More flight delays forecast as traffic grows

The number of flights in Europe increased by 5.3% year-over-year in 2007 to a record 10 million, led by strong growth in Eastern Europe where some countries registered a 20% increase in flights. Eurocontrol is predicting that the number of flights in 2008 will increase by a further 4.2%, with the highest growth areas being the Adriatic coast and ­Poland, as well as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The growth in 2007 was primarily driven by low-cost carriers, which saw their number of flights increase by a quarter. This year, 20% of all flights are expected to be operated by low-cost carriers, according to Eurocontrol. A total of 11% of flights in Europe were delayed last year, compared to 10% in the previous year. Of these delays, 56% were attributed to airlines, 16% to airports, while 12% occurred en-route and 9% resulted from the weather.

Delays caused by air traffic management increased to an average of 2.1min per flight from 1.9min in 2006, and a further increase is forecast for this summer. Eurocontrol predicts that ATM delays will exceed 3min per flight during the summer months, compared to 2.6min during the same period last year.

"The growth in air traffic will continue and air traffic control is operating at capacity in some places, so there is a real risk of significant delays this summer, with disruption for airlines and their passengers," says new Eurocontrol director general David McMillan. He adds: "Above all, we will be working with our partners in air traffic control, in airports and airlines to get all the capacity we can out of the system and to have a robust network plan for 2008 and beyond."

Source: Airline Business