Europe battles with flight capacity, warns of delays

The first five months of 2018 have seen a 3,4% increase in European flight traffic compared to the same period last year, resulting in a “dramatic” increase in delays, according to Eamonn Brennan, dg of Eurocontrol (The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation) 55% of the increase in delays has been attributed to staffing/capacity issues, notably in Germany, France and the Low Countries.

Brennan said, “Europe is already struggling to cope with the levels of traffic this year. Our most likely scenario predicts a growth in flights of 1.9% a year between now and 2040. On our most likely scenario, there won’t be enough capacity for approximately 1.5 million flights or 160 million passengers in 2040.”

Many airports will become “much busier”, with “higher delays”, according to Eurocontrol’s latest Challenges of Growth study. It estimates that by 2040, 16 airports will be highly congested operating at close to capacity for much of the day (up from six airports today). “As a result of this congestion, the number of passengers delayed by one to two hours will grow from around 50 000 each day (at present) to around 470 000 a day in 2040.”

The study adds that the UK, Turkey, France and Germany will each see more than three additional flights per day. “Even though airports are expanding their capacity plans, with the top 20 airports planning to add 2.4 million runway movements, this will not be enough. On the most likely scenario, 1.5 million flights – 160 million passengers – will be unable to fly by 2040.”

Brennan said, “This kind of report is crucial for policymakers as they prepare for the future. Clearly, this is a long-term forecast so we do have time to address the issues it raises, but providing more capacity, and especially on this scale, requires long-term planning.”