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Backgrounder: The Single European Sky Regulation


In 2004, the European Commission created the Single European Sky (SES I) regulation. Its ultimate objective was to increase safety, capacity and performance in general — while improving the economic, financial and environmental performance of the provisions of the Air Navigation Services in Europe in specific. This regulation was subsequently updated once in 2009 (SES II) and a further update has been pending since 2013.

Total jobs and GDP supported by air transport in Europe

Source: ATAG 2018


A4E is convinced that this regulation should provide the baseline and necessary tools for sustainable, modern, efficient and environmentally-friendly aviation operations. It defines the framework and the roles and responsibilities for the different European and national governmental organisations in aviation.

SES regulation supports aviation’s current €169.64 billion contribution toward European GDP and the employment of 2.6 m EU citizens.

Demand for air travel has grown substantially in the last years, and this upward trend is expected to continue. The aviation system as a whole has been put under pressure by continuous increases in traffic, lack of available capacity and a requirement to integrate new airspace users, such as drones. This stress has prompted the wider aviation community as well as the European Commission to identify areas of improvement on a technical, operational, regulatory level, namely:

  • airspace efficiency, e.g. in the form of a seamless European sky;
  • supporting a service and demand-oriented aviation with clear roles and responsibilities within a competitive environment.

Changes in regulation require extensive collaboration and consultation between policy-makers and the regulated aviation industry. Therefore, we urge all stakeholders involved to:

  • Finalise the reform of SES II to create a framework that is suitable for future EU traffic growth as early as possible;
  • Genuinely cooperate to alleviate political bottlenecks and allow instruments already existing in the SES regulation to reach their full potential.

We believe that addressing these areas of improvement is of utmost importance as it will ensure that regulation supports the necessary technical, operational and organisational changes. These changes are required in order to safeguard a future air transport management system that is flexible, predictable, efficient, environmentally-friendly and sustainable — ultimately meeting the needs of the future passengers.

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 achieve Net Zero carbon emissions for their own operations by 2050. With a modern fleet of over 3,200 aircraft, A4E airlines carried over 270 million passengers in 2021 — down from 700 million in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each year, A4E members with air cargo and mail activities transport more than 3.7 million tonnes of goods, life-saving vaccines and essential medical equipment to more than 360 destinations either by freighters or passenger aircraft. Follow us on Twitter @A4Europe.