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A4E CEOs inject new impetus into airspace reform and call for new ways to finance air traffic management in Europe

By  Brussels, — Last updated on 11 December 2023

Brussels, 29 March 2023– A4E CEOs have said that multiple crises can no longer be used as excuses to delay airspace reform in Europe and now is the time to deliver for airlines, passengers and the environment. Half a decade after creating the Seamless European Sky initiative with players from across aviation, A4E is rebooting cross-industry collaboration to collectively push for reform of Europe’s skies. The CEOs said that the time for excuses is over as traffic levels get closer to their pre-COVID 2019 peak. This increased traffic means that the need for seamless and digitalised airspace is more pressing than ever.

Airspace reform would unlock a whole host of benefits for passengers, airlines and the environment including:

  • Enabling airlines to fly the most efficient routes and unlocking significant CO2 savings of up to 10%;
  • Reducing delays and ruined travel plans for passengers;
  • Improving airspace capacity which can allow for greater connectivity for consumers;

In recent years there has been massive innovation and reform in various aspects of flying in Europe, from new aircraft technology to widespread digitalisation. However, the pace of reform with Europe’s airspace has failed to match this, most visibly with the failure to implement the Single European Sky (SES) legislation. The CEOs repeated their call for the SES2+ legislation to be implemented immediately as part of wider reform of Europe’s airspace.

At its annual summit, A4E also unveiled a new study from Transport and Mobility Leuven, a Katholieke Universiteit Leuven owned research body, which found that Europe needs a new way of financing Air Traffic Management (ATM) to ensure airlines are not the only ones left picking up the tab during future crisis situations. Airlines have been left on the hook for EUR 5.6 billion as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. In some regions, unit costs increased between 2019 and 2021 by 130% without any changes in performance, as noted by the EU’s Performance Review Body (PRB).

The study finds that ATMs in Europe are fragmented and complex and require structural reforms within a well-designed, credible and transparent regulatory framework, potentially leading to a model of tendering for all ANSP services. This could ultimately allow for a number of specialised companies providing ANSP services to compete freely on the market.

“Half a decade ago, airlines, ANSPs and other aviation stakeholders signed the Efficient Airspace Declaration calling for a proper regulatory framework for airspace in Europe that would lead to a more digitalised, automated and seamless airspace. Since then, there has been no movement from policymakers who continue to let the opportunity of airspace reform pass by,” said Laurent Donceel, acting Managing Director of A4E.

“Our ATM financing study illustrates how fragmented and inefficient European airspace is and policymakers can no longer roll out excuses for not reforming something so vital for European aviation and which can deliver real environmental savings now,” Donceel continued.

Commenting on airspace reform, incoming A4E Chair and IAG CEO Luis Gallego said, “By reforming air traffic management, European aviation could run more efficiently for passengers and with lower carbon emissions. That’s why at A4E, we are calling for the European Commission, European Parliament and Member States to take part in discussions and make progress on the Single European Sky implementation and the EU Commission’s proposed legislation (SES2+).  We would like all parties to put their differences aside and focus on delivering change which would be a win for passengers, the environment and Europe as a whole.”

Notes to Editor

A4E commissioned Transport & Mobility Leuven, a consultancy majority owned by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, to examine how Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) are financed in Europe.

They examined funding options from around the world and proposed two alternatives to the current system: the Threshold funding model and the Adapted risk sharing mechanism.

Both models keep the existing system of navigation charges in place but introduce public contributions that stabilise funding for navigation charges.

The threshold funding model would imply a steady contribution from the government. The adapted risk-sharing mechanism, on the other hand, limits government involvement in times of crisis.

For more details, please contact Airlines for Europe.

Media contacts

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About A4E

Airlines for Europe (A4E) is Europe’s largest airline association. Based in Brussels, A4E works with policymakers to ensure aviation policy continues to connect Europeans with the world in a safe, competitive and sustainable manner. As a key initiator of aviation’s Destination 2050 roadmap, A4E and its members committed to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions for their own operations by 2050. With a modern fleet of over 3,300 aircraft, A4E airlines carried over 610 million passengers in 2022 and served nearly 2,000 destinations. Each year, A4E members transport more than 4 million tonnes of vital goods and equipment to more than 360 destinations either by freighters or passenger aircraft.