EUROCONTROL  recently published a Think Paper on this topic and exposed the challenges on both sides of the discussion in moving forward with such a concept. Starting with a little background to set the stage for this discussion. Within Europe, air navigation services are financed by en-route air navigation charges. These are processed through a common route charging system. Where this starts to get challenging is that the rates that are charged vary greatly from state to state within the EU. These charges cover a range from 28.72€ to 120.30€. Those are some pretty large differences depending on the route an aircraft is traveling!

We recommend reading the entire paper to understand all of the detailed work behind the high-level findings that are only touched upon in this synopsis.  Let’s start with ‘the good’. A common unit rate is technically feasible and could bring about CO2 reduction. If airlines knew the rate would be the same regardless of where they fly, the desire to fly routing to avoid higher priced regions to keep rates more consistent would be removed. EUROCONTROL predicts that this change could save up to 4,400 tonnes of CO2 on a busy day.

Now for the bad. Not everyone would welcome this change financially. This impact relates to the airlines. If airlines are flying mainly in the EU region, they could benefit from a reduction in charges up to 70M€, according to the report. On the other hand, airlines flying into or out of the EU could have an increase of up to 30M€. Selling this change to the airlines would need to be crafted very carefully to gain their support.

The ugly lands with the participating States. Although the current billing system could be adapted to support a common unit rate infrastructure, the changes in revenue to the States cross a very wide range. From an addition of 230M€ in revenue to a reduction of 154M€ in revenue. This would be cause for celebration in some locations and a seriously hard amount to accept in others.

This report reinforces the fact that changes procedures that have been in place for many years is not always that easy even if the intentions are well placed.

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