A new integrated operations room at Eurocontrol's central flow management unit (CFMU) will enable collaborative decision-making to become progressively more the unit's way of doing business, according to the agency.
Eurocontrol director general Victor Aguado describes the CFMU as "a cornerstone of the Single European Sky (SES)" that is fully operational now, while most of the SES programme is still just a list of objectives.
The CFMU's task remains that of recognising where congestion is going to occur and ensuring traffic is rerouted or rescheduled accordingly, so the system avoids overload, delay or logjam.
When the unit was originally set up in 1995 it used to impose solutions on the airlines, Aguado explains.
Now, however, it works directly with carriers and air navigation service providers to work out the optimum solution considering the needs of all the parties involved as well as the system as a whole, explains Eurocontrol's head of operational training and competency Kenneth Thomas.
At the 3 July inauguration of the control room at the Brussels-based CFMU, the Association of European Airlines' chairman Fernando Conte said: "The role of a collaborative decision-making authority is definitely the kind of role we would like to see the CFMU endorse for the future for the benefit of all."
Conte slated the "fragmented" and thus inefficient way European air traffic systems operate.
By contrast, Aguado pointed out that without its work ATM-caused delays would be three times what they are today, claiming that would add Euros 1.5 billion ($2 billion) to the airlines' annual costs.
When the CFMU first started operating it just allocated take-off slots and imposed restrictions when traffic exceeded capacity. Now, says Aguado, the CFMU enables the total system to handle an additional 10,000 flights a day through efficient strategic planning and tactical collaborative decision-making.
The CFMU's initial flight plan system also now provides an automatic Europe-wide alerting service in case an aircraft or airline which has been banned for safety reasons tries to enter European airspace.