Airlines slam Single European Sky target dilution

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Europe's airline organisations have reacted with dismay to the latest decision by the politicians in the European Single Sky Committee to dilute for a second time the requirement for national air navigation service providers to improve their efficiency and lower their costs.

The trade bodies argue this is an abrogation of promises made under European Union regulation to meet agreed obligations under the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programme.

IATA deplored the Committee's decision "to endorse weakened performance and charging scheme regulations for air navigation services over the period 2015-2019." IATA explains: "The decision was made on 8 March and impacts the calendar years 2015-2019 (SESAR Reference Period 2)."

It adds: "If this decision is allowed to stand, regulators will have permitted a second period of weak regulation for the critical SES project. Diluted targets were previously set for RP1 covering 2012-2014, which ANSPs could readily meet without the reforms needed to truly deliver the SES. We should learn the lessons from the failure of RP1 to deliver the efficiency needed to put SES back on track."

European trade groups the Association of European Airlines, European Business Aircraft Association, European Low Fares Airline Association, European Regions Airline Association and the charter International Air Carriers Association described the move as another example of the failures in building a Single Sky in Europe. "We condemn the fact that the EU Member States were finally able to weaken the proposed scheme which will result in further under-performance and will not incentivise the European ANSPs to improve their performance and reduced their costs. We find it unacceptable that the European flagship programme for aviation appears to be rapidly falling apart."

IATA claims that the incentives to become more cost-efficient have been emasculated by creating loopholes in the legislation which will allow ANSPs to raise prices for their services by citing "uncontrollable" costs, and by failing to introduce targets in areas where they had not been set, enabling the service providers to compensate for lower earnings in areas where targets already exist.

Behind this reluctance by European governments to hold their ANSPs to targets agreed under SESAR legislation appears to be the fact that European air traffic movements decreased in 2012 by 2.7% over all, according to Eurocontrol, despite increases in eastern Europe and among the low-cost and charter carriers, which takes the pressure off them to invest in improved efficiency and increasing capacity for the future.