Press release

EUROCONTROL calling for common action to address air traffic control delays

Brussels, Belgium – EUROCONTROL has today met with representatives of European air navigation service providers (ANSPs), aircraft operators (AOs), airports (APTs) and ground handlers (GHs) to discuss the actions that need to be taken to address delays in the European air traffic control network.  

Traffic is up between 10% and 20% compared to 2019 in large parts of European airspace, the highest growth ever in terms of air traffic in Europe. In June 2024, there were on average 33,671 daily flights, compared to 32,010 in June 2023 - a 5.2% increase across the network as a whole. Delays are 1.1 million minutes more for June 2024 than June 2023, up from 3.6 million minutes to 4.7 million minutes. Weather has played a major part in this increase, with weather delays en-route having increased from 1.3 million minutes in June 2023 to 2 million minutes in June 2024.

At the meeting, Iacopo Prissinotti, Director Network Management at EUROCONTROL stressed the need for all ANSPs, airlines, airports, and ground handlers to reinforce collaborative efforts to address the situation. He highlighted five key areas of action: prioritising first rotation departures, being disciplined in executing flight plans, delivering agreed capacities, and maintaining realistic flight schedules including turnaround times. He also underlined that weather delays show clearly that there is a need for a re-energised approach to the pre-tactical planning and tactical weather management process through the Network Manager Operations Centre.

“Summer 2024 is proving particularly challenging due to strong traffic growth and network saturation combined with adverse weather. With safety always our top priority, it is even more crucial that everyone is on board and we call on all operational stakeholders to deliver the capacity and flexibility that they have committed to. As an immediate action all operational stakeholders should prioritize getting the first flight of the day off the ground on time, which will help to prevent knock-on delays. As aviation will continue to grow into the summer and at an unprecedented speed in the years to come, it is absolutely essential to reinforce the network centric approach and the partnership among all operational stakeholders and with the Network Manager as the only solution to allow sustainable growth.”

Background:

Air traffic control and adverse weather

The air navigation service providers (ANSPs) that are responsible for air traffic control provide EUROCONTROL with an overview of the number of air traffic control sectors they have available and the number of aircraft they can safely handle at any one time in those sectors. Airlines provide EUROCONTROL with their flight plans, indicating where they plan to fly. If more aircraft are planned to be in any one area than can safely be handled, EUROCONTROL works with the air traffic control centre, the airlines and other operational partners to try and find the best solution. Solutions can include for example re-routing or opening of additional airspace. In some cases to avoid an unsafe situation where there are too many aircraft at the same time in an air traffic control sector, EUROCONTROL will issue a departure slot delaying the flight on ground.

Adverse weather reduces the number of aircraft that can safely be handled by an air traffic controller in an air traffic control sector. As flights try to re-route into non-weather affected areas, there is a knock-on effect as these other areas are already operating close to capacity. Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, less airspace is available for re-routing. As a result, adverse weather can cause capacity bottlenecks and delays in areas not affected by weather. This has resulted in an increase of capacity related delays from 0.8 min per flight in June 2023 to 1.2 mins per flight in June 2024.

Preparation for Summer 2024 

EUROCONTROL, together with its operational partners, has been preparing for summer 2024 since autumn 2023. A coordinated plan with a set of 5 key actions was also put in place to attempt to address known issues.

As a result of this advance planning, delays have been reduced by 5 million minutes thanks to routings and structural capacity enhancement measures. These actions have also resulted in a reduction of 12 million miles flown, a reduction of 240,000 tonnes of CO2.

For further information, please contact

Email: [email protected]
For more information via the website: www.eurocontrol.int

Note to editors

EUROCONTROL:
EUROCONTROL is a pan-European, civil-military organisation dedicated to supporting European aviation. As Europe’s Network Manager, we play a central coordination role, using our technical expertise to support Member States and a wide range of stakeholders (air navigation service providers, civil and military airspace users, airports and aircraft/equipment manufacturers). We strive to make European aviation safe, efficient, scalable, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, partnering with the European Union to make the Single European Sky a reality.

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