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EU ATM RP3 performance targets weakened

The European Union Air Traffic Management performance targets which have been agreed by member states in this week’s Single Sky Committee meeting for Reference Period 3 (RP3) of the Single European Sky which covers the period 2020–2024 will not incentivise the performance improvements the European airspace network desperately needs, nor enable the delivery of the Single European Sky. The airline community is outraged that the misery of increasing delays for passengers will continue for the next five years on the basis that the member states have accepted Air Traffic Management (ATM) performance targets at lower levels of ambition than have been set for nearly a decade.

The European ATM system is already creaking from a lack of capacity, growing delays, increased emissions, and excessive costs. Much of this situation has been generated by ANSPs electing to underspend on planned and paid for capital investments and staff whilst generating an additional €1.3bn surplus in excess of the regulated surplus, i.e. 8.7 per cent actual versus the 4.5 per cent planned for 2012–2017. The airline community is dismayed by the current behaviour of monopoly ANSPs seeking profits over performance.

When matched with outdated staffing practices, such as reducing staff levels during the summer peak period just as European citizens and passengers go on holiday, it is evident that real reform of this sector is urgently needed.

The agreed proposal fails to address that much needed capacity, already paid for by airlines, has not been delivered by ANSPs. In 2018 delays amounted to more than 19 million minutes, 105 per cent more than in 2017. The average en route delay per flight was 1.73 minutes, more than three times the target. Despite this the EC and member states have agreed even weaker targets.  Loosening the delay target, even on an interim basis, rewards non-performing ANSPs and undermines those ANSPs that have delivered performance to date.

The European Commission (EC) recently commissioned an academic study on benchmarking of ANSPs. This study conservatively estimated EU-wide cost inefficiencies in the range of 25 per cent to 30 per cent. Yet the EC have not followed their own academic recommendations to address this cost inefficiency. The targets lack ambition and will do little to address the excessive profits achieved by many ANSPs during the past 10 years. In short, the result of the EC’s approach to appease key member states on RP3 will further burden airlines and passengers with rising costs, delays and emissions.

For more information, please contact russell.dudley@eraa.org