After passing the one-million minute delay mark this year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has voiced its concern with international air traffic control services lacking backup during industrial action. During air traffic control strikes, airlines have no options other than to fly around the country or region being on strike. In most cases, choosing an alternate route is not always possible. IATA calls on governments to ensure continuity of services even during strikes.
“European air travelers have suffered an incredible 1 million minutes of delay and over 3000 cancelled flights as a result of strikes this year. Every hour wasted impacts European productivity as businesses are disrupted.” said IATA’s European Regional Vice President, Rafael Schvartzman. “The time has come for European governments to work together to ensure the essential service of air traffic control is able to continue even during strikes.”
Delays and cancellations as a result of strikes are not the only matters pressing on economic strength in European airspace management.
The inefficiencies in European airspace become clear when comparing Europe to the US. Unlike the US, which has just one single air navigation service provider (ANSP), the Federal Aviation Administration, Europe has 38 ANSPs. Although roughly covering the same geographical area, the European ANSPs handle 37% less flights, but use more air traffic control centers, requiring about 29% more controllers and 60% more total staff.
According to an economic analysis done by SEO Amsterdam Economics, modernizing European Airspace could lead to €32 billion of welfare benefits by 2035 in comparison to a “do-nothing” scenario.
A number of improvements other than reducing or counteracting ATC strikes include providing more efficient air navigation services, creating shorter routes, reducing flight time on routes and improving connectivity by increasing the overall number of routes and frequency to use them.
Where a single European sky would be a positive step by providing legislation to overcome the air control management’s fragmentation, the collaborative project Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) has been set up to provide the required technological capacity. Due to a lack of political will at state level, the SES has languished without significant progress for many years.
“The European economy needs reliable air connectivity. It cannot afford to have its airspace closed like this.” Schvartzman concluded.