Introduction

The exemption regime applicable to general aviation ground handling at Brussels Airport, pursuant to Article 19 of the Royal Decree of November 6 2010, regulates access to the ground handling market at Brussels Airport. The decree was clarified by the Royal Decree of November 23 2014, which entered into force on January 1 2015. The latter decree added two definitions to clarify that the exemption regime also applies to business aviation and private charter aviation.

The rationale behind the exemption regime relates to the specificities of general, business and private charter aviation. The provision of ground handling services for these types of aviation is very different from ground handling services for commercial aviation. A Falcon 7X will need different ground handling services from an Airbus A320, given the different needs of the respective aircraft and the number of passengers. Service providers for general aviation ground handling require specific know-how and materials. Considering the uniqueness of this type of aviation, the aim of the legislature is to exempt general aviation from:

  • limits on the number of service providers and self-handling companies; and
  • the need to obtain approval for the provision of ground handling services and maintenance programmes.

Number of ground-handlers for third parties

Pursuant to Article 5(1) relating to ground handling for third parties, all suppliers of ground handling services have free access to the market for the provision of ground handling services to third parties. However, Articles 5(2) and (3) limit the number of ground handlers to two for several categories of ground handling services that are, in essence, carried out airside. At Brussels Airport, both Swissport Belgium and Aviapartner carry out these airside ground handling services.

Pursuant to Article 19, the limit of two ground handlers does not apply to general, business and private charter aviation. The number of ground handlers is thus unlimited.

Number of self-handling companies

Pursuant to Article 8(2), the legislature may limit the number of self-handlers for several categories of ground handling service. Hitherto, no decree has been adopted and the number of self-handlers is thus unlimited. Again, pursuant to Article 19, any potential limit of the number of ground handlers does not apply to general, business and private charter aviation.

Approval of ground handling service providers and self-handling companies

Pursuant to Article 14 and the ministerial decree on the approval of suppliers of ground handling services at Brussels Airport, all service providers must obtain approval from the Civil Aviation Authority. The aforementioned ministerial decree sets out the requirements for obtaining approval. Companies must make their request by August 1 2015 at the latest. Companies that provide ground handling for general, business and private charter aviation need not obtain approval.

Approval of maintenance programme

Pursuant to Article 13, all ground handling service providers must submit a maintenance programme for their rolling and essential stock for approval to the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority. The ministerial decree on approval of the maintenance programme for rolling stock and essential stock, as well as conditions for the roadworthiness testing of rolling stock at Brussels Airport, sets out the requirements for the approval of a ground handlers' maintenance programme. All companies should submit their draft maintenance programme for approval by August 1 2015. Pursuant to Article 19 of the Royal Decree on Ground Handling, the requirement to obtain approval does not apply to ground handlers active in general aviation, business aviation and private charter aviation.

Exemption regime

The amendments that the Royal Decree of November 23 2014 has introduced have not revolutionised the system; rather, they were adopted to clarify that the exemption regime applicable to general aviation applies to all types of general aviation, including business and private charter aviation:

  • 'General aviation' is defined "all activities other than scheduled and unscheduled activities in return for remuneration or performed under a lease contract".
  • 'Business aviation' is defined as "unscheduled activities relating to the operation or the use of aircraft by an undertaking in view of transport of employees of that undertaking, non-paying passengers or cargo in the scope of the activities of that undertaking".
  • 'Private charter aviation' is defined as "unscheduled activities in the scope of which the aircraft is put at the disposal of natural persons, non-paying passengers and/or their personal cargo or luggage, in return for remuneration or which is performed under a lease contract".

For further information on this topic please contact Pierre Frühling or Elisabeth Decat at Holman Fenwick Willan LLP by telephone (+32 2 643 34 00) or email (pierre.fruhling@hfw.com or elisabeth.decat@hfw.com). The Holman Fenwick Willan website can be accessed at www.hfw.com.

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