The European Parliament has voted in favour of proposals to reform European air traffic management (ATM), although there are plenty of battles ahead before the European Commission's (EC) single skies policy becomes a reality.

Although the proposals were passed by Parliament, they encountered opposition from a number of quarters. A French socialist parliamentary member (MEP) introduced an amendment, passed by the Parliament, that called for ancillary air traffic control services, such as weather reporting, to be protected from direct competition. The EC proposals call for such services to be opened up to competition, claiming that carriers in Europe pay 14 times more than they would in the USA for weather reports.

There was also some opposition from UK Conservative MEPs, fearing a loss of sovereignty. Parliament suggested a 10-year limit for air traffic control (ATC) service agreements, a move criticised by unions that fear it will lead to short-term investment strategies. UK ATC provider NATS was given a 30-year franchise last year when it received its mandate.

Despite these issues, with parliamentary backing Brussels is hopeful the proposals can move forward. Denmark, which holds European Union presidency until the end of the year, is keen to push ahead but faces opposition from France, Portugal and Greece.

An EC spokesman says that, although qualified majority voting means that the EC could push ahead without unanimity, it is keen to have the French on board. The Association of European Airlines, meanwhile, notes that single skies is likely to be an evolutionary process, with some member states moving faster towards reform than others.

Source: Airline Business