Dubai: Swissport International, a Zurich-based airport services provider, said it plans to expand in the Middle East and Africa if more airports allow foreign providers in.

In some of the world’s airports, especially in the Middle East, operators award a licence to only one company for ground handling services, giving that provider a monopoly to supply to every airline flying in and out of that airport.

But that is starting to change.

“I think it’s a trend that the airport authorities, such as in Saudi Arabia, see that competition comes in, and there’s [competitive] quality and price, so the trend for the region, is yes, markets are opening, we are stepping in,” said Mark Skinner, senior vice president for the Middle East and Africa at Swissport.

Regionally, Swissport only operates in Oman and Saudi Arabia (Dammam, Riyadh, and Jeddah), and plans to offer more services in those airports as well as launch services into other airports. The company will announce new deals to enter the cargo segment in Saudi Arabia soon, Skinner said.

Swissport already has presence in 300 airports across 50 countries, predominantly in Europe and North America where it serves airlines that include Qantas, Lufthansa, KLM, Turkish Airlines, IndiGo, Emirates, flydubai, Air Arabia, and Air Canada, among others.

Discussing operations in Europe, Luzius Wirth, executive vice-president for Europe, Middle East, and Africa and member of group executive management at Swissport, said there is pressure on the labour market in the UK due to Brexit.

“You see not that many blue-collar labour coming into the UK anymore, so we will see pressure on salaries and staff availability,” he said, adding that Swissport may see anything from a “limited” to “severe” impact on cargo volumes in the UK depending on how Brexit plays out.

Wirth said that in some UK airports, labour rates are going up by around 10 per cent due to labour shortage, driving the company’s costs higher.