A ground handler is subject of many audits. These audits are performed internally, but also from an external partner such as the regulator, the airport, syndicates, or an airline. As it is not possible (and also not wished) to avoid all audits, they do consume a lot of time, personel involvement and, in the end, money.
IATA developed an internationally recognized system for assessing the operational management and control systems of an organisation that provides ground handling services for airlines. ISAGO (IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations) is based on industry-proven quality audit principles and is structured to ensure a standardised audit with consistent results across aviation businesses.
The benefits for a ground handler are:
- Safer ground operations, fewer accidents and injuries
- Elimination of redundant audits from airlines
- Reduced costs: less damage and less audits
- Uniform audit process and harmonised standards
- Improved safety oversight
- Harmonized auditor training and qualifications
- Improved quality standards
- Enhanced understanding of high risk areas within ground operation
The list contains several benefits in different aspects of a ground handler’s work field. However, from the author’s personal experience, the bold marked benefits are not applicable in reality. Working with auditors for many years, the ISAGO certificate did not free any ressources, but was an additional task to perform. The audit itself is challenging and a passed certificate stands for quality within the operation. Unfortunately, airlines still request (and are granted) to perform audits.
This is not what IATA – amongst others – aims for.
Fun fact: Most of the auditors ask for the ISAGO certificate and mention it in their report. Unfortunately, due to the quality it stands for, there’s often no need for an airline audit.
As the ISAGO audit is challenging (from a performance and financial point of view), it needs to strive for all the benefits. IATA member airlines need to understand and apply the full idea of ISAGO and only audit in rare cases.
Without the positive effect, some ground handlers might consider to not renew the certificate and focus on the airline’s audits only as cost mitigation is one of the recurring topics in the industry.