News

Enhanced customer service trial confirms benefits for aircraft operators and the technical and operational feasibility of the concept

MUAC Customer Initiative story - Manchester airport

Eighty-seven aircraft operators, London Heathrow Airport, seven air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and the EUROCONTROL Network Manager teamed up in 2021 to trial a unique customer service, the so-called Customer Initiative.

The Customer Initiative addresses flight trajectory inefficiency, offers coordinated tactical directs or higher cruising levels, or arranges exceptional non-standard routings and profiles for priority and critical flights in support of aircraft operators’ operations and fleet management. Priority and critical flights are related to EU 261 incidences, airport curfews, crew hour limitations, rotation problems, delays with a high financial impact, passenger and freight connections, or schedule disruptions and the associated network shock wave. The focus is on achieving high-value results, in particular by proposing the best possible flight planning options, which might not be detected by flight planning software, and by guaranteeing on-time arrival.

The 2021 Customer Initiative trial, which took place from 15 September to 15 November 2021 in the airspace of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and the UK, revealed encouraging results and the feasibility of offering enhanced customer services on a permanent basis in Maastricht Upper Area Centre (MUAC) airspace and in the airspace of the participating FABEC and UK/Ireland control centres.

The measurable results reveal that for a total of 1,686 flights which benefited from the service, the savings achieved amounted to:
  • 177,000 kg of fuel;
  • 556,000 kg of CO2;
  • 6,842 nautical miles;
  • 9,778 minutes (equating to €977,000 saved on the basis of the economic value of 100€/minute); and
  • €3,923 in route charges.

In addition to the measureable benefits, other non-quantitative improvements were identified. For example, the trial demonstrated that the processes and the tools used worked smoothly and effectively for the partners. Thanks to the supporting technical solutions (the ATM portal and pre-flight check human-machine interface), the participating operational units were in a position to easily identify and propose flight improvements to the aircraft operators. The operational units involved in the pre-flight check process were in a position to unlock the full benefits of improved flight profiles, RAD (profile restriction) override, deviations from letters of agreement, air traffic flow management (ATFM) regulation delay handing, priority flight handing and critical flight care.

Of particular interest to the aviation sustainability challenge, so-called “trade-off” cases were facilitated for the first time. Through collaborative decision-making (CDM), alternative routings with “non-obvious” solutions were offered to and taken up by the aircraft operators, for example routes with a higher cost but fewer emissions.

The trial also revealed that in a dynamic and innovative environment, it will be possible in the future to better support aircraft operators in their flight planning process following any airspace design change implementation. In addition, the active engagement and participation of the partners in order to improve the process further will be actively sought by means of co-creative workshops, to be organised in the course of 2022.

The 2021 Customer Initiative trial has proved that it is possible to complement the network view with local knowledge and to create synergies between local, regional and network services to replace the current verbal communication.

Customer Initiative story - rerouteing

In the course of 2022, the Customer Initiative team will aim to consolidate the already validated concepts and technical features with a view to offering a permanent service. At the same time, the concept will be expanded to develop new Use Cases identified by involved stakeholders in order to provide an even better service to the aircraft operators.

The ATM Portal and the pre-flight check are the solutions which support the Customer Initiative. The ATM Portal has been deployed in several countries in core European airspace. Via the MUAC ATM Portal, partners can easily connect to the network in real time via an intuitive interface. The tool automatically detects critical impacts on flights and allows the operator to upgrade any flight to “Priority” status. The ATM Portal enhances situational awareness and collaborative decision-making between airline operation control centres, ANSP flow management positions and the EUROCONTROL Network Manager, and ensures effective cross-border coordination. In daily operations, some 88 aircraft operators and 4 ANSPs use the ATM portal daily to benefit from improved routings.

An integral part of the Customer Initiative, the pre-flight check, seeks out the best possible trajectory for each specific flight. Thanks to a machine-learning process, this service provides, in real time, a catalogue of rerouting proposal options specific for each flight plan, looking for the shortest and most efficient route in terms of fuel, CO2, flying time and route charges.

Learn more about the 2021 Customer Initiative

Learn more about Maastricht UAC ATM Portal

Note for aircraft operators:

Aircraft operators who wish to take part in the 2022 Customer Initiative but do not yet have access to the MUAC ATM Portal can request it via the link above.
Aircraft operators who wish to receive flight planning advice without requesting access to the MUAC ATM Portal can do so if they send their contact details to the "Contact us" button of the MUAC ATM Portal page.