Up to €1.1 billion in European air navigation charge payments is being deferred under an agreement intended to assist airlines struggling under the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Pan-European air navigation organisation Eurocontrol says its members have agreed the deferral as part of a financial package to provide “liquidity support”.

Eurocontrol data for 43 associated countries in the region shows that traffic had fallen by more than 90% in 33 of them by 5 April, compared with the previous year.

“Many airlines contacted Eurocontrol to confirm that they would not be in a position to facilitate their next payments,” says director general Eamonn Brennan.

“This payment deferral will ease the immediate burden on airlines and it provides certainty on financial planning to both airlines and the air navigation service providers on when payments will be made after the crisis has abated.”

Eurocontrol calculates route charges for air navigation by combining a distance factor with an aircraft weight factor and a country-specific unit rate.

The unit rate has a wide variation – regions such as Switzerland, the Benelux states and the UK charge higher rates than Hungary, Cyprus and the Baltic countries.

As of January this year the calculation of the weight factor has been revised, to be based on the certificated maximum take-off weight of the aircraft performing the flight, rather than the average certificated MTOW of all aircraft of the same ICAO type.

Eurocontrol had previously been estimating route charges for 2020 would total €8.2 billion, based on a 3.4% rise in traffic service units to 173 million.