European passengers set for more flight delays by 2040

IAG and Ryanair planning to submit complaint to European Commission

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said ATC strikes represent the biggest challenge for the aviation industry. Photograph: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said ATC strikes represent the biggest challenge for the aviation industry. Photograph: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

 

The number of European flights delayed by up to 2 hours is set to increase seven-fold by 2040 due to greater travel demand and a lack of capacity on the ground and in the air to keep up with the growth, European network manager Eurocontrol said.

Eurocontrol, which manages Europe’s air traffic network, said in a report on Tuesday that flights in its region are due to increase 53 per cent by 2040, but that airport capacity is set to rise by only 16 per cent.

It predicts that by 2040, around 470,000 passengers per day will be delayed by up to 2 hours, compared with around 50,000 passengers today.

“IAG and Ryanair are planning to submit a complaint to the European Commission as ATC strikes represent the biggest challenge for our industry. They are destroying European air traffic and having a huge impact on consumers. It’s a really frustrating cause of disruption that affects all airlines but in particular has a significant negative impact on Spain’s tourism and economy,” said IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary called the disruptions “unacceptable”, and called on the UK and German governments, as well as the EU commission, to take “urgent action”, “otherwise thousands more flights and millions of passengers will be disrupted, particularly in the peak months of July and August, unless this ATC staffing crisis is addressed”.

Eurocontrol has said it expects 14.3 million minutes of delay for 2018, up by 5 million, or a 53 percent jump from 2017. With each minute of delay estimated to cost €70, that’s an extra €30 million of costs for airlines to cope with.

“When you take capacity out of a system that’s nearly full, it’s very difficult to handle,” Eurocontrol’s director general Eamonn Brennan said of the strikes and staff shortages this summer.

Volker Dick, President of the ATCEUC association of air traffic controller unions, said the ATC staffing problems had resulted after pressure from airlines to reduce costs meant that hiring of new controllers had been frozen for several years.

“The only option right now is to negotiate more working hours and there you will have a problem,” he said, saying that leave had already been restricted over the summer in some areas to handle shortfalls.

Mr Brennan said use of new technology could make air traffic controllers more productive.

“Technology will not ultimately take the controller’s job, but it should assist them and it will make them more productive,” he said, citing for example technology that can help planes fly more closely together yet still safely. – Reuters