Understanding Who Is Responsible For What At An Airport by:Paula Garrett
Air travellers are so concerned with their travel plans that they rarely give a second thought to who is responsible for what at the airport. In fact, most travellers seem to think that an airport is operated by one big company which is responsible for everything from security and parking to baggage handling and duty free. However, in reality, things are not as they seem and it is usually only when you have a complaint to make that it becomes apparent that things are very different.
Each airport - buildings and land - is usually owned by one company or jointly by a group of companies, which runs the day-to-day administrative operations of the airport. In fact, of the number of employees working at an airport, the actual airport operator is usually only responsible for the direct employment of around ten percent of those workers.
The airport makes its money by charging airlines for using the airport and contracts out many of the day-to-day operations to specialist companies.
To examine who is responsible for what let's start with your arrival at the airport.
If you are driving to the airport you are going to need airport parking, of which there are many types: on-site short- or long-stay, off-site and meet and greet parking. Whichever type of on-site parking you are using, you will find that, in most cases, the airport operator has subcontracted the on-site airport parking operations to a specialist company. Off-site and meet and greet parking are generally operated by independent companies. Any complaints or questions should be directed to the car park operators.
Reduced mobility services
In July 2008, new EU regulations introduced at all EU airports gave disabled and elderly passengers the same access rights as all other passengers. Airport operators now have the full responsibility to provide reduced mobility services to passengers. Contact your airline at the time of booking to arrange these services.
Your airline is responsible for check-in and baggage drop-off. Check-in times are set by your airline and are dependent on the route. To find out the earliest and latest check-in times check your flight confirmation details, or the airline's website - the answer should quite easily be found, possibly in the FAQ section.
Although your airline has ultimate responsibility for your luggage, airlines contract out their baggage handling to specialist baggage-handling companies which are responsible for the handling of your luggage right through to its destination.
If you have a question about luggage, including lost luggage you should contact your airline.
With regard to weight restrictions, size and amount of luggage, these are set by your airline and do vary from airline to airline and travel class, so check your airline's website for their allowances.
Rules governing restricted items in both hand and checked-in baggage are set by the Department for Transport (DfT), although your airline may also have set its own rules in addition to the DfT's rules. A list of prohibited items will be found on the DfT's website and also on your airline's and airport's websites. Baggage queries should be directed to your airline.
Security checks are conducted by specialist companies contracted by the airport authority.
Shopping, food and duty free
The airport authority rents out retail units, restaurants and food outlets in much the same way as shops are rented out on the high street on in a shopping mall. Complaints and questions about stock, menus etc should be directed to the specific retailer.
Duty free limits are set by HM Customs and Excise and can be found on many airport sites in addition to the HM Customs and Excise website.
Boarding your aircraft
Your airline is responsible for passenger boarding, passenger safety and onboard catering facilities.
Air traffic control
National Air Traffic Services (NATS) is responsible for air traffic control.
About the author
Paula Garrett is a frequent traveller and contributor to http://www.help-me-park.co.uk Help-Me-Park.co.uk the http://www.help-me-park.co.uk Gatwick meet and greet parking company offering http://www.help-me-park.co.uk valet parking at Gatwick.