The chief executives of Europe’s largest airlines have renewed calls for Europe’s airspace to be reformed, including through a new approach to financing air traffic management (ATM) services.

Speaking during the Airlines for Europe (A4E) Aviation Summit in Brussels on 29 March, the airline leaders said “the time for excuses is over”, amid a need for a “seamless and digitalised airspace” as traffic edges back towards its pre-Covid peak.

Reform of Europe’s airspace “has failed to match” innovation elsewhere in the industry, A4E says, notably through the failure to implement the Single European Sky (SES) legislation.

A4E pic

Source: Lewis Harper/FlightGlobal

“By reforming air traffic management, European aviation could run more efficiently for passengers and with lower carbon emissions,” says incoming A4E chair and IAG chief executive Luis Gallego. “That’s why at A4E, we are calling for the European Commission, European Parliament and member states to take part in discussions and make progress on the Single European Sky implementation and the EU Commission’s proposed legislation (SES2+).”

Announcing a “cross-industry collaboration” to push for reform, A4E suggests that airspace upgrades would bring a number of benefits, including through emissions savings “of up to 10%”, a reduction in delays and improved capacity.

“We would like all parties to put their differences aside and focus on delivering change which would be a win for passengers, the environment and Europe as a whole,” Gallego states.

Furthermore, A4E unveiled the results of a study that concludes Europe should adopt a new way of funding ATM, potentially including through the tendering of air navigation service provider (ANSP) services.

“This could ultimately allow for a number of specialised companies providing ANSP services to compete freely on the market,” it says.

As part of those reforms, A4E believes airlines must no longer be left to “pick up the tab” during crisis situations.

“Our ATM financing study illustrates how fragmented and inefficient European airspace is and policymakers can no longer roll out excuses for not reforming something so vital for European aviation and which can deliver real environmental savings now,” says Laurent Donceel, acting managing director of A4E.

A4E is Europe’s largest airline association, counting IAG, Air France-KLM, Lufthansa Group, EasyJet and Ryanair among its members.