Europe Still Struggling with Traffic Delays as Congestion Soars

 - October 15, 2018, 2:31 PM

Unsustainable flight delays throughout Europe persisted in September as air traffic infrastructure could not cope with the continued high capacity output by airlines. Total air traffic flow management (ATFM) delays last month increased by 20.1 percent compared with September 2017 and ATFM delays finished 54.4 percent higher during the rolling 12-month through September 2018 compared with the same period a year ago, Eurocontrol’s most recent network operations report revealed.

En route ATFM delays increased by 39.8 percent, to just over 62,100 minutes per day mainly due to ATC capacity and staffing issues, whereas airport ATFM delays decreased by 12 percent. All days in September 2018 saw an average ATFM delay per flight exceeding 1.5 minutes and most weekend days saw an average of more than 3 minutes. The average daily flights with an en route ATFM delay of at least 15 minutes increased by 46.2 percent compared with September 2017.

Air traffic in September increased by 2.6 percent year-over-year and daily traffic averaged higher than ever recorded for September, Eurocontrol noted.

Ten countries added more than 50 flights per day to the European local traffic growth. Spain (excluding the Canary Islands) ranked as the top contributor, adding 207 flights per day to the network thanks to a dynamic internal flow (+39 flights/day) but also to its flows to and from Germany (+32 flights/day), Italy (+31 flights/day), and France (+28 flights/day). Germany ranked second, with 191 extra flights per day owing mainly to its flows to and from Turkey, Greece, Spain, and Egypt. Greece was the third biggest contributor and saw its local traffic increase by 10.6 percent or 188 flights per day. Italy and Poland each added 129 and 126 flights per day and finished among the top five contributors.

The UK and Sweden saw fewer daily flights owing mainly to their weak domestic flows.

The charter segment recorded the fastest growth and saw an increase of 9.9 percent. The traditional scheduled segment saw a 4.1 percent increase, whereas the low-cost segment grew 1.4 percent. The all-cargo and business aviation segments declined by 7.7 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Despite several 24-hour strikes by cabin crew and pilots across five countries last month, Ryanair remained by far the largest user of European airspace with some 2,281 daily flights on average. Airlines adding the most flights to the European network on a daily basis compared with September 2017 were easyJet UK (+209 flights), Ryanair (+103 flights), Lufthansa (+97 flights), Wizz Air (+72 flights), and LOT and Vueling, each contributing an additional 58 flights.