A decade on, airlines push for delayed European skies reform

Thu Nov 6, 2014 9:16am EST
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By Tim Hepher and Victoria Bryan

PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) - Airlines urged the European Union on Thursday to press ahead with plans to merge national air corridors, rekindling debate about a reform that risks confrontation with air traffic controllers over safety and jobs.

The call came as EU transport ministers gathered in Rome for informal talks to try to accelerate a plan to integrate some of the world's most crowded airways, which has drifted since the so-called Single European Sky scheme was launched a decade ago.

A group representing 30 European airlines has written to the EU's 28 nations urging them to end a deadlock which it blames on a "lack of political will", according to a copy seen by Reuters.

The Association of European Airlines (AEA) says streamlining Europe's jigsaw of national air corridors would save airlines 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) a year and consumers another 6 billion euros.

Under the current system, responsibility for airspace belongs to each country, which usually manages its flight paths and charges navigation and terminal fees, estimated by the Eurocontrol air traffic agency at some 8 billion euros a year.

The Single European Sky proposal calls for airspace to be arranged in trans-national "blocks" in what is seen as the most radical shake-up of European's aviation system for decades and a precursor to greater automation.

"After 10 years there has been almost zero progress," Mildred Troegeler, the AEA's head of operations, told Reuters.

"This would bring huge benefits to consumers and the environment, including 8 million tonnes fewer CO2 emissions. Consumers are suffering 11 million minutes of unnecessary flight delays every year," she said in an interview.   Continued...

A Brussels Airlines aircraft prepares for landing in Cointrin airport during sunrise over the Mont Blanc in Geneva December 1, 2011.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse