Network Manager Annual Report 2016: more traffic, fewer delays than 2008

1 September 2017

Until last year, 2008 was the year which had the most air traffic. But 2016 set an all-time record of 10,190,903 flights and network traffic increased by 2.8%, compared with 2015.

In 2016, the overall en route air traffic flow management (ATFM) delay was 0.86 minutes per flight. Peak periods in the summer and at weekends were particularly difficult for airspace users of the European network. The en route delay figure for 2016 was above the SES capacity target of 0.5 minutes per flight. All the same, there was significantly less delay in 2016 compared with 2008 (0.86 minutes per flight in 2016 versus 1.59 minutes per flight in 2008); the two years had similar traffic levels. 

In its 2016 Annual Report, the Network Manager explains how tourist traffic flows shifted from south-east to south-west Europe as a result of the political instability in the south-east regions. Aircraft operators also planned routes that minimised their exposure to relatively high-cost airspace. The combination of these two moves made for additional pressure on areas that were already congested.

The Network Manager delivered supplementary en route ATFM delay savings by making improvements to individual flights. These efforts enabled NM to overshoot the 10% target, as featured in the Network Performance Plan. In all, delays attributed to weather and industrial accounted for 0.28 minutes per flight.

NM’s highlights for 2016 were:

  • making off-load routes available in order to mitigate the impact of disruptions;
  • the progressive implementation and utilisation of free routes; this helped ease inefficiencies in airspace availability due to the rise in abnormal/crisis situations
  • meeting the targets on cost efficiency as set out in the Network Performance Plan; the safety targets were partially met
  • contributing to good performance in Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Nicosia, Athens and Makedonia ACCs all had over 70% fewer delays during the summer, albeit with slightly lower traffic levels
  • the implementation of measures agreed in managing delays despite a very high traffic increase in ACCs in Portugal and Spain
  • excellent cooperation with DSNA for the ERATO implementation in the Bordeaux ACC at the end of the year: this exercise is now a benchmark for future system implementations
  • the activation of the European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell (EACCC) in response to the Brussels Airport terrorist attacks on 22 March 2016. By gathering and sharing information, the impact on the aviation network outside Belgium was contained
  • the validation of the action plan on short-term actions in response to improvement measures requested in the Review of the NM, as conducted by the European Commission. The action plan covers governance, financial arrangements, the cost base and cost-efficiency.

Looking ahead to 2017, the strong traffic growth that continues in the European Network can only be accommodated through better capacity planning by ACCs and the Network Manager.

“This will be complemented when needed by network solutions that give priority to an efficient Network,” explains Joe Sultana, Director Network Manager. “The Network Manager will continue to evolve to meet the challenging objectives set out in the Network Performance Plan. Institutionally, efforts will continue to allow NM to deliver its operational functions in an impartial manner across the entire NM area as a service provider of general interest to SES.”


The Network Manager annual report has been approved by the Network Management Board and fulfils the requirements of the Network Functions Regulation.