Airlines using European airspace will now pay route charges based on the actual route flown rather than on the latest known flight plan, as prescribed by 1998’s "Route per State Overflown" methodology. According to Eurocontrol director general Eamonn Brennan, the new system marks a “big charging change” and will support the most efficient use of airspace in the European ATM network. The revision of the distance factor in the route charge formula will ensure that air navigation service providers (ANSPs) receive revenue for the flights they have effectively controlled while removing the incentive for airlines to file “route charges optimized” flight plans favoring a route—and ANSPs with the lowest service unit rates—to which they do not always adhere, the Brussels-based organization noted. “In recent years, it was observed that in some cases the flight plan was not followed and that the actual route differed in those cases, sometimes to a significant extent,” a Eurocontrol spokesman told AIN.
The agency discussed the change, effective January 1, with airspace users and the body’s member states, which had to validate the new distance factor system, he said.
Airlines do not necessarily like the change, and various Brussels-based airline trade associations indicated to AIN they did not call for a deviation of the previous system, which they claim worked well. Airlines for Europe (A4E) members have “mixed views on the need for this change,” A4E policy director Achim Baumann told AIN, stressing that “the flights are not flying differently, but are being accounted for differently.” The latest Eurocontrol seven-year forecast shows the changes will not significantly affect the amount of charges paid by airlines on an annual basis, he said. But, Baumann cautioned, “we will need to monitor the actual amounts paid by our airline members in 2020 to better gauge the real impact, which could be different for some airlines depending on their route network/schedule.”
Eurocontrol said the increasing availability of more accurate flight and aircraft data and technical enhancements to its route charges system allowed the introduction of the new method to calculate the distance factor in route charges.
The body collects route charges on behalf of its member states and disburses them. Airlines paid €7.33 billion in en-route charges to Eurocontrol in the first 11 months of 2019. Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair paid the most, €646 million, followed by EasyJet (€419 million), Lufthansa, British Airways, and Turkish Airlines. In terms of charging zones, France topped the list with €1.23 billion in route charges followed by Germany, which billed €891 million for its air navigation services. Eurocontrol data show flights handled by Germany’s ANSP, DFS, and France’s DSNA accounted for the bulk of the overall en-route ATFM delays in the period—26.4 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
Airlines using French airspace face another set of delays as air traffic controllers prepare to start industrial action from 18:00 UTC on Wednesday until 05:30 UTC January 10 as part of an inter-professional social movement affecting the entire French public services and private sector.