Airline flights in European airspace during 2003 were subject to by far the lowest air traffic management (ATM)-related delays since records began, despite the fact that peak traffic levels last year equalled or exceeded the highest ever. Meanwhile, Eurocontrol predicts that with the results of system improvements introduced over the past two years beginning to filter through, the system's capacity could efficiently handle a 4.7% increase in traffic next year.

With the exception of June, ATM-related delays were less than 2min per departure, Eurocontrol reports in its annual analysis. A total of 8.47 million flights were handled in the 41 reporting European Civil Aviation Conference countries in 2003, up by 2.8% on 2002, says Eurocontrol, but ATM delays were 20% down, averaging 1.7min per departure. The busiest day on record is 12 September 2003 on which there were 28,173 flights in European airspace.

System capacity predictions on present performance suggest that the number of flights in Europe could increase 4.7%. Airports are likely to be the capacity limiters, says Eurocontrol, adding that "a particular focus for 2004 will be on assisting airports to deal with the increased demands placed on their services".

Source: Flight International