Single European Sky continues to disappoint

The airline industry has criticised the decision by the European Single Sky Committee to endorse weakened future performance and charging rules for air navigation services.

The decision was made on 8 March and impacts the calendar years 2015-2019 (known as Reference Period 2 or RP2).

This legal framework was branded a retrograde step by the airline industry which wants a timely and successful establishment of the Single European Sky (SES).

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that if this decision is allowed to stand, regulators will have permitted a second period of weak regulation for the critical Single European Sky (SES) project. Diluted targets were previously set for RP1 covering 2012-2014, which air navigation service providers (ANSPs) could readily meet without the reforms needed to truly deliver the SES.

“We should learn the lessons from the failure of RP1 to deliver the efficiency needed to put SES back on track. ANSPs and member states need the right incentives to drive the SES. The European Commission understands this. But we have seen a progressive weakening of their strong position under pressure from member states which continue to protect inefficient, state-owned ANSP monopolies over the needs of travelers and the environment for more efficient air traffic management,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Last year the European Commission proposed an ambitious revision to the performance scheme for air navigation services (ANS) to improve and amend shortfalls in the initial regulations for charging and performance in ANS.

The revised scheme was aiming to reduce the cost of flights, while increasing capacity and better preserving the environment. Following the lengthy discussions, the Member States forced a compromise, which no longer reflects the original goals of the performance regulation and will further strengthen the already existing SES deadlock.

IATA said the critical deficiencies in the new regulations are:

  • A scheme which offers ANSPs the continuation of categories of costs termed “uncontrollable” which can simply be added after the fact to the agreed charges. Due to the weakening of the regulations, this concept is now even broader than its present application for RP1;
  • A facility to introduce congestion charging without consideration of the cost burden to passengers or airlines or the likely distorting impact to the network;
  • Another deferral of terminal charge target setting. This will allow ANSPs to offset any reduction in charges which they may be required to make for en-route charges.

“Passengers, airlines and the wider European economy are losing €5 billion every year from inefficient air traffic management. That’s the cost of the fragmentation of European airspace. But once again it looks like the cost-efficiency targets will be woefully short of what is required.

“The solution is a binding performance scheme, administered by a Europe-wide independent economic regulator. It’s the only way to motivate ANSPs to rationalize the duplication and waste of the current system. For example, Europe does not need the 63 air traffic control centres that it has today. We could have more efficient service with no more than 40,” said Tyler.

The actual targets for RP2 will be finalised in December. “Based on the evidence of the framework agreed last week, we are not optimistic that the numbers will be sufficiently ambitious. That will mean business as usual instead of the reform needed. The Single European Sky should by now have become a great and successful European project. But following this development, airspace users will be asking themselves why they should continue to support it financially or in any other way,” said Tyler.

This legal framework was also branded a retrograde step by the European airline industry which wants a timely and successful establishment of the Single European Sky.

The chiefs of the airline associations, AEA, EBAA, ELFAA, ERA and IACA comment: “Today we saw another example of the failures in building a Single Sky in Europe. We condemn the fact that the EU Member States were finally able to weaken the proposed scheme which will result in further under-performance and will not incentivise the European Air Navigation Service Providers to improve their performance and reduced their costs. We find it unacceptable that the European flagship programme for aviation appears to be rapidly falling apart.”

Posted in Airlines, News, Single European Sky

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