Eurocontrol is evaluating proposals to introduce new “charging volumes for airspace” in which different ATC fees would apply for using different parts of Europe’s airspace. This would result in operators paying higher rates for using lower flight levels and particularly busy airspace sectors, such as those in southeast England.
During the brief consultation period the general aviation community complained that the new charging formula would result in users of uncontrolled airspace under VFR being charged for services that they do not receive. European chapters of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) have said that this would make the majority of GA operations–including many helicopter flights–economically unsustainable
Eurocontrol is looking to adjust its charges as it seeks to find ways to finance the Single European Sky (SES) program for eliminating inefficient boundaries between national airspace. Its studies have shown that it can cost more than twice as much to control traffic in lower airspace than in upper airspace. Following the consultation period, the ATC agency aims to submit its proposals, from which the necessary legal mandates for SES will eventually be issued, to the European Commission before the end of this month.
The “charging volumes” system would almost certainly result in higher ATC costs for aircraft operators–including regional airlines–making short flights within Europe since
it is generally impractical for them to use the less costly higher flight levels. Eurocontrol is also considering plans to charge more for peak-hour flights.