Poor air traffic control planning and capacity constraints across Europe led to increased delays and frustration for airlines and passengers this summer.
Lobby group Airlines for Europe (A4E) calculated that passengers suffered more than two million delay minutes in July alone, an increase of 12% over last year and 35% compared to 2015.
Chief executives of A4E member airlines have written to European Air Navigation Service providers raising concerns over summer disruption caused by air traffic control restrictions, resulting in “significant inconvenience” for many European travellers.
They are calling for remedial action to address the situation both in the short and longer term.
Excessive ATC regulations this summer have meant that airlines have had to fly longer routes or that the number of flights on certain routes have been restricted.
This then causes knock-on effects throughout the network, including crews going out of hours, which eventually translate into frustrating delays for passengers, according to A4E.
The group’s managing director Thomas Reynaert said: “This July, delays have risen to more than two million minutes – an extraordinary increase of 12% compared to 2016 and 35% compared to 2015.
“Nearly 70% of all ATC regulations in July 2017 were non-weather related and caused by issues such as ATC capacity, staffing, and other issues which are within ANSPs’ control.
“We appreciate that the complexity in European airspace has grown drastically in recent years, but airlines expect a level of service that facilitates a stable operation.
He added: “Every day, airline staff, pilots and cabin crew are doing their utmost to manage the demanding operational environment this summer and airlines plan for a certain level of disruption, but today’s challenges require much more robust and network-wide solutions from ATC.
“More than 20 European ANSPs showed few to zero delays and outperformed some of their peers.
“In light of this, it is even more important that the Single European Sky is implemented more quickly and without delay to start delivering the benefits that can accommodate the current growth in air traffic for airspace users and, ultimately, for European passengers.”
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