Last week, the Member States of the European Union (EU) have adopted Air Traffic Management (ATM) performance targets at lower levels of ambition than have been set for nearly a decade.
In doing so they protected the bad performing Air Navigation Services Providers (ANSPs) whilst frustrating those that have delivered.
The targets set for the coming five years fail to address that the ATM capacity required to accommodate the current number of flights has not been delivered by ANSPs despite having been paid for by airlines. In 2018 delays amounted to more than 19 million minutes, 105% more than in 2017. The average en-route delay per flight was 1.73 minutes, more than three times the target. The burden of increasing delays on passengers is also resulting in increased CO2 emissions.
Despite this the European Commission (EC) and Member States have agreed even weaker targets.
The European ATM system also suffers from excessive costs. A recently EC commissioned academic study on benchmarking of ANSPs estimated EU-wide cost-inefficiencies in the range of 25% to 30%. Yet the targets’ lack of ambition will do little to address the excessive profits achieved by many ANSPs during the past 10 years.
When matched with outdated staffing practices, such as reducing staff levels during the summer peak period just as European citizens and passengers go on holiday, it is evident that real reform of this sector is urgently needed.
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