When bad weather rules … and strikes disrupt

28 June 2016

Summer started a few weeks ago and it has not been plain sailing. The network has had more days disturbed by industrial action than has ever been the case to date. Bad weather in Europe throughout the month of June smashed the record of 1,048,429 minutes of delay: total delay for the five first months of the year stood at 2,242,505 minutes!

Last week, the guideline en-route target was widely missed: it went up to 2.54 minutes of delay per flight (the annual target is 0.5 min/flight). Traffic is up by 2% compared to the same period in 2015 and Friday 24 June was the busiest day so far this year with 33,081 flights.

The wave of air traffic control (ATC) strikes across Europe since the beginning of this summer has not stopped disrupting passengers’ journeys.

The French strike last Thursday hit the network with 247,864 minutes of delay, a significant proportion being registered by the neighbouring ACCs. The first figures mention 600 flights cancelled. The e-Helpdesk at the NM Operations Centre in Brussels received 1,391 queries, mainly from airlines, to help with flight planning, regulations and re-routings.

The military free up airspace

Thanks to intensive discussions and good collaboration with the NMOC staff, the French military cancelled the “Bellerophon” military exercise planned on 21-22 June. The exercise zone extends over a large portion of French airspace, including the famous Tango routes which are so useful for offloading traffic in times of disruption.

The Bellerophon military exercise has been temporarily postponed until 1 July. The combination of the exercise, together with the strikes and the bad weather, would have made for an even more chaotic situation!

Black Thursday

Bad weather was leading the game with a total of 122,871 minutes of delay on Thursday 23 June alone, bearing in mind average delay attributed to weather usually reaches 7,000 minutes per day. London and Maastricht ACCs were the most affected; London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol topped the airports list of the most afflicted airports.

Last weekend saw the usual amount of increased traffic for the season, with flights heading to France (and the EURO 2016 aerodromes), Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy. Delay recorded for those days may partially be attributed to staffing issues.

To complete the picture, last Thursday was also an important AIRAC date - the Aeronautical Information Regulation And Control (AIRAC) cycle which is used for operationally significant changes – with several Free Route Airspace (FRA) implementations:

  • NEFRA in Norway, encompassing Denmark, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia and Finland;
  • FRA in Skopje ACC;
  • FRA pre-validation in Italian and Maltese airspace.

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