Route alterations after the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 resulted in sharp drop in flights over Ukraine and Moldova last year, but without any adverse effects on delays in neighbouring states.
Analysis of European air traffic management performance last year shows that Ukrainian traffic fell by nearly 37% and traffic over Moldova was down by more than 24%.
These figures equated to some 500 fewer daily flights than in 2013.
Re-routing to avoid Ukrainian airspace closures and the conflict zone near the Russian border resulted in Bulgarian traffic rising by 24%.
Similarly traffic increased by more than 16% in Romania, over 11% in Hungary and Turkey, and nearly 10% in Slovakia.
These rises were “far beyond” forecast levels, says Eurocontrol’s Performance Review Commission, but the burden was “accommodated without noteworthy delays”.
The crisis in Ukraine – resulting in the shutting of the Simferopol and Dnipropetrovsk flight information regions – primarily affected traffic flows from north-west Europe to Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern destinations, as well as flows from Russia to Egypt.
En route delays across Europe averaged 0.61min per flight in 2014, a deterioration on the 0.53min achieved in the previous year.
Eurocontrol identifies eight air traffic centres – located in Nicosia, Warsaw, Lisbon, Athens, Reims, Brest, Marseille and the Canary Islands – as the primary source of constraints. It states that they collectively accounted for nearly 55% of all en route delays despite controlling less than 18% of the flight hours.
European flights increased by 1.7% last year following a decline over 2011-13 and Eurocontrol expects a further rise of 1.5% this year.
But it adds that there were 3 million fewer flights last year than had been predicted before the economic crisis of 2008.
“There has been a continuous increase in average aircraft size and passenger numbers during the period which suggests that airlines responded to the [economic] crisis with a reduction in the number of services but with, on average, larger aircraft,” says the analysis.