Coordinating with UEFA to ensure efficient and more sustainable air traffic during EURO 2020


EUROCONTROL is collaborating with UEFA and operational staff from all aviation partners to ensure an efficient and sustainable use of available air traffic capacity during the 2020 UEFA European football championship.

Big sporting events always trigger additional flights, which is where the EUROCONTROL Network Manager plays a major coordination role with partners to manage new flight requests. Unlike previous UEFA tournaments that were hosted in one or two countries, this year’s championship sees a total of 51 matches played in 11 cities (Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Saint Petersburg and Seville) from 11 June to 11 July 2021. While air traffic is still at low levels when compared to 2019, unforeseen bottlenecks can quickly cause delays affecting the entire network, and COVID-19 requirements are posing some additional scheduling challenges, which is why close coordination is necessary for efficient planning.

For special events like the European football championship, building trust and strong partnerships with operational staff is a key prerequisite to ensure efficient planning. In its role as the Network Manager, EUROCONTROL is the focal point for events that test the capacity and resilience of the network - we are proud to support aviation with optimal planning by identifying capacity and facilitating mitigating measures.”

EUROCONTROL has been meeting UEFA regularly to optimise planning along with its operational stakeholders for the arrival of teams and fans, which come on top of regular air traffic and can potentially affect airports and airspace capacity as well as clash with rules at airports regarding noise and curfews. Planning typically intensifies after the group stage of matches as the knockout stages see the remaining teams move around.

National COVID-19 restrictions have added complexity to planning for this tournament, with impacts on match schedules in the different host cities, limitations on the number of fans in the stadiums as mandated by national authorities, and additional time to be allocated for health and safety measures. Only in Hungary have the national authorities decided to permit a full stadium for holders of national immunity cards and visitors with negative PCR tests and/or full vaccination proof; capacity has varied in other locations from 20% in Munich to 50% in Saint Petersburg and 65% in Copenhagen, for example.

Executive jet/turboprop flights make up a part of additional traffic movements at major tournaments, especially as the tournament advances to the knockout stages. Normally, many of these are handled at secondary airfields owing to constrained capacity at big airports. With the pandemic having reduced overall capacity across the network, this tournament is seeing more private jet traffic than usual at major airport hubs.

The 2020 euros may be a year late, but the original concept – celebrating its 60th birthday in multiple cities, rather than one or two host countries – has remained, resulting in more intra-European traffic for fans permitted to attend and the teams themselves.

So, with 8 teams from the EUROCONTROL’s 41 Member States having made it to the quarter finals in this year’s tournament, we can only say:

May the best team win!