Press release

Greater efficiency in European airspace: aircraft can now fly thousands of additional direct routes in the core area of Europe

Karlsruhe/Maastricht – Since 30 November 2023, aircraft operators have been enjoying the benefits of H24 cross-border free route airspace operations in the upper airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany. The implementation of cross-border free route airspace by EUROCONTROL’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) and by DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung’s Karlsruhe Upper Area Control Centre (KUAC) – two of Europe’s major air navigation service providers – has unlocked thousands of new route options, irrespective of existing airspace boundaries. This will bring about significant optimised routings, fuel savings and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Map showing Cross-border free route airspace in the areas for which MUAC and KUAC are responsible.

Cross-border free route airspace in the areas for which MUAC and KUAC are responsible. The arrows indicate that cross-border free route airspace operations can be carried out between MUAC and the three free route airspace areas which are defined for the airspace controlled by KUAC.

The new direct route options will further increase flight efficiency for most flights overflying Germany and the Benelux countries. Airspace users will be able to explore additional flight planning options, including long cross-border direct routes connecting the United Kingdom with Poland, for example, in one stretch without having to plan along intermediate points within MUAC/KUAC airspace. It will also be possible to use cross-border direct routes of different lengths to optimise flight trajectories according to wind patterns and to circumnavigate closed or congested airspace.

The objective of free route airspace is to allow airspace users to plan their routes more closely to their desired flight profiles in comparison with the published ATS routes and direct routes. This results in greater cost efficiency and reduces the impact of aviation on the environment by decreasing fuel burn and greenhouse gas emissions. Simultaneously, it allows the highest safety and capacity levels to be maintained or improved.

"The cross-border interconnections of the free route airspace over Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany are another important step in a series of activities for a comprehensive free route airspace in the heart of Europe and for a more environmentally friendly air traffic. With the new route options, airlines have the possibility to realise flexible but at the same time reliable planning procedures."

Dirk Mahns Chief Operating Officer DFS

“Cross-border free route airspace between the areas for which DFS and MUAC are each responsible is another key tenet of our common vision of excellence in air traffic management. This operational milestone is an essential component for uniform air traffic management in the Benelux countries and Germany – a part of the continent which hosts around 35% of European traffic and is also home to some of the largest airports in Europe.”

H24 free route airspace has been operational in MUAC airspace since 2019 and has been implemented gradually across the entire airspace of KUAC between 2018 and 2021. Cross-border free route airspace operations to/from the Copenhagen, Sweden, Switzerland and Vienna Flight Information Regions have already been implemented between 2019 and 2022.

With this development, H24 cross-border free route airspace operations are now possible within and between the Benelux countries, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, and during night, also with Austria.

For further information

Mireille Roman: [email protected]
Nanda Geelvink: [email protected] | +49 6103 707 4164

Note to editors

About MUAC

Operated by EUROCONTROL on behalf of four States, EUROCONTROL's Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) is the only multinational air navigation service provider in Europe. It provides civil and military cross-border air traffic control in the upper airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and north-west Germany (from 7.5 km or 24,500 feet). Some 1.5 million flights pass through MUAC's area of responsibility each year, making it the third busiest air traffic control facility in Europe in terms of traffic volume. During the summer, peak days see over 5,000 flights. MUAC's international area of responsibility is a perfect example of the simplification and harmonisation of airspace in Europe and is fully in line with the objectives of the Single European Sky. As a tangible example of a successful multinational project and a working demonstration of a functional airspace block, MUAC offers considerable benefits to aircraft operators, its Member States, the European network and aviation as a whole.

More information on the website.

About DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung

DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,600 employees as at 31 December 2022. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Around 2,200 air traffic controllers guide more than three million flights through German airspace in peak years, up to 10,000 every day. The company operates control centres in Bremen, Karlsruhe, Langen and Munich as well as control towers at the 15 designated international airports in Germany. The subsidiary, DFS Aviation Services GmbH, markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services, and provides air traffic control at nine regional airports in Germany and at Edinburgh Airport in the United Kingdom. DFS is working on the integration of drones into air traffic and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom. Other subsidiaries include R. Eisenschmidt GmbH, which markets publications and products for general aviation, and Kaufbeuren ATM Training GmbH (KAT), which provides training for military air traffic services personnel. The joint venture FCS Flight Calibration Services GmbH offers flight inspection services.

More information on the website .

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