The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for holistic reforms to manage the long-term need for a stable talent base for the ground handling sector, amid staffing shortages which have caused disruption and delays at airports globally.

Thousands of ground handling staff left the aviation industry during the pandemic and as aviation ramps up, the severe shortage of skilled ground handlers is shedding light on the need for reform to stabilise the talent pool, IATA said.

Security clearance bottleneck

In the immediate term, the most pressing issue is the bottleneck for security clearances as the airline industry prepares for the peak northern summer season.

Longer-term, IATA is urging the ground handling sector to adopt a stronger talent acquisition strategy, streamline onboarding processes and develop a more compelling retention proposition.

“The shortages we are experiencing today are a symptom of the longer-term challenges to achieve a stable talent base in ground handling,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President for the Operations, Safety and Security.

Additional resources needed

“The peak northern summer travel season is fast-approaching, and passengers are already experiencing the effects of bottlenecks in getting security clearances for staff at the airport. Additional resources are needed to accelerate the processing times for employment security clearances which can be as much as six months in some markets.”

He added: “An industry-wide approach to lay the foundations for more efficient talent recruitment, onboarding and retention will pay big benefits in terms of efficiency for all concerned. The cornerstone is the standardisation that can be achieved with the adoption of the IGOM. Its global implementation will have a huge and positive impact in all aspects of ground handling, including talent management. The potential is to shift working in the sector from having a job to developing a career.”


IATA recommends:

  1. An awareness campaign to highlight the attractiveness and importance of ground operations in global logistics and transport operations
  2. Adoption of 25by25 campaign to help address the gender imbalance across the industry, achieving 25 per cent female workforce by the middle of the decade
  3. Apprenticeships in partnership with trade schools to revitalise candidate pipelines
  4. Career path mapping to demonstrate long-term prospects for people entering the sector


IATA recommends:

  1. A greater focus on competency-based training; moving to more online training and assessments will improve speed, flexibility and efficiency of onboarding.
  2. Mutual recognition by authorities of security training and employee background records will expedite onboarding and reduce redundant processes.

Retention programmes

IATA recommends:

    1. Implementation of IATA Ground Operations Manual (IGOM) to standardise ground operations. Along with significant operational benefits and more efficient onboarding, this would provide additional flexibility and opportunities for staff in terms of relocation, reassignment and recruitment.
    2. Training passports that mutually recognize skills and training across ground handlers, airlines and/or airports.
    3. Adoption of new technologies and automated processes to create diverse job opportunities and career paths to attract a new generation talent

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