New regional bailout ‘ignores’ ground handling industry

written by Hannah Dowling | March 30, 2020

The new $298 million regional aviation bailout announced by the federal government on Saturday “ignores” the ground handling industry, according to Cabin Services Australia, dnata, Menzies Aviation and Swissport.

The conglomerate of companies has called on Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for a $180 million relief package to protect “critical infrastructure” within the aviation industry, and to be appropriately equipped for the post-pandemic recovery.

The businesses, which represent 75 per cent of ground support staff across in Australia, has rejected the suggestion the government has been “speaking to it daily”, and says it has now waited six days for a response from the government.

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The industry reiterated its previous warning that government inaction on the risk posed by COVID-19 on the greater aviation sector – beyond the airlines – presents a “serious threat” to the security of “critical infrastructure and post-pandemic recovery”.

“Today’s funding focus on regional airlines appears to fundamentally misunderstand how the aviation sector works in this country, and ignores the fact that all air freight comes into Australia through a capital city airport,” the statement said.

“Yes, there are critical staff and services in regional Australia, but only providing support to them will not protect regional Australia, as no planes can operate if the airports – regional or major – do not have any ground handlers.

“Critical medical supplies and equipment and other time-sensitive goods cannot be moved around Australia without the services ground handling companies provide.”

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Having already been forced to stand down 50 per cent of their combined 12,000 employees, the four companies stated they have yet to see “a cent” of the combined $415 million aviation relief funds.

“This means that the people and services that keep Australian airports safe, that ensure imports and exports and critical supplies can get where they are needed, are being lost – and may not be there when the recovery gets under way and Australia is back open for business,” the statement said.

The group has estimated that it would need, at minimum, $25-30 million per month in order to obtain necessary resources to operate flights, protect and rebuild supply chains, and prevent “unacceptable, increased risk to airline safety and security”.

A new baggage hall is the first phase of Auckland’s international and domestic terminal upgrade. (Mike Millett)

This would equate to a call for an additional $180 million relief package, to sustain ground handlers for six months, at airports across the country.

The group concluded by stating that the Australian government is falling behind international counterparts in its support of the wider aviation services industry, and ignoring the necessary role of ground handlers.

“Australia lags behind other governments like New Zealand and Singapore, the latter on Thursday announcing its second round of financial support to the aviation industry, including ground handlers,” it said.

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