European Continuous Climb and Descent Operations Action Plan

Practical help on how to burn less fuel and generate less emissions
European CCO/CDO Action plan cover
Airplane landing on tarmac

Aviation can become more sustainable by improving the efficiency of aircraft and the trajectories they fly. An important way of achieving greater efficiency, lower fuel consumption and fewer emissions is through continuous climb (CCO) and continuous descent (CDO) operations.

These operations are carried out by aircraft operators but are enabled by airspace and procedural design and facilitated by Air Traffic Control. All parties need to work collaboratively together in order to generate the benefits.

EUROCONTROL has worked with a large number of stakeholders, including airlines, airports and air navigation service providers, to produce the European CCO/CDO Action Plan. This includes practical advice on how to make CCO/CDO work, with examples of best practices and how constraints can be overcome, building on the extensive experience Europe already has on optimising the efficiency of vertical flight profiles. The principles of the Action Plan have already been utilised this summer by DFS, the German ATC provider and by Lufthansa in their development of the ‘Efficient Flight Profile Concept’, bringing tangible benefits for the airline and for the environment.

Training is a vital element in the implementation of CCO/CDO and the deliverables detailed in the Action Plan include the release of ATCO refresher training on CCO/CDO and the development of computer based training for pilots, both harmonised to demonstrate best practices.

“This Action Plan is a real example of how everyone can make a difference by cooperating to put in place CCO and CDO and by sharing information on what works – and what doesn’t work. This summer has seen real environmental and fuel burn benefits from more efficient flight profiles. We need to strive to keep this improved performance once traffic builds again.”

“The CCO/CDO Action Plan is the result of an exceptional level of collaboration between ANSPs, airlines and aircraft manufacturers. This summer, together with our main customer Lufthansa, we acted decisively to seize the opportunity of the decline in traffic to develop the Efficient Flight Profile Concept for all airline partners based on the principles of the Action Plan.

This is a unique achievement, especially considering it was put in place in just five weeks. Since then, aircraft have remained at cruising level for longer, descending more continuously and more directly, which has significantly reduced noise pollution, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.”

Dirk Mahns Chief Operating Officer, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH

“The Efficient Flight Profile Concept, a very pragmatic approach to implement direct routings and CDOs, is resulting in a reduction of more than 2000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and 650 tonnes of fuel per month for the Lufthansa Group at the airports Frankfurt and Munich – and it effectively decreases perceived aircraft noise.”

Jörg Pikolin Head of ATM Development & Regulatory Affairs, Flight Operations LH Group and A320 Captain


A 2018 study from EUROCONTROL showed that the benefit from optimising the climb and descent phases included fuel savings of up to 350,000 tonnes per year for the airlines. This corresponds to over a million tonnes of CO2 and €150 million in fuel costs.

These benefits come from minimising the time that aircraft spend flying level at low altitudes, where more fuel is burnt than at high altitudes. The focus is on the descent phase – where the potential benefits are ten times those relating to the climb phase.

Details of how much benefit is being achieved at individual airports can be found in our performance dashboard.

The Action Plan includes:

  • harmonised definitions and metrics for measuring European CCO/CDO performance;
  • results of the first Europe-wide analysis of CCO/CDO with an estimation of the fuel / noise benefit pool that could be achieved by optimising CCO/CDO;
  • development of a CCO/CDO monthly updated performance dashboard for all airports/airlines in Europe;
  • release of an ATCO refresher training on CCO/CDO and aircraft energy management;
  • new proposals for ATCO and Flight Crew training objectives on CCO/CDO;
  • delivery of the online European CCO/CDO Tool Kit;
  • enhanced guidance in airspace and procedure design to facilitate CCO and CDO;
  • the sharing of good practices and case studies on CDO implementation, performance monitoring and collaboration.

The Plan and its individual annexes are available for download below.


European Continuous Climb and Descent Operations (CCO/CDO) Action Plan
Annex A - CCO/CDO Facilitation and Execution
Annex B - Harmonised Metrics for CCO/CDO Measurements
Annex C - CCO/CDO Performance Monitoring and Feedback on Performance
Annex D - Noise Optimisation
Annex E - AIP Publication
Annex F - Airspace/Procedure Design
Annex G - LoAS/RAD Restrictions
Annex H - CCO/CDO Facilitation
Annex I - Training for ATCOs
Annex J - Airline Standard Operating Practices & Good Practice Material
Annex K - Flight Crew Training
Annex L - Airline Performance Monitoring & Flight Crew Feedback
Annex M - Phraseology
Annex N - Collaboration
Annex O - Future Developments
Annex P - Tool Kit for Implementing & Optimising CCO/CDO
Annex Q - Case Studies