With this year’s flight delays crossing the one-million mark, the IATA (International Air Transport Association) has taken serious consideration over the issue of air traffic control services functioning without a backup support unit in place. Air traffic control strikes make it extremely difficult for airlines to operate on schedule. The airlines are forced to re-route in order to avoid flying over the country or region that is carrying out the strikes. A majority of the time, re-routing itself becomes almost impossible. The IATA has called on governments to tackle the issue and ensure service continuity even when such strikes occur.
Rafael Schvartzman, European Regional VP for IATA, mentioned in his statement that the recent air traffic control strikes had resulted in flight delays worth a million minutes and more than 3000 cancellations, which ultimately affected several European air travellers. He also stated that the hours wasted on delays were impacting the productivity in Europe as businesses were being affected.
Mr. Schvartzman emphasized that it was time for governments across Europe to find a solution by coming together on this particular issue. However, the air traffic control strikes aren’t the only reason why cancellations and delays are impacting the European airspace management’s economic prowess. The truth, some experts believe, is that European airspace management, as a whole, is becoming highly inefficient.
Too many cooks…
The experts point out to factors such as the issue of multiple ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers). Unlike the United States, which relies on a single ANSP, Europe’s FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has 38 ANSPs functioning under it. The ANSPs cover the same area in terms of geography, but, handle fewer flights (37% less) compared to the American ANSP. They also have more staff in total (60% more) and more controllers (29% more). An economic analysis carried out by SEO Amsterdam Economics found that revamping European airspace could cost about 32 billion euros in welfare benefits by 2035. This is in comparison to a “no-action” option.
Preventing air traffic controls strikes is only a small part of the problem. Other areas that need to be fixed include navigational efficiency, route lengths, flight route times and connectivity (which can be fixed by increasing the total frequency of flights and number of routes).
An ideal solution would be to implement a single European sky, as it will fuel the need for a legislative bill that can overcome the fragmentation currently existing in air control management. Steps have already been taken to implement this. For instance, a collaborative project known as SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) has been created to offer technological support. However, the complacent bureaucracy and politics have prevented SESAR from making any real progress. Schvartzman concluded his statement with a note about how the European economy desperately needed dependable air connectivity.
Flight delays and cancellations have been plaguing European skies over the past few years, fuelled by issues such as poor management and air traffic control strikes. A single European sky seems like an ideal solution that just might bring about some much needed change.