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EUROCONTROL’s Performance Review Commission publishes its Report on European Air Traffic Management performance in 2020

PRR 2020 cover

The independent Performance Review Commission (PRC) of EUROCONTROL has published its Performance Review Report (PRR) for 2020, considering the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the European ANS system and the implications for the future.

Without a doubt, 2020 was a devastating year for the aviation industry. The number of flights in the EUROCONTROL area decreased by 55.2% in 2020, which corresponded to 6.1 million fewer flights.

Following the dramatic drop in traffic all operational performance metrics improved, which illustrated the link between capacity provision and operational efficiency. Horizontal and vertical flight efficiency in European airspace were better in 2020, with positive effects for fuel efficiency and the environment. At the top 30 airports, additional taxi-out time dropped on average by 2 minutes, while holding and sequencing within the arrival airspace decreased by almost 1 minute.

Improved flight efficiency with subsequent fuel and environmental benefits was already high on the agenda before the COVID-19 crisis and will remain so during the recovery and beyond. Here, the crisis offers an opportunity to review and evaluate operational constraints imposed by Air Navigation Services and to further improve operations, where possible, with a view to providing better service levels also when traffic returns.”

Marc Baumgartner Chairman Performance Review Commission

On the economic side, the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the current Air Navigation Services (ANS) cost recovery schemes in Europe were not designed to cope with a crisis of this magnitude. With ANS being funded primarily through route charges, the dramatic drop in traffic resulted in a €5 billion estimated loss in revenue in 2020. To mitigate the effects, Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) were required to take action to downscale operations and to adjust to the reduced demand, whilst still providing reliable services to airspace users. With demand likely to be muted in the short term and an uncertain recovery path, there is a need to find solutions on how to best address the unfolding revenue gap.

Even though the current traffic forecasts do not show the Network reaching 2019 levels until at least 2024, short-term cost reductions and the postponement of investments need to be balanced against potential future capacity problems to avoid capacity shortfalls, such as those experienced in 2018 and 2019.

It is obvious that there is substantial underlying demand so, as soon as travel restrictions ease, we can expect a notable increase in traffic. However, it will take time and close collaboration between all the stakeholders to ensure as smooth a recovery as possible from the challenging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In terms of performance, the coming years will be focused on the ANS industry’s ability to adjust its operations in step with demand, while at the same time preparing for the future in terms of capacity provision, higher levels of digitalisation and environmental sustainability.

Marc Baumgartner added

The full Performance Review Report 2020 including an initial impact assessment of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis on the ANS system is available for download via the link below - there you can also request a paper copy of the report.

Read the full Performance Review Report 2020

Get your digital request a print copy of the full PRR 2020 report.