The head of the UK’s air traffic control system has promised improvements that would cut aircraft fuel emissions by 10% within a decade.

National Air Traffic Services chief executive Paul Barron admitted last week: “We cannot do this on our own.”  and says he does not know how to achieve this.

Airlines have called for changes in air traffic control to help cut carbon dioxide emissions by reducing the time in flight. But Barron said hopes of a “single sky” for air traffic in Europe – through amalgamating or replacing the 42 existing bodies – were likely to flounder.

He said the best hope lies in continuing talks between NATS and neighbouring air traffic bodies on closer co-operation.

Another option is to hold aircraft at airport stands for longer, he said. This would free up taxiways and cut emissions on the ground. But it would anger airlines, especially carriers such as Ryanair which aim to leave a stand within 20 minutes of landing.

A third would see some routes shortened if passenger aircraft could enter military airspace. Barron called on the Ministry of Defence and its European counterparts to allow this.