Europe plots regulatory rejig to unlock single-sky stasis

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European authorities have drawn up a new regulatory regime aimed at speeding progress of the Single European Sky initiative.

In its "SES2+" proposals, the European Commission foresees "full organisational and budgetary separation of national supervisory authorities from the air traffic control organisations [that] they oversee". Airlines would gain a new role signing off ATC organisations' investment plans "to ensure they are better focussed on meeting customer needs".

The Commission also proposes that within the air traffic management performance scheme, target-setting is made "more independent, transparent and more enforceable" - with the body itself taking a strengthened role, and the Performance Review Body gaining more independence and the ability to levy sanctions.

Some support services, meanwhile, would have to be separated to facilitate putting them out to competitive tender, and that the "inflexible constructions" of functional airspace blocks (FABs) be changed to facilitate industrial partnerships between service providers. Eurocontrol's role as network manager would be strengthened so that routes can be shortened.

The Commission's proposals must be approved by member states and parliament before they become law.

IATA has welcomed the recommendations, but raised three "specific concerns": that the performance review body must have "strong powers to enforce targets"; that changes affecting the aviation authorities "must reduce duplication and not increase costs", and that states should be able to avoid prosecution for non-compliance with FAB requirements. The association expresses disappointment with strikes and demonstrations called for by the European Transport Workers Federation.

The European Commission estimates that inefficiencies in Europe's fragmented airspace bring extra costs of around €5 billion ($6.6 billion) per annum to airlines and their customers, and add an average 42km to the distance of each flight. The USA, it says, "controls the same amount of airspace, with more traffic, at almost half the cost".