The European Commission (EC) has launched a consultation paper on airport capacity shortages, warning that by 2025 Europe’s top 20 airports will be saturated for most of the day.

The paper is mainly aimed at making better use of airport capacity, and focuses on four main areas:

- improving air/rail intermodal connections and encouraging the use of rail alternatives to air transport;

- promoting better use of airport spare capacity by improving operating procedures and slot efficiency;

- introducing new technologies and defining a common framework for increasing airport safety;

- making better use of spare capacity at neighbouring facilities or in the airport network as a whole.

European transport commissioner Jacques Barrot says that if the problem of airport capacity is not addressed, improvements such as the single-sky reform programme for air navigation management will be “meaningless”. He adds: “We should both plan the construction of new airports, and make every effort to better utilise the existing infrastructure.”

The EC warns that by 2025, more than 60 airports will be congested and the top 20 airports will be saturated for 8-10h every day. This is based on a prediction that traffic levels will be two and a half times greater than it was in 2003. Even today, 70% of Europe’s 50 largest airports are at saturation point in terms of ground capacity, the EC warns.

Brussels says that despite an expected 60% increase in capacity in the airport network, there will only be room for twice the volume of 2003 traffic. As a result, demand for 3.7 million flights a year – 17% of all flights – will simply not be able to take place, the EC warns.

The consultation exercise has strong echoes of the 2001 white paper on European transport policy for 2010, which also urged a rethink on airport capacity and its usage.

There are currently only two major new airport projects in Europe, at Lisbon and Berlin, while London Heathrow and Frankfurt are being expanded, despite much opposition.

Source: Airline Business