Europe’s Air Traffic Situation

 - August 1, 2007, 6:55 AM

In April 805,239 flights were recorded in Europe, an increase of 5.6 percent over the same month the previous year. “This increase is beyond our initial forecast, which predicted a four-percent increase in the short, medium and long term,” said Víctor Aguado, director general of Eurocontrol.

However, there were fewer delays, with the percentage of flights delayed decreasing from 9 percent in April last year to 7.9 percent in the same month this year. Air traffic management-related delays dropped by 11.9 percent, from an average of 1.62 minutes per flight to 1.43 minutes. (The European performance target for en route air traffic flow management is one minute per flight.)

Despite these good results, European airlines remain critical of the slow progress toward the Single European Sky. The realization of Single Sky has become all the more urgent as the environmental debate has gained momentum. While European airlines are successfully containing greenhouse-gas emissions, they could make even more progress given improved infrastructure. An estimated 12 percent of their carbon dioxide (CO2) output is caused needlessly by inadequate infrastructure. For example, aircraft are given circuitous routings through fragmented airspace, or instructed to fly at altitudes or speeds where their engines are operating outside their peak efficiency.

Fernando Conte, CEO of Iberia and president of the Association of European Airlines, pointed out that a more rational airspace design could reduce airline costs by some €3.4 billion ($4.67 billion) annually and carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 12 million tonn