Parliament inserted minimum service quality standards, which must be respected by the ground-handling companies operating at European airports serving over five million passengers. “This will include the maximum waiting time for baggage check-in, maximum time for delivery of first and last items of baggage, and holding minimum stocks of de-icing fluid," explained rapporteur Artur Zasada (EPP, PL).

More competition, but fair working conditions

Under the amended proposal, a minimum of three ground-handling operators, up from two today, should provide support services for airlines in airports handling more than 15 million passengers and/or 200,000 tons of freight per year. There will also be a strict separation of accounts for the airports providing their own handling services.

MEPs added certain social provisions, which should also apply to subcontractors. In the event that service providers are changed, member states will have to ensure that staff for airside services are transferred to the new service provider and collective agreements respected.

In 2011, 21 EU airports served more than 15 million passengers. These included London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Dublin and London Stansted.

Next steps

Parliament will start talks with Council to find a compromise agreement on the “airport package”, which includes two more legislative proposals on rules for allocating take-off and landing slots and noise-related operational restrictions. These amended proposals, aiming to increase airport efficiency, were approved at Parliament's first reading in December 2012.

Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading