Airlines were extremely concerned, and stakeholders immediately turned towards the EUROCONTROL Network Manager to cope with this issue. At first sight, the mission looked tricky for the EUROCONTROL NM, but then NM started to propose solutions that would prove effective and mitigate the capacity issue.
It was clear that despite significant traffic growth for many years, and with no abrupt boom, the European ATM operational network continued in 2019 to face structural capacity and scalability issues. To cope with this situation, the EUROCONTROL NM developed an Action Plan that addressed a variety of operational topics aimed at mitigating the serious capacity crunch. The 2019 Summer Action Plan was built on re-conducting a number of initiatives put in place in 2018. The significant difference in 2019 was that the gap between the expected capacity and traffic demand was even bigger than in 2018. As a result, the nature of the measures and their area of coverage had to be enlarged to cover almost the entire European ATM network, under the eNM/S19 (Enhanced NM/ANSPs Network Measures for Summer 2019) initiative.
The key approach adopted by the EUROCONTROL NM to face this situation was cooperation through collaborative decision-making. With the help of all stakeholders involved, NM launched a comprehensive and innovative approach, initially taking the form of about 180 network routing measures. This ensured a balanced distribution of traffic demand with the support of all operational actors in the network. The additional en-route air traffic flow management (ATFM) delay generated by air navigation service providers (ANSPs) which handled more traffic due to this initiative was reattributed through a transparent process put in place by NM with the full cooperation of all involved ANSPs. This allowed the implementation of an optimum solution at network level, minimising ATFM delay and ensuring a balanced approach to horizontal and vertical flight efficiency.
The capacity and traffic developments, and the implementation of the eNM/S19 measures, were closely monitored from the very beginning. This resulted in the cancellation of about 30 restrictions, most of them in the area of our Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC).