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23 Jul, 2012

E.U. Okays Plans to Cut Air Traffic Management Costs, Boost Capacity


Brussels, European Commission Press release, 19 July 2012 – The European Commission has written to Member States concerning the performance plans to improve air traffic management under the period 2012-2014 of the Single European Sky Performance Scheme. The scheme is expected to save billions of Euros to the benefit of airspace users and passengers in these three years. The Commission today announced that the plans are accepted as broadly in line with legally established European Union-wide targets, however the Commission also adopted recommendations to Member States for further improvements.

Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for transport said “The Performance Scheme is the cornerstone of the Single European Sky. Air travellers should benefit from a more punctual, greener and more cost-efficient service. Now is the time to move from planning to delivering. The Commission will monitor performance closely to ensure these Member States’ plans are delivered.”

It has been estimated that during the three-year period 2012-2014, airspace users will pay around EUR 19 billion on air navigation charges. Depending on the type of airline, these charges represent between 6% and 10% of the airline’s operating costs. These are significant costs that are ultimately borne by passengers.

The Performance Scheme of the Single European Sky aims at setting and implementing binding targets for Member States to deliver better air navigation services, leading to cheaper flights, less delays, and the saving of unnecessary costs for airlines and passengers. In addition, the environmental impact of air traffic will be reduced due to more efficient and shorter flight paths.

Key outcomes expected from the Performance Scheme over the period 2012-2014 include:

  • Some 1 billion Euros saved through reduction of delays caused by air traffic control;
  • Reductions of user charges of some 2.4 billion Euros;
  • Reduction in the air navigation cost of an average flight from 800 Euros to 690 Euros by 2014. This puts Europe on track towards reaching the target of 400 Euros per flight;
  • Carbon-neutral growth of aviation as far as air navigation is concerned, thanks to airspace management coordinated by the Network Manager.

The contribution from different Member States to the targets varies substantially:

  • Spain and Portugal have made a major effort to achieve the pan-European cost-efficiency target.
  • Some Member States made relatively minor efforts, in particular with regard to cost-efficiency targets. These include the United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, and Sweden. These Member States will be asked to make an even greater contribution in the period 2015-2019, and are urged to start the process of cost reduction now.
  • A number of Member States’ Plans risks to be insufficient with regard to the capacity target. These include France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Greece and Poland. These Member States should work with the Network Manager to reinforce their performance.

Background Information

The Performance Scheme covers four performance areas: costs efficiency, safety, capacity and environmental impact. For the period 2012-2014 European Union-wide targets have been set for all except safety. These targets are:

  • An average unit rate (the price charged to airlines) of €53.92 by 2014,
  • An average delay per flight of 0.5 minutes by 2014,
  • A 0.75% reduction of the average horizontal flight extension compared to the year 2009 baseline by 2014 (meaning making flights shorter).

Member States were required to set national targets for cost efficiency and capacity which are consistent with the European Union-wide targets. The Network Manager is responsible for delivering the environmental target to achieve a carbon-neutral growth of traffic. Regarding safety, the scheme aims to ensure that safety levels remain at least at the levels required by the EASA-defined rules and regulations which are monitored by the Commission assisted by the independent Performance Review Body. Dedicated safety performance indicators are being developed for implementation as from 2015 and are a major priority as the Performance Scheme moves forward.

The Performance Scheme covers all 27 EU Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland.

Next steps

The period 2012-2014 is the starting point, but far more needs to be done by Member States in the future to address the key goal of Single European Sky which is to provide cost efficient, safe and sustainable air traffic management. Some Member States have made greater efforts than others to bring their plans into line with the European Union-wide targets. The Commission will take account of the overall effort made by these Member States when setting up future targets. Member States who should have delivered more in the first reference period (2012-2014) are expected to do so in the second reference period (2015-2019).