Estimating Aircraft Ground Handling Costs: Part 1– Basic Considerations

Estimating Aircraft Ground Handling Costs: Part 1– Basic Considerations

Estimating Aircraft Ground Handling Costs: Part 1– Basic Considerations
This business aviation blog post is the first of a two-part blog on estimating ground handling costs.

For business aircraft operators, ground handling costs within the international operating environment vary depending on a number of factors. While basic handling service costs may be quite predictable, they have the potential to change on the day of operation – often as a result of additional requests, a different arrival/departure time, and/or where you end up parking on the airfield.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Basic ground handling services

There are differences in what handlers consider “basic” aircraft support services. Many handlers include chocks, transfers to/from the general aviation (GA) lounge, aircraft towing, passenger handling and assistance with customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) clearance, baggage handling and, in some cases, lav and water services as part of basic handling services. Other locations, however, may charge for every itemized service, and this will be notated on the invoice. For example, in some places in Europe, you may pay an additional 100 Euros for chock services, perhaps 5 Euros for each bag handled and 60 Euros for a limited selection of daily newspapers.

2. Calculation of basic handling charges

Handling charges are often based on aircraft maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) – typically broken down to different size ranges of aircraft. An Eclipse 500, for example, would require less equipment to handle than a BBJ. In some cases, charges depend on the number of people onboard. Charter flights configured for high density seating, for example, may require additional equipment and personnel due to the higher number of passengers onboard.

3. Variations in ground handling charges

Ground handling costs typically differ depending on the airport, time of day you arrive, and the equipment you require. At locations with more than one GA handler, costs will vary. Some locations have only a single authorized ground handler, and you’ll often pay more in such situations. There may also be differences in handling fees if you’re making an international arrival, as opposed to a domestic arrival, as additional ground handler personnel and time may be required. If you’re just making a tech stop, handling costs may be less than for a destination stop, but this is not always the case, so it’s best to confirm this in advance.

4. After hours and extended hours surcharges

Certain locations impose surcharges for after hours and late night operations – particularly if the ground handler does not normally operate at that location. In many cases your handling charge will also depend on your time on the ground. You may, for example, be on the ground just one hour, but charged for a minimum of three hours in handling fees. Be aware that you may also experience handling surcharges when arriving during a busy holiday or high-traffic event period.

5. Administration and credit fees

You’ll typically be charged administration fees for all credit extended for services and airport charges. This will include arrangements for in-flight catering, ground transport and payment of airport and parking fees. Admin fees are generally in the range of 15% and this applies to all services arranged, and paid for, by the handler.

6. GSE considerations

In some cases the ground handler may need to rent specific ground support equipment (GSE) for your operation. Such items may include an LD6 loader, ground power unit (GPU), and/or stairs for the aircraft. In some cases, this equipment will have to be brought in from another airport. There will be additional costs, plus an admin fee, added to your handling bill. This is often the case when large or wide-body aircraft operating to smaller airports. In some cases fuel may also need to be brought to your location from off-airport, and there will be charges for this.

7. Parking fees

Aircraft parking charges usually depend on the particular airport as well as on length of time on the ground. Where you park on the field may substantially impact cost of parking. You may be subject to one parking fee structure when on a GA ramp controlled by the ground handler, but a different (much higher) fee if you’re parked on the commercial side of the field. At Dubai (OMDB) and Stansted (EGSS), for example, the cost of parking on the airport-controlled ramp areas is much higher than on the ground handler GA ramp. When the GA ramp fills up, however, you may have no choice but to use the much higher priced commercial ramp areas.

8. Handling extras

There are locations where you may be required, or have the option, to use a VIP lounge with express CIQ clearance. You may pay $1500- $3000 for use of these facilities – for arrival as well as for departure. VIP terminals with surcharges include Singapore Changi (WSSS), Tel Aviv (LLBG), and Tokyo Haneda (RJTT).

9. Out of the norm services

There will be additional handling costs associated with special requests that are not standard services. For instance, if you wish your handler to source a specific French wine at a smaller Caribbean island, fresh strawberries out of season in Panama or a case of peach-flavored Snapple in Tahiti ,additional costs are sure to materialize on your handling invoice.


Handling costs vary by the size of aircraft, particular services needed and any non-standard services, and/or services required outside of normal operating hours. It’s recommended that operators determine the best airport for the location they’re flying to, as well as a preferred ground handler, as this will impact your cost at destination.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance estimating your next trip, contact me at

Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers more information on estimating your ground handling costs.