European flights that undergo delays longer than two hours will end up affecting more passengers than they do today by 2040; 9 times more passengers to be more specific, according to a recent report. The delays will likely occur as a result of airports being unable to handle the sheer growth in the number of flights.
The report, published by Eurocontrol, found that around 50,000 passengers, on average, are currently affected by delays of 2 hours or more. However, in the next 20 years, this number will grow to 470,000. Eurocontrol, which is responsible for managing the European air traffic network, has warned that, while the number of flights in the continent will grow by 53%, airports will only experience a marginal growth of 16% with regards to capacity.
Delays with regard to en-route air traffic flow management have also grown significantly, going from 0.46 minutes for each flight to 1.05 minutes. 28% of these delays were reportedly caused as a result of disruption in the form of strikes, while 27% of delays were the result of bad weather.
But, the majority of the delays, around 45%, were caused due to issues with capacity and staffing. This was especially the case in France, Germany, and the Low Countries.
Eamonn Brennan, the Director General of the ACI General Assembly, spoke to the media regarding the issue and suggested the construction of more runways and also, the adoption of technologies that can aid the efficient use of these runways. He also mentioned that Europe was already struggling with the current levels of traffic, implying that the situation would be much worse in the future.
In the future, European airports might have to deal with around 16.2 million flights as far as conservative estimates go. But, Brennan warns that the actual figure could be much higher, around 19.5 million flights. This means that airports will run out of capacity for almost 2 million flights if developments aren’t undertaken.
Turkey, UK, France, and Germany to be worst affected
The report puts Turkey, Germany, France, and the UK in the danger zone, estimating that these countries will be forced to deal with over 3000 flights per day. Even with 20 major airports currently working to add over 2 million runway movements, they will still fail to achieve optimal capacity.
As of now, only 6 airports face extreme congestion. However, in the future, this number will go up to 16 airports.
Heathrow is currently working on its third runway, after almost 2 decades of dealing with delays and customer frustration. The runway will see completion by 2026 and will cost £14 billion in private funds.
Once the runway is completed, it will most likely end up attracting more low-cost carriers, as they aim to outdo one another. They will be able to provide fresh routes and the increased competition will keep the prices interesting. New routes, previously not available at Heathrow, will likely be introduced as well.