ENAIRE, the national air navigation service provider, has reinforced the number of air traffic controllers in anticipation of a summer season that is expected to rival the record numbers of 2019.
By region, the staffing and the increase in controller numbers (those that are qualified and available for duty) are as follows: South, 250 controllers (+9.6%); Canary Islands, 264 (+9.0%); East, 512 (+8.2%), Balearic Islands, 197 (+5.9%) and Central-North, 630 (+1.7%). The staffing in each region strictly reflects the air traffic management needs assigned to each region. In all, the number of active controllers across the network has increased by 6% since 2019.
ENAIRE's strategy of increasing the number of air traffic controllers to meet traffic forecasts has been in place since 2016 and will continue. In fact, ENAIRE had a total of 1,968 air traffic controllers in 2016 (including active controllers and those in management and support roles). The total number of controllers currently stands at 2,117 (7.6% more).
Along these lines, ENAIRE's Personnel Manager, José Luis Meler, explains that: "The implementation of the planning laid out in the successive strategic plans, from 2016 to 2021, required a great effort from ENAIRE, which managed five calls for air traffic controller positions, at the rate of one call per year (except in 2020 as a result of the pandemic). This has all resulted in a total of 528 new air traffic controller positions throughout this period, with ENAIRE managing their training and qualification processes at its corresponding control centres and towers". As a result of this strategy, ENAIRE, which is the fourth largest provider in Europe in terms of air traffic volume, has the third highest number of controllers.
2022 Summer Plan
During the summer months, from June to September, the number of flights is expected to reach 93% of the numbers reported in the same period in 2019, exceeding 750,000 flights.
As part of its 2022 Summer Plan, ENAIRE is developing and implementing a series of technical and operational initiatives and measures across its entire network and specific in each of the Regions, so that it can deal with the high season under the best conditions to manage traffic peaks that are already exceeding those of 2019, while maintaining the highest levels of safety at all times.
In addition, ENAIRE managing their training and qualification processes at its corresponding control centres and towers". In addition to the technical and operational measures, the Summer Plan includes increasing the number of controllers.
"The forecasts for this year point to a 90% recovery in the number of flights compared to pre-COVID levels". So says ENAIRE's Operations Manager, Xavier Benavent, who details that, by type of flight, the forecast is for a recovery of 92% in domestic flights, 91% in overflights (those that do not take off from or land at a Spanish airport) and 89% in international flights. "Month by month, the main air traffic flows are recovering to 2019 levels. There are even more than twenty international and overflight routes that have far exceeded 2019 levels", Benavent says.
ENAIRE managed nearly 170,000 flights (169,157) in April, which is just 7.7% below the average for the entire network for the same month in 2019. This figure means that 92.3% of flights in April were recovered compared to the record levels before COVID.