Limiting Your Airside Liability

Consider this scenario: Despite the early hour, the local airport is abuzz with activity and one of your delivery trucks is parked airside (generally any area in an airport that has restricted access), ready to unload its goods.

However, while your delivery employees were inside, an airport service vehicle reversed into your delivery truck. Although you may think your business is insured in this instance, without airside liability cover, it probably isn’t. Airside liability is often overlooked, but it is vital cover if you conduct business in airside locations. No matter how often your business conducts business in or near an airport, working airside entails dealing with specific hazards. Incidents resulting from these airside-specific hazards are probably not covered by your public liability or motor policies—it is therefore imperative that you uncover and plug any gaps in your insurance cover generated by working airside.

Airside Liability Cover

Airports are densely packed, restrictive spaces composed of a constantly changing landscape of aircrafts, pedestrians and service vehicles, along with other unpredictable hazards such as fuel spills, weather and cargo. The nature of your business will determine which airside locations your employees must operate. Accordingly, insurers offer a range of airside liability options on either a 24-hour (per-risk basis) or annual basis in the event that an incident occurs while one of your employees is airside. This could involve an incident as minor as your employee slipping on a fuel spill on the tarmac or as severe as a runway collision. However, airside liability policies usually do not cover:
  • War and allied peril (insurers may cover war and allied peril for an additional cost)
  • Asbestos
  • Product liability
  • Claims covered under the UK Road Traffic Act
  • Noise and pollution
Additionally, airside liability does not normally extend cover to the United States or Canada, but insurers may offer a bespoke solution to secure cover in North America. Each business performs unique services and requires specific cover—airside liability policies are not one-size-fits-all. You should therefore perform a risk assessment to determine your level of liability.

Operating a Vehicle Airside

Operating a vehicle in airside locations can be difficult, requiring serious training and extensive cooperation. There are three primary areas that your drivers will have to navigate airside:
  • Aprons – This is the stationing area for aircrafts that are preparing to load or unload passengers and luggage. Vehicles must avoid positioning themselves behind aircrafts as this would place them in danger of being hit by debris propelled by the engines, which could cause severe damage and death. Vehicles must not reverse in this area unless they are manoeuvring or servicing an aircraft.
  • Taxiway crossing routes – This is any defined path that connects two or more areas airside. Vehicles should avoid crossing taxiways, if possible. If a vehicle has to cross, drivers must make sure that no aircrafts are occupying or being towed along the path, and they should keep from driving behind an aircraft to avoid damage to the vehicle caused by engine debris.
  • Manoeuvring area – This is any area that is designated for take-offs or landings. Access to the manoeuvring area can only be granted by air traffic control and only if the driver is trained with the correct certifications. Drivers may need to access the manoeuvring area to tow an aircraft.
It is essential that your drivers are trained on the proper airside procedures. Depending on which airports your business services—regardless of frequency—your drivers may need to attend a training course covering the airport’s rules and procedures in order to receive a certificate permitting them to drive airside at that location. Ensure airport compliance by equipping all vehicles travelling to an airport with these four safety precautions:
  1. Your business’ logo prominently displayed on both sides of the vehicle
  2. A flashing beacon mounted to the roof of the vehicle (normal rotating or high-intensity strobe halogens are prohibited as they may distract flight crews)
  3. An up-to-date map of the airfield attached somewhere within the cab that is clearly visible to the driver
  4. A radio to communicate and receive instructions from the airport’s ground controller

Managing Your Airside Risks

Although you cannot control everything that happens airside, certain risk management strategies can help you guard against common hazards. Below are some common airside liability hazards and risk management strategies you can use to limit your liability:
  • Vehicles – Properly train drivers on the areas they are allowed to drive in and best practices for avoiding collisions (such as prohibiting reversing).
  • Pedestrians – Train all employees to look for pedestrians and provide anyone working airside with reflective outerwear so others can spot them.
  • Weather – Equip workers with personal protective equipment for every kind of inclement weather.
  • Dangerous goods – Provide employees with training that identifies the most common types of dangerous goods found airside (such as spilt fuel) and how to handle each situation.
  • Noise – All employees working airside should have headphones to protect against aircraft noise.
Employees should always inform the relevant airport staff of their presence so they can be directed along the appropriate routes. By ensuring your employees are prepared before arriving airside, you can safeguard your workers and limit your business’ liability.

Avoid Being Under-Insured

Let us take another look at that scenario we mentioned at the beginning: Your employees—while adequately trained and experienced—had an airport service vehicle reverse into them and damage the delivery vehicle. Under almost any other circumstance, your general public liability or vehicle insurance policy would cover you for the damages, but not necessarily. With a simple risk assessment and a robust airside liability policy, you can be sure you are protected from the litany of airside hazards. Contact us for more information on limiting your business’ liability.

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