European aviation chiefs should pay as much attention to eliminating bottlenecks on the ground as in the air, according to one airports organisation which has welcomed a new effort to help address the looming capacity crunch.
Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe director general, says he feels vindicated that the need to align airport capacity has at last been recognised with the establishment of the EU Observatory, which met for the first time this week to focus on ways to align airport capacity with forecast growth in air traffic.
Established by the European Commission in June for the relaunching of the Single European Sky, it brings together the Commission, Eurocontrol, national authorities, stakeholders groups such as ACI Europe.
"Airport capacity cannot be conjured up overnight. This is about looking at the long term, beyond the present crisis. Given the seriousness of the capacity crunch we are facing, this means not only looking into optimising existing infrastructure, but also allowing the development of new infrastructure where needed," says Jankovec. "The Observatory is a step in the right direction. The EU can no longer afford to ignore the extensive economic and environmental risks linked to airport congestion."
Eurocontrol's latest Challenges of Growth study depicted EU airports desperately struggling to meet demand for air travel by 2030, when 2.5 million flights will remain unaccommodated due to a lack of adequate airport capacity in Europe, with close to 20 airports saturated and 170 million passengers affected.
Three working groups have been established: one that will establish an inventory of EU airport capacity chaired by Eurocontrol, one that will study intermodality led by Airport Regions Conference and one examining gate-to-gate issues co-chaired by ACI Europe and the European Association of Slot Coordinators.