Airline industry chief urges partnership approach to new national planning strategies for Europe

The international airline industry is demanding a fundamentally different approach embracing an all-inclusive partnership ethos in which airlines and air navigation service providers would form the backbone.

Speaking at the CANSO Global ATM Summit and 21st AGM today, the chief of the International Air Transport Association Alexandre de Juniac said: “To draw an analogy, when commissioning a painting, the client does not expect to tell the artist how to paint. But he does want to say if he wants a portrait or a landscape, approximately how large he wants the piece to be, and to agree a basic cost and timeframe for delivery.”

“The same approach should govern the delivery of air navigation services: as funders of the system, airlines need a greater strategic input into service and investment planning.”

He said the industry urgently needed European governments to develop national airspace strategies (NAS) based on smart regulation precepts, including consultation with airspace users; a multi-stakeholder governance structure; a roadmap with SMART milestones; and supporting cost/benefit analyses. Each NAS should integrate with the wider European airspace network to maximise efficiency, deliver the Single European Sky and SESAR goals, and align with national environment and defence legislation requirements.

He said the airline community also expects an airspace strategy to put service dependability and reliability at its very heart. “This means implementing principles of business continuity to ensure service levels, build resilience into systems and people processes, design recovery capabilities into service delivery and key support areas, and guarantee contingency service using other centers or even other ANSPs where necessary.”

“I want to stress very clearly that taking this bottom-up approach is not about weakening the aims of the Single European Sky. We are as keen as ever that the goals of this project are met, and will continue to offer the European Commission every support. But we believe working bottom up as an industry will be complementary – and bring real benefits to European ATM performance.”

“I’m French so I speak from a great deal of very unfortunate experience. A minority of militants is damaging the reputation of the profession. And they damage the economy for everyone else”

He said that along with affordability, ANS services need to meet customer expectations on quality which, in the context of ANS, meant consistency and reliability. “To be blunt,” he told delegates, “the present situation in Europe is not acceptable. Last year, more than 1.3 million minutes of delays due to strikes and system failures were clocked up.”

“Air traffic controllers do a very demanding job and everyone who flies should be grateful for their proficiency and dedication. But like all professions, the world evolves, technology improves and the work environment changes. Even if you believe that strikes for essential ATM services are acceptable, the scale of strikes in Europe is completely disproportionate to the modest reforms being proposed. I’m French so I speak from a great deal of very unfortunate experience. A minority of militants is damaging the reputation of the profession. And they damage the economy for everyone else.”

In that context, we welcome the guidelines announced last week by the Commission on the rules regarding Public Service Obligations, and best practice on service continuity. We hope this will encourage states to take steps to guarantee connectivity and minimize disruption.

“Another aspect of quality is resilience,” he said. “We accept that no system is ever 100% perfect, but it is frustrating when 25% of the money paid in recent years by the airlines for modernizing European ATM infrastructure was used for other purposes. It is particularly galling when, if the infrastructure fails, the airlines pay again by having flights canceled, delayed and re-routed.”

The IATA chief said that despite some improvements, Europe’s ANSPs missed the agreed flight efficiency target for the 2012-2014 period by 45 per cent, and the performance has deteriorated further since then.

He said issues around delays and inefficiency are a symptom of wider failings in the air navigation system and criticised European airspace fragmentation and a lack of strategic planning.

“I have just returned from Mexico where we held our Annual General Meeting,” he said. “The last time we were there was in 1994. At that time only 1 per cent of the world’s information flowed through the internet, smart phones were not even a dream, and the fax machine was the state of the art in transmitting documents. It was also the year when my predecessor twice removed presented a plan for a Single European Sky to the AGM. To say the least, the world has moved much faster than ATM reform in Europe!”

“You don’t need me to repeat the dissatisfaction of your customers with this state of affairs. You have heard it from every IATA DG for the last 23 years. I would like, however, to raise awareness of the economic destruction caused by this outdated system. Put more positively, there is a huge economic prize if Europe’s ATM challenges are fixed.”

Posted in Airlines, Airspace, News, Single European Sky

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