Governments and air navigation service providers are being urged to make urgent improvements to European air traffic management with a “change in mind-set”.

The call from Iata came ahead of the peak summer holiday flying period as it emerged that 20% of flights – 210,000 were disrupted in June with an average delay of 17 minutes.

The vast majority of the delays come from a lack of air traffic control capacity, driven by inadequate staffing, inflexible rostering, and an inability to react to disruptive events, according to the airline trade body.

Control areas in Germany, France and Austria contributed most to delays.

A short-term contingency plan was introduced last year to re-organise the region’s airspace in a move to mitigate inefficiencies in the network.

But the plan generated new problems as it redistributed 1,000 flights a day from the most problematic areas.

“The re-routing of aircraft increases travel time for passengers and it forces airlines to circumnavigate saturated areas with longer, less efficient routes that produce unnecessary CO2 emissions,” Iata said.

“The priority should be to cut carbon emissions and address the unnecessary costs and flight delays suffered by passengers from inefficient airspace routes and bottlenecks.”

The association’s regional vice president for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman, said: “The busy summer travel season in Europe has begun and both travellers and airlines should be able to get to their destinations on time.

“The current situation is simply unacceptable. Airlines are making strides to reduce their environmental impact but in Europe they are being forced to produce unnecessary emissions every day.

“Fortunately, solutions exist. With the correct investment and planning, and a change in mind-set by both governments and air navigation service providers, another summer of wasted emissions and delays can be avoided.”

Iata called on the European Commission, governments and air traffic control providers to:

  • Reform outdated work practices so that staff can be deployed where they are required, and recruit additional staff as needed to fill any gaps
  • Modernize air traffic management infrastructure and implement a new airspace architecture programme
  • Continue the deployment of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) which airlines have invested in
  • Empower the European Network Manager to plan and configure the network to meet the demands of air travellers
  • Penalise providers which fail to deliver agreed capacity targets under a European performance and charging scheme