Brussels preparing for air traffic crackdown

Brussels is prepared to draft far tougher legislation to unify EU airspace after efforts to apply pressure on member countries to boost air traffic efficiency failed to have any effect.

The European Commission is already in the process of sending official letters to the transport ministers of 27 European Union governments, pressing them to cut costs and boost traffic flows in line with the strategic aims of the Single European Sky vision to optimise European airspace.

That vision could save roughly $4.5 billion in fuel, cut 12 per cent of European airline greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate hundreds of hours of delays.

Airlines say progress is too slow, while air navigation service providers say they are being forced to rush change.

“Even with unambitious targets, there seems to be a lack of will in the member states to produce the needed results,” Hemant Mistry, director of industry charges at the International Air Transport Association, told the media.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas is understood to be mounting a new campaign to push member countries to increase efforts and is even reported to be prepared to draft legislative changes increasing the Commission’s enforcement powers.

Guenter Martis, director of European affairs at the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) which represents many of the European air traffic control agencies argues that air traffic agencies are, contrary to the prevailing belief within the airline industry ‘quite eager to deliver what they can’.

“There is no way our members are trying to escape their responsibility to improve efficiency,” he said.

The Single Sky architects within the European Commission last month approved stringent efficiency targets that would cut air traffic fees to airlines by €2.4 billion ($2.9 billion) before the end of 2014.

However, even at that point they complained that that was not ambitious enough, rebuking Britain, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden for their ‘relatively minor efforts‘.

Urging them ‘to start the process of cost reduction now’, the Commission warned that poor performance now would mean they have to work far harder to reach further planned efficiency and cost targets.

“The Commission comes close to micromanagement,” complained CANSO’s Guether Martis. Airlines, he said, ‘have zero idea how complex it is’ to change air traffic systems safety. “They just say, this is not enough and you have to do more… It’s very frustrating to do all this work and permanently get blamed.”

Transport commissioner Siim Kallas believes that the credibility of the Single European Sky project is at risk and has before now warned that failure to take measures at the national level could force Brussels to re-open the dossier and instigate a far more radical solution.

“The European Commission has said it will not accept a suboptimal result, but, in that case, it may find itself having to take more direct action and drive a more top-down approach, something it has instinctively avoided so far,” said Eurocontrol director-general David McMillan.

Read More: On Track For Failure

Posted in Airlines, CAAs/ANSPs, News, Single European Sky

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