If you’re planning of jetting off on that long-awaited European holiday this summer, you might consider waiting until after the peak summer season. Officials in Europe have raised concerns over the level of air-traffic density causing flight delays, which are unfortunately predicted to worsen this time compared to last year.
According to Euro control, the intergovernmental organization that coordinates air traffic management among Europe’s various air navigation service providers announced that flight delays across Europe could exceed even last year’s levels. 2018 was considered a record-setting summer in terms of air traffic congestion over Europe.
Flight Delays in Europe
Delays in flights have more than doubled since last year to a total of 19.1m minutes. According to figures from Eurocontrol, airlines and air traffic controllers failed to hit EU performance targets. The average delay per flight was 1.73 minutes in 2018 against EU performance targets of half a minute. Over 750 flights daily had an en-route delay of at least 15 minutes, which is seven per cent more flights compared to April last year. This summer will be at least as bad as last year.
Reasons for Flight Delays
The reason why Europe’s air traffic control system had not made progress was the delays and disruptions caused by strikes, staff shortages and a lack of air capacity. Last year, Europe’s air traffic increased by just 3.8%, but that was enough to push the Continent’s already crowded skies to a tipping point. The most consistent delays came during the busy summer. Shortfalls in air capacity and staffing were the causes of 60.4% of those en-route delay minutes. The remainder of the delays were caused by weather, strikes and other labor disruptions.
Decreased Air Capacity
Even though Europe and the U.S. are considered comparable in terms of the number of flights being operated and their overall geographic area coverage, they rely on fundamentally different air traffic management systems. While operations are unified across the whole of the USA., flights over Europe are managed by disparate entities, representing each separate country’s airspace. This fragmentation causes complexity in communications and longer wait times for planes to receive approval as they pass overhead. And as flight delays hover across the continent, finding solutions for the air capacity crunch has now become urgent. While measures are already being taken to address these broader, systematic issues within Europe’s air traffic control infrastructure, the situation has not been remedied just yet.