Air traffic delays in European airspace during the summer were "among the worst on record",according to the Association of European Airlines (AEA).

The figures, which reveal that 25.9% of intra-European flights were delayed by more than 15min, come despite traffic growth being 2% less than the predicted 7%.

Statistics from Eurocontrol, Europe's air traffic management body, which calculates delays in terms of minutes lost during air traffic movements, are even worse, showing that delays increased by 39.3% during the summer.

Bottlenecks in sectors in London, France and Greece were mainly to blame and Eurocontrol director-general Yves Lambert says the delays "-would have been worse still if there had not been several major improvements in other parts of the system", such as the introduction of basic area navigation (BRNAV), which allows improved route structuring.

A new "medium-term capacity enhancement" plan is to be introduced to straddle the five-year period up to the introduction of Eurocontrol's ATM2000+ scheme for a fully integrated European air traffic control system.

"This will provide a progressive increase in capacity," says Lambert, through the introduction of measures such as reduced vertical separation, and the reorganisation of sectors in the UK and France. The hiring of extra air traffic controllers in Greece - for long a major cause of delays in Europe - is also expected to improve the situation.

Source: Flight International