EUROCONTROL releases study on the impact of ATM related strikes in Europe

EUROCONTROL has released a study analysing the impact of air traffic management (ATM) related strikes in Europe in terms of flight cancellations, delays and emissions and testing various mitigating measures.

The study was carried out by the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) on the request of the European Commission and it closely examines air traffic control (ATC) industrial action in France, Italy and Greece between 2018 and 2022. It highlights considerable variations between the impacts of strikes in these countries. In total, the strikes generated costs of around €800 million for airspace users, caused around 3.7 million minutes of ATFM delay and resulted in some 67 tons of extra CO2 emissions.

The right to strike is enshrined in the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and primarily governed by national laws. As safety is a priority, ATM strikes inevitably reduce capacity in the airspace of the State concerned and may contribute to congestion in the airspace of neighbouring States or area control centres. Strikes appear to be more detrimental to the Network and to other States if they occur in the core of the Network.

How could the severe disruption caused by industrial action be mitigated?

The study considers a number of mitigating measures: a minimum strike notice period (with limited or full certainty of exact capacity of a concerned airspace); the continued provision of service to overflights (via limited routes kept open, temporary capacity increase or even to all overflights); and the use of military air traffic controllers to complement civil air traffic control. For the simulation of mitigation measures the French airspace has been used based on an average 2023 traffic sample.

From an operational perspective, the study concludes that the scenario that provides continuity of service to all overflights is most beneficial for Network traffic. In this scenario, the assumption is that continuity of service to overflights is provided by the air navigation service provider by dedicating necessary resources to overflights and by reducing other areas of activity (such as arrivals and departures – both international and domestic). It follows the approach of Italy and Greece, where this measure is already in place.

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