Eurocontrol reduces its ATC charges

 - November 3, 2006, 5:58 AM

Operators will see en route ATC charges for most of Europe reduced by an average of 7 percent starting this month. There will be some variance in unit charge rates for different operations–which are calculated based on distance flown and aircraft weight–but average charges are set to decrease in just about all of the 32 Eurocontrol member states. The agency will publish detailed rates on its Web site ( early this month.

Under its own rules, Eurocontrol is obliged to reduce ATC charges to correct the fact that it has effectively been overcharging airspace users for the past few years under its “cost recovery” formula. The cut reflects the operational efficiencies that the agency has achieved through measures such as the new reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM), which have increased airspace capacity.

Eurocontrol’s commitment to con- tinuing to use aircraft weight and distance flown as key factors in calculating ATC charges is a relief for operators of smaller aircraft, such as regional airlines and the business aviation community. Some member state ATC providers–notably the privatized National Air Traffic Services (NATS) in the UK–have lobbied to make less allowance for the size of an aircraft in setting the rates, a policy that would be advantageous to the major airlines, at the expense of other operators.

However, a study into possible charging formulas to finance Eurocontrol’s long-awaited Single European Sky (SES) program has floated the idea of states being permitted to set “charging volumes,” which would result in users of lower flight levels in busy airspace paying higher rates. Any change along these lines would benefit long-haul airlines and penalize operators making shorter flights within Europe.

Eurocontrol’s studies into future funding for the SES initiative have also raised the prospect of charging formulas weighted to take into account airspace congestion, peak-period flights and even environmental performance of aircraft.