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A4E Urges the EU to Remove Airspace Inefficiencies

By  Brussels, — Last updated on 5 December 2023
  • European airlines call on the EU to radically reform air space architecture and unlock more efficient routes to benefit passengers and the environment.
  • Reform would deliver faster routes and improved punctuality while cutting CO2 emissions.
  • The airlines, partner associations and Eurocontrol sign a Declaration that sets out their commitment to improvements.

A4E is calling on the EU to take immediate action to remove European air space inefficiencies. The Chief Operating Officers (COOs) of Europe’s leading airlines — accounting for nearly half a billion passengers per year — met in Brussels today to urge the EU to tackle the bottlenecks affecting European air space. This situation provoked unacceptable delays last summer, frustrating travel plans for millions of passengers.Source: Eurocontrol Monthly Network Operations Report, June–Oct. 2018. (Reflects ATFM en-route delays due to ATC capacity/staffing; weather and disruptive events): • June 2018 vs June 2017 en-route delays: +150,2%; • July 2018 vs July 2017 en-route delays: +102,4%; • August 2018 vs August 2017 en-route delays: +102,1%; • Sept. 2018 vs Sept. 2017 en-route delays: +39,8%

Key industry players agreed that the current system has reached its limit and urgent changes are needed.
The airlines, association of air navigation service providers (CANSO), European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), and Eurocontrol signed up to the A4E “Efficient Airspace Declaration.” In doing so they have also pledged to ensure that:

  • Initial projects from the European Commission’s Airspace Architecture Study and Wise Persons Group are jointly agreed and launched in early 2019;
  • The Eurocontrol Network Manager implements a coordinated approach to oversee the operation of the network for Summer 2019;
  • The Eurocontrol Network Manager defines and implements network measures with airlines and providers so that there is sufficient capacity for 2019;
  • Any new regulation is “future-proof” and takes into account current operational and technological advancements.

Opening the Forum, A4E Managing Director Thomas Reynaert said, “The reputation of Europe is at stake. Reform of EU airspace must be a top priority for the next Commission and all involved national bodies. Passengers deserve an efficient European aviation industry and that can only be delivered with a seamless approach to EU airspace.”

Eurocontrol’s statistics show there were 9.32Source: Eurocontrol Monthly Network Operations Report 2017–2018. million minutes of en-route delays in 2017. By the end of 2018, this figure is expected to increase by 50%.

“The Eurocontrol Network Manager is working collaboratively with the Air Navigation Service Providers as well as with airlines on several urgent quick win network measures that we believe will help manage the air traffic management system in 2019. It’s really essential that all parties work together over the coming months in order to minimise potential delays next summer,” said Eamonn Brennan, Director General at Eurocontrol.

With its Seamless European Sky vision, A4E is calling for the creation of a future airspace that seamlessly integrates the different national airspaces under a single operational concept. EU Member States will maintain the sovereignty of their airspace while cooperating across borders in order to facilitate seamless and more efficient flight operations on behalf of passengers.

“CANSO’s objective is to transform ATM performance to enable airlines to fly in safe, seamless, and efficient airspace. To achieve this, CANSO and its members need to work closely with airspace users, the European Commission, States, and other stakeholders to tackle capacity constraints, improve the resilience of the ATM network, and achieve a truly Seamless European Sky. CANSO members and Eurocontrol’s Network Manager recently agreed on a set of actions to enhance the network measures for summer 2019, including addressing airspace bottlenecks and network collaborative decision-making processes to optimise air traffic flow management regulations for the management of en-route weather, to name a few. Any measures to tackle capacity constraints need to consider all actors — airspace users, airports, Network Manager and ANSPs,” said Tanja Grobotek, Director, of Europe Affairs at CANSO.

“The pressure is on to accelerate the pace of change given the air traffic growth and diversity of air vehicles taking to the skies today and in the coming years. This is not something that can be achieved by any one stakeholder alone. We as a community need to harness the technologies that are already there to enable a scalable and networked ATM system across Europe,” said Florian Guillermet, Executive Director, SESAR Joint Undertaking — a public-private partnership set up by the European Union and Eurocontrol to modernise air traffic management.

Participants at the A4E “Vision for Airspace 2025” COO Forum included leaders from across the European aviation industry, including A4E member airlines and manufacturers, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), Eurocontrol, the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), the European Commission, the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA), SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) and many others.

“IFATCA welcomes the collaborative approach from A4E and other stakeholders at the COO Forum. We are convinced that collaboration is the only way forward. Such initiatives will enable the significant changes that are needed to improve the performance of the European aviation network,” said Tom Laursen, Executive Vice President of Europe,  International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations.

Notes for Editors