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Co-ordinated capacity mitigations for summer 2020

Whilst delay performance for last summer was an improvement on that seen in 2018, sub-optimal flight trajectories will again be needed in 2020 … but lessons have been learned.

ERA attended a two-day workshop at EUROCONTROL on 2021 January in order to finalise the flight planning measures needed in order to make the best use of the available capacity during the upcoming peak summer months.

The delay performance of European network during the 2019 was a marked improvement from that observed in 2018, which whilst well received by most of the airlines, came at a cost, notably in terms of operations at lower flight levels and horizontal re-routings. In total up to 1,500 flights per day were moved away from areas that were heavily constrained by a lack of capacity, whether that be due to staffing constraints or structural airspace limitations.

Sadly, these constraints are again visible to the network and thus the efforts of last year are needed to be revisited again for 2020.

The good news is that lessons have been learnt and it was pleasing to see an improved approach which should reduce the volume of measures observed in 2019. Taking the baseline of those still needed last September (AIRAC 19/10), a number of those needed in 2019 have been removed for 2020. These include raising flight levels throughout Germany which sees the volume of flights removed from Karlsruhe airspace reduced by nearly half, (circa 300 per day from in excess of 600 per day in 2019) as well as a smarter implementation schedule through the adoption of a phased approach. This means that should demand plateau or not be as expected, these measures will be removed before becoming applicable. A better use of time banding has also been adopted which again reduces the impact to airlines.

A few new measures have been required as a result of a new system implementation in Reims airspace due to training requirements. This is unfortunate, however the Network Manager (NM) will monitor this closely. Finally, fortnightly coordination calls will be held between NM and the stakeholders in order to address any shortfalls or unexpected shifts of traffic and to analyse the effectiveness of the package of measures in totality.

So, although these measures continue to be a unwanted but necessary burden, the increased focus on the trade off between delay mitigation and environmental penalty has been explored to far better level of granularity than before.

We can only hope the structural airspace changes and pipeline of air traffic controllers coming into the system will result in airlines seeing a significant reduction in these measures as we move forward into 2021 and beyond.