Interview with Jacques Dopagne, Director Network Management

With Jacques Dopagne (Director Network Management )
By Airspace User Forum Team on 15 February 2012

We asked Director Network Manager what he thought about the messages shared by the participants of the Airspace User Forum and his views on the importance of the relationship between the Network Manager and the airspace users. 

What was so special about this Forum?

Before I begin, I would like to thank the Forum participants who once again demonstrated their interest in this annual exchange of views and dialogue with EUROCONTROL - and this in spite of their operational and budgetary constraints.

This event is an efficient way for airlines to keep tabs on operational matters as they evolve; for us at EUROCONTROL, it is a unique opportunity to discuss operational collaboration and short-term deployments directly with the airlines.

Why this focus on airspace users?

This is a EUROCONTROL event with the highest participation from airlines and for this 15th edition, we wanted to go even further with a new Forum specifically dedicated to airspace users. There was a good response with 60% of airlines who accepted their invitations. More than 50% of the participants hold managerial positions in operations, which was most gratifying and useful.

We will do the same again next year. This dedicated forum allows us to better focus our attention on airlines’ needs and use them as input for our developments. Also, just as importantly, this direct human contact is crucial for our staff who need to nurture the mutual confidence established with their counterparts along the years, helping make our intensively cooperative ATM system work.

How do you see the Network Manager’s relations with the airlines?

It has always been evident for us that as airlines are the ultimate end-users of ATM, we should serve them with a customer-driven mindset. We certainly still have progress to make in this regard, but we are working on it.

Today, with our nomination as Network Manager, our ‘honest broker’ role is being reinforced, as we become the guardians of European network performance.

More than ever, it is of crucial importance that we provide fair treatment to all partners in operations, and that a proper balance is maintained between the sometimes contradictory interests of airspace users and service providers. For instance, during the Forum, several requests were made by airlines for us to re-consider the performance indicators for flight efficiency in the next Performance Reference Period.

I think we need to develop the link we’ve established with airlines at all levels. Institutionally, the presence of airlines has been reinforced in our new governance bodies, such as the Network Management Board (NMB). But on an operational level, collaborative decision making with 3,000 airlines is a pipe-dream. This is why we need intermediary consultation bodies as facilitators. Two airline consultation groups have a key role to play in this area: the European AOG (Airlines Coordination Group), led by IATA, with 25 members representing the scheduled, leisure and low cost community and the CAFO (Committee on ATM & Flight Operations) which is the equivalent body with 30 members led by IACA. We intend to reinforce our cooperation with them to address operational shortcomings, identify the airline’s most pressing requirements and to facilitate ATM deployment.

I believe that taking a close look at individual cases is a fast and efficient way to address shortcomings and validate directions for action. This is why during this forum I took the initiative to launch ‘One-on-One meetings’ with airlines, both at senior management level and the operational level. I will make sure that we follow up on each of the actions proposed by these key contacts.

What happens next?

We have started disseminating the feedback from the Forum participants - to our people in NM and in EUROCONTROL, so that our experts may take it into account in their activities and plans. We will share it in March with the AOG and CAFO who may want to take action on it, and we will also have the opportunity to discuss it in our future ‘FMP Exchange’ meetings.

And last but not least, the next Airspace User Forum is already planned for 30-31 January 2013. We hope that we will have the pleasure of welcoming even more attendees and that we will enjoy an even great level of interactive participation.