Eurocontrol reveals extent of industrial action disruption in 2013

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European air traffic control industrial action “proved to be even more disruptive in 2013 than 2012”, according to Eurocontrol’s network manager report for 2013.

Industrial action caused 11,300h of en route flight delays, the report states – 13.6% of total European en route delays for the entire year.

The strikes also had a significant impact on flight efficiency, as aircraft had to be rerouted to avoid affected areas. This contributed to over 700,000nm (1.3 million km) unnecessary extra distance flown.

The French industrial action on 11-12 June and on 10 October contributed most of the industrial action delays. Strikes in Greece and Portugal in June, in France in September and in Italy and Tunisia in October had a smaller impact.

Eurocontrol’s network manager (NM) function intends to help the continent’s national air navigation service providers (ANSP) communicate and co-ordinate activities effectively, with the aim of improving the efficiency of the entire system through network-centric systems like co-operative decision making.

Strikes distort the NM’s function, and increasingly there are calls from airlines for strikes to be made illegal at infrastructure agencies like ANSPs. However, despite 2013’s strikes, EASA data shows the NM function delivered a reduction in overall en route delays due to air traffic flow management, and offered distance flown savings of 180,000nm.

The report also identifies the top five threats to air transport management operational safety: flights operating without a transponder or with a malfunctioning one, landing without clearance, failure to recognise that a runway is occupied, conflicting aircraft in a visual blind spot and failure to detect a potential conflict between aircraft in adjacent sectors.