Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: In a bid to bring international standards to airports in metropolitan cities and restrict the number of agencies involved in ground handling services, the Government on Thursday finalised a policy to allow three agencies to perform the job at six major airports that handle a large chunk of aviation traffic.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved a proposal of the Civil Aviation Ministry at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said that three agencies would perform the ground handling services at the airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Defence enclaves were kept out of the ambit of the policy, he said, adding that a separate scheme would be chalked out for them.

Global bidding process

The players allowed under the new policy, that comes into effect from January 1, 2009, are the Airports Authority of India (AAI) or the private-led joint venture companies, the State-owned Air India and the Indian or their subsidiary or a joint venture formed by them and an independent agency selected through a global bidding process.

Ground handling activities broadly mean the handling of passengers and baggage at the airport, loading or unloading of aircraft, activities relating to the ramp, refuelling and cleaning of aircraft and push-back facilities. At present, every airline conducts its own ground handling services.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said that ground handling would be phased out gradually. However, private airlines could compete in the bidding process or avail of the services of any of the three agencies.