Carrier fears Eurocontrol's proposed air traffic control zone will lead to higher overflight charges for airlines

Austrian Airlines has raised concerns over the proposed Eurocontrol attempt to create a central European air traffic control zone, warning that it could increase rather than reduce user charges.

Transport ministers from the eight countries involved in the implementation of the Central European Air Traffic Services (CEATS) met in Luxembourg last month to ease the logjam over the project's implementation. The ministers established a high-level working group comprising representatives of the governments and Eurocontrol, which will make a proposal to ministers again in two weeks' time.

The CEATS project, led by Eurocontrol, aims to create a single air traffic control centre for the upper airspace above flight level 285 (28,500ft/8,640m) in Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, northern Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia. Víctor Aguado, director general of Eurocontrol, says: "By agreeing to this joint declaration, the CEATS states subscribe to the vision of a more coherent and unified pan-European air traffic management system."

However, Austrian is leading airlines in lobbying the group to ensure the project's goals of low-cost services are met. Austrian says: "The CEATS project must ensure that the planned harmonisation produces a reduction in costs compared with their current level. This is not guaranteed by the variant of the project currently on offer."

Austrian fears that as control of upper airspace is transferred to a central management centre to be located in Fischamend, outside Vienna, national aviation authorities will seek to recoup the loss of overflight fees by raising lower airspace en-route navigational charges. Austrian, which has one of the most comprehensive networks in the region, mainly the Balkan states, says it would be adversely affected by such a change. Meanwhile, the number of control centres will rise from eight to nine.

"At the same time, the artificial division of upper and lower airspace has the effect of fundamentally increasing the level of complexity in the system, which will inevitably be reflected in increased costs throughout the joint system of air traffic management," says the airline.

Austrian is instead proposing virtually integrating upper and lower areas into the technical centre in Vienna, in line with a proposal put forward by the International Air Transport Association. Vagn Soerensen, chief executive of the Austrian Airlines group, says: "We will be presenting our constructive concerns over the fragmentation of CEATS and the alternative proposal put together by IATA for discussion once again."


Source: Flight International