Ground Handling in Sri Lanka: Key Insights and Developments

Ground handling in Sri Lanka plays a significant role in the efficient functioning of the aviation industry. As a vital component ensuring the smooth movement of aircraft, passengers, and cargo on the ground, it involves a variety of services provided by ground handling agents, such as baggage handling, aircraft cleaning, fueling, and catering. Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), being the main international airport in Sri Lanka, experiences a growing influx of flights and passengers, making quality ground handling services essential for the airport’s operations.

Sri Lankan Airlines, as the exclusive ground operator at BIA, has recently embarked on a phased upgrade of its airport ground support equipment to meet the increasing demand. One significant milestone in this upgrade is the acquisition of three cutting-edge passenger apron coaches, enhancing the comfort and efficiency of ground handling services at the airport. Furthermore, numerous companies, including Sri Lanka Executive Aviation Services and Acorn Aviation, offer specialized ground handling services tailored to cater to diverse needs at local airports across the nation.

white and gray airplane
Photo by Maria Tyutina on

The robust development of the ground handling sector in Sri Lanka is a testament to the country’s commitment to providing world-class services to airlines, passengers, and cargo. With the continued growth of the aviation industry, it is crucial that ground handling agents and airport authorities continue to adapt and improve their services to maintain high standards and meet the ever-changing needs of their clients.

Overview of Ground Handling in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s aviation industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, leading to an increased demand for high-quality ground handling services. The Sri Lanka Civil Aviation Authority plays a crucial role in regulating these services to meet international safety and quality standards1.

Sri Lanka Executive Aviation Services (SEAS) is a major player in providing ground handling services in the country2. They work towards offering personalized, comprehensive, and reliable services to support the growth of their clients and contribute to the industry.

SriLankan Airlines Ground Handling is another significant ground services provider in Sri Lanka3. With an average revenue of over USD 36 million per year, they currently serve more than 30 regular customer airlines and ADHOC carriers at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. As the only ground handler at BIA, SriLankan Airlines Ground Handling has a strong presence in the region.

The ground handling services in Sri Lanka include:

  • Passenger services
  • Aircraft services
  • Ramp services
  • Cargo and mail handling
  • Aircraft catering services

In addition to these standard services, VVIP ground handling services are also available in Sri Lanka to cater to the unique requirements of high-profile passengers. These services ensure the utmost comfort and security for VVIP passengers throughout their time at the airport.

To meet the growing demands placed on ground handling services in Sri Lanka, continuous improvements and investment in infrastructure, equipment, and staff training are essential to maintaining safety and quality.



Regulatory Framework

National Aviation Authorities

The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) is responsible for the oversight and regulation of ground-handling services in the country. They work in close coordination with other regulatory bodies to ensure that ground-handling providers adhere to the necessary standards. One of the primary aims of the CAASL is to certify Ground Handling Arrangements, Facilities, and Services for the safe and efficient handling of aircraft operations.

Safety and Security Regulations

The safety and security of ground handling in Sri Lanka are governed by a comprehensive set of regulations designed to maintain high operational standards. Some key aspects include:

  • Certification Requirements: Ground handling providers must obtain certification from the CAASL, demonstrating their compliance with specified guidelines and standards.
  • Training: Ground handlers must undergo mandatory training to ensure they are proficient in their tasks. This includes comprehensive skills development programs and periodic refresher courses.
  • Inspection and Monitoring: Regular assessments, inspections, and audits are conducted by the CAASL and other relevant authorities to ascertain ongoing adherence to the regulatory framework.

Environmental Regulations

As part of its commitment to sustainable development, Sri Lanka has established various environmental regulations governing ground-handling operations. These include:

  • Waste Management: Ground handling providers are required to develop and implement rigorous protocols to manage and dispose of waste generated during their activities.
  • Emission Standards: Ground support equipment must adhere to strict fuel consumption and exhaust emission standards to minimize environmental impact.
  • Noise Reduction: Guidelines are in place to minimize noise pollution caused by ground handling processes, such as the use of electrically powered equipment and implementation of noise abatement procedures.

The regulatory framework in Sri Lanka ensures the efficient, safe, and environmentally responsible operation of ground-handling services throughout the country. By adhering to these guidelines and maintaining close cooperation with national aviation authorities, ground-handling providers contribute to a positive experience for passengers and airlines alike.

Major Airports and Facilities

Bandaranaike International Airport

Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is the primary international airport in Sri Lanka, located in the capital, Colombo. It serves as the main hub for SriLankan Airlines, the country’s national carrier. Currently, 24 regular customer airlines and several ADHOC carriers operate at BIA, generating an annual revenue of approximately USD 46 million. SriLankan Airlines is the sole ground handler at this airport.

The airport facilities include a range of state-of-the-art ground support equipment, such as passenger apron coaches, to accommodate the increasing number of flights and passengers. Several maintenance facilities are equipped with advanced technology and staffed by highly skilled technicians (source).

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) is the second international airport in the country, located in the southern region of Hambantota. It primarily serves as an alternative and complementary airport to BIA. Although the airport has not achieved the same level of traffic and commercial success as BIA, it is equipped to handle a variety of aircraft types and offers multiple ground-handling services.

Ratmalana Airport

Ratmalana Airport, situated in the suburb of Ratmalana, near Colombo, is primarily a domestic airport with limited international flights. This airport was initially the country’s main international airport before being replaced by BIA. Ratmalana Airport is now mainly a hub for private and corporate aviation, with facilities available for ground handling services to accommodate smaller aircraft and private jets.

Ground Handling Services

Ramp Services

In Sri Lanka, ground handling companies like Sri Lanka Executive Aviation Services (SEAS) and Royal Aviation Lanka provide a range of vital ramp services for seamless aviation operations. These services include:

  • Aircraft towing: Relocating aircraft on the ground between parking spots and gates
  • Refuelling: Safe and timely refuelling of aircraft before departure
  • Water and waste services: Emptying lavatories and replenishing potable water
  • Catering: Delivery of food and beverages aboard the aircraft

Ramp services are crucial for ensuring efficient turnarounds and minimizing aircraft downtime.

Passenger Services

Passenger services offered by ground handling companies play a key role in creating a pleasant travel experience. These services include:

  • Check-in: Facilitating passenger check-in at airport counters or kiosks
  • Boarding: Supervising and managing the boarding process, distributing boarding passes, and verifying documents
  • Lost and found: Assisting passengers with locating and recovering lost luggage
  • Special assistance: Providing wheelchair assistance and other required services to passengers with special needs

Companies such as Acorn Group and VVIP Flight are known for their professional and efficient passenger services in Sri Lanka.

Cargo and Baggage Handling

Ground handling providers in Sri Lanka, like BizAv International, specialize in cargo and baggage handling services. These services are crucial for timely transit and safe delivery of luggage and cargo. Some of the key offerings in this domain are:

  • Load control: Planning and coordinating the loading and unloading of baggage and cargo
  • Baggage sorting: Sorting and routing baggage based on flight and destination
  • Cargo documentation: Managing required documentation and customs paperwork for cargo shipments
  • Warehouse management: Overseeing the storage and handling of cargo in airport warehouses

By offering comprehensive cargo and baggage handling, ground handling companies in Sri Lanka contribute to the smooth functioning of the aviation industry.

Ground Handling Agents and Providers

Local Handling Agents

In Sri Lanka, there are several local ground-handling agents providing a range of services for both domestic and international flights. For example, Acorn Group offers ground handling supervision at all international airports in the country. They work with a team of service specialists with years of experience in the aviation industry. Similarly, Royal Aviation Lanka is a trusted and leading ground handling services provider, duly approved by the CAASL. They offer a range of services, including baggage handling, aircraft cleaning, fueling, catering, and maintenance for private and corporate airlines.

Global Service Providers

Apart from local agents, global service providers also operate in the Sri Lankan aviation sector. These international companies bring their expertise and advanced technologies to ensure quality and professionalism in the services they offer. Some global ground-handling service providers have partnered with local companies, like Care Aviation, which specializes in ground-handling support services for corporate and private jets, as well as online passenger carriers. These partnerships allow for the integration of global expertise with local knowledge and resources, resulting in improved service and efficiency.

Airlines’ Own Operations

Certain airlines choose to handle their ground operations, ensuring total control over the quality of services offered. In Sri Lanka, the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, serves as the sole ground handler for all local airports. They provide a wide array of ground handling services, ensuring the safe and efficient movement of aircraft, passengers, and cargo on the ground. Their services include baggage handling, aircraft cleaning and maintenance, fueling, and catering for both their own flights and foreign airlines operating within the country.

In conclusion, ground handling in Sri Lanka is a combination of efforts from local agents, global service providers, and airlines’ own operations. This blend of expertise ensures the smooth and efficient functioning of the aviation industry in the country.

Technology and Equipment

Modernization and Upgrades

Sri Lanka has been investing in the modernization and upgrade of ground-handling services at its airports. The increase in passenger traffic and airline operations has fueled the need for advanced technology and state-of-the-art equipment to ensure efficiency and safety. SriLankan Airlines, the exclusive ground operator at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), has initiated a phased upgrade of airport ground support equipment.

The upgrades include the adoption of advanced communication systems for better coordination between different airport departments, resulting in improved operational efficiency. Additionally, the implementation of automation technologies to streamline check-in, baggage handling, and boarding processes have minimized delays. These initiatives have not only enhanced the safety but also contributed to a better travel experience for passengers.

Specialized Ground Support Equipment

Ground support equipment (GSE) plays a crucial role in maintaining the smooth operations of an airport. Sri Lankan airports have invested in specialized GSE to cater to the specific needs of airlines and passengers. Some of the key GSE used at the airports are:

  • Tow tractors: Used for towing aircraft, baggage, and cargo from one location to another within the airport premises.
  • GPU (Ground Power Units): These mobile units supply electricity to aircraft while they are parked at the terminal, improving energy efficiency.
  • Fuel trucks: Designed to provide aviation fuel to aircraft safely and efficiently.
  • Passenger boarding stairs and bridges: Ensuring safe and comfortable boarding and disembarking of passengers from aircraft.

Companies like SEAS and VVIP Ground Handling offer comprehensive ground handling services in Sri Lanka, ensuring the highest standards of safety and efficiency while catering to the unique requirements of their clients. These service providers are constantly updating their equipment and adopting new technologies to stay ahead of the ever-evolving demands in the aviation industry.

Training and Standards

Certification Programs

In Sri Lanka, ground handling services are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure compliance with international standards for safety and quality. One of the key aspects of maintaining these standards is providing comprehensive certification programs for ground-handling personnel. Programs like the IATA Ground Operations Management Training enable ground handling managers to become IATA certified, ensuring their team’s adherence to industry best practices.

These certification programs typically cover critical ground handling procedures, safety regulations, and operational standards such as:

  • Aircraft handling: Ensuring safe and efficient movement of aircraft on the ground.
  • Passenger services: Meeting the needs of passengers and ensuring their safety.
  • Baggage handling: Processing, transporting, and tracking passenger luggage.
  • Cargo handling: Handling and storage of all types of cargo, ensuring proper documentation and safety.

Quality Assurance

The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka also implements quality assurance standards to maintain high levels of safety and efficiency in ground handling services. These standards encompass multiple dimensions, including:

  1. Licensing requirements: Ground handling organizations must obtain a license from the Civil Aviation Authority to operate at Sri Lankan airports.
  2. Facility and service standards: Companies offering ground handling services must ensure adequate facilities and services to fulfil the needs of their clients, such as airlines and passengers.
  3. Personnel training: Ground handling service providers must make sure their employees undergo adequate training and receive the necessary certifications to perform their tasks.
  4. Safety and security: Organizations should adhere to stringent safety measures and security protocols as prescribed by the aviation authorities.

By implementing these quality assurance measures, Sri Lanka’s aviation industry can ensure that the ground handling services provided at its airports meet international standards for safety, efficiency, and reliability.

Challenges and Opportunities

Logistical Challenges

Ground handling services at Sri Lanka airports face several logistical challenges due to the increasing demand caused by the growth in passenger traffic. Ensuring timely and efficient services for airlines and passengers can be a daunting task, especially when coordinating resources, such as personnel, equipment, and facilities. Managing peak hours and periods of high traffic is crucial for maintaining an optimal level of service.

Another challenge specific to Sri Lanka is its geographical location and vulnerability to natural disasters. Being an island nation, transport and logistics of ground handling equipment can be difficult, further affected by the weather conditions, which require additional contingency planning.

Growth Potential

On the flip side, the growing demand for efficient ground handling services in Sri Lanka also offers significant growth potential. With the Sri Lanka Civil Aviation Authority making efforts to maintain international safety and quality standards, opportunities for both existing and new companies in the industry have emerged.

SriLankan Airlines, for example, has over 30 years of experience in ground handling. This experience, combined with their highly skilled staff and customer-oriented solutions, places them in a strong position to capitalize on the increased demand for ground handling services.

To summarize, ground handling in Sri Lanka faces both logistical challenges and growth opportunities. The key for companies in the industry is finding innovative ways to navigate these challenges while also leveraging the growth potential.

Sustainable Practices

Eco-friendly Initiatives

Ground handling services at Sri Lanka airports are actively implementing eco-friendly practices to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainability. One significant effort has been the adoption of electric ground support equipment (GSE) that helps in reducing emissions and noise pollution.

In addition to adopting electric GSE, Sri Lanka airports have also incorporated the use of:

  • Solar energy: Harnessing solar power for energy generation at airports reduces the dependence on non-renewable energy sources.
  • Waste management: Implementing proper waste segregation and recycling processes to minimize environmental impact.
  • Water conservation: Employing efficient water management systems to reduce water usage and prevent pollution.

Fuel Efficiency Programs

Fuel efficiency plays a crucial role in achieving sustainable ground-handling operations. Sri Lanka airports have implemented several fuel efficiency programs to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. These programs focus on:

  1. Optimizing ground operations: By streamlining processes and making efficient use of resources, ground handling teams can minimize fuel consumption during ground operations.
  2. Training and awareness: Providing regular training to the ground handling staff on best practices for conserving fuel and the importance of sustainable operations.
  3. Monitoring and reporting: Continuously measuring and assessing fuel consumption to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes.

Through the combination of eco-friendly initiatives and fuel efficiency programs, Sri Lanka airports are making significant strides towards sustainable ground handling practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the career opportunities in ground handling for SriLankan Airlines?

SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier of Sri Lanka, offers a wide range of career opportunities in ground handling services. These include roles such as passenger handling, baggage handling, aircraft loading and unloading, ramp services, and aircraft towing. Acorn Group mentions that all ground handling at local airports is exclusively provided by SriLankan Airlines.

What are the qualifications required for ground handling positions at SriLankan Airlines?

The qualifications required for ground handling positions at SriLankan Airlines can vary depending on the specific role. In general, candidates should have a minimum educational background of a high school diploma or equivalent. Additionally, fluency in English is typically expected. Knowledge of other languages is often considered an asset in the aviation industry. Experience in customer service, aviation or logistics may be an advantage as well.

What is the typical salary range for ground handling staff at SriLankan Airlines?

The salary range for ground handling staff at SriLankan Airlines can vary depending on factors such as the role, level of experience, and qualifications of the individual employee. Salaries in this industry are generally competitive, with opportunities for growth and progression within the company.

How can I apply for a ground handling position at SriLankan Airlines?

To apply for a ground handling position at SriLankan Airlines, you should regularly check their official website for job listings and application deadlines. Alternatively, you could directly contact their human resources department to inquire about available job opportunities and application requirements.

What contact information is available for SriLankan Airlines ground handling services?

For queries related to SriLankan Airlines’ ground handling services, you can refer to the SriLankan Airlines official website or contact them via email or phone. Detailed contact information can be found on the “Contact Us” section of their website.

What training programs are available for ground-handling personnel in Sri Lanka?

Some training programs are available for ground-handling personnel in Sri Lanka, covering various aspects of the ground-handling industry. The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) provides guidance on training requirements and certifications, such as the Ground Handling Certification Manual, which outlines the courses and standards relevant to this field. Moreover, institutions like the Sri Lanka Executive Aviation Services (SEAS) can offer specialized training courses tailored to the needs of aviation professionals.