By Martin Banks - 7th November 2012
Bad working conditions for ground-handlers undermine the quality of services
Parliament's transport committee has rejected the proposed liberalisation of ground-handling services at European airports.
The decision was greeted by the Greens group in parliament.
But European airlines said it "deplored" the decision of the transport committee to reject the commission's proposal to open up ground-handling services such as baggage and passenger handling to more competition at European airports.
The move came as the committee voted on Tuesday on EU legislation dealing with airports, including noise and ground-handling.
The voting took place following extensive discussions on the comprehensive package of measures to address capacity shortages, to reduce noise at European airports and improve the quality of services offered to passengers.
The Greens said it "regrets" the priority in the package to expanding airport capacity, saying this will be at "the expense of citizens' interests, social standards and the environment".
Green transport spokesperson Eva Lichtenberger said, "MEPs have today grounded plans from the commission to liberalise airport ground-handling services.
"The proposals to further liberalise the sector but failed to address concerns with social and employment standards for workers in airports, and the Greens welcome the vote to reject this approach, which sends a strong signal against social dumping," said the Austrian deputy.
"Bad working conditions for ground-handlers undermine the quality of services, with unacceptable consequences on safety and security. Further undermining working conditions is against the interests of both workers and passengers.
"Regrettably the overarching focus of the legislation on airport operation is aimed at boosting airport capacity, which is ultimately at odds with citizens' concerns on noise and quality of life, as well as being bad for the environment."
Elsewhere, Athar Husain Khan, acting secretary general of the Brussels-based Association of European Airlines (AEA), was particularly critical of the ground-handling decision.
He said, "As a result of parliament’s decision, the ground-handling market will remain limited to only two suppliers at some of the largest European airports, thereby protecting existing monopolies and depriving both passengers and airlines of more efficient and competitive ground-handling services."
He added, "AEA also regrets that the parliament failed to recognise the value of the air transport sector for the European economy by privileging operating restrictions to address noise at European airports.
"The same environmental benefits could be achieved through measures that do not further aggravate the capacity crunch."
Meanwhile, a new report says that fatigue among pilots and cabin crew has become a "genuine concern" in the aviation world.
The survey, by the Norwegian public service broadcaster, NRK, concluded, "Despite scientific studies showing that fatigue could jeopardise the safety of air operations, data about the prevalence of fatigue across Europe is scarce.
"With estimates of an approximate doubling of air traffic by 2020, getting an idea about the extent of this phenomenon becomes crucial."
It said its survey showed that "half of the pilots have fallen asleep or dozed off while on duty, with almost four out of five pilots stating they have felt too tired to be in the cockpit".
The results of the survey among more than 6000 European pilots have now been compiled in the 'Barometer on pilot fatigue'.