Europe lagging in bid to streamline air traffic: EU

25th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The European Commission told Britain, France and Germany on Friday they were falling behind in efforts to create a pan-European airspace that would cut costs and reduce flight delays.

Austria and Spain, two other big aviation hubs, were also singled out by the EU's executive arm as laggards in efforts to create a "Single European Sky" across the continent to replace the patchwork system of airspaces.

A progress report "set alarm bells ringing" because it showed that Europe could miss its goal of creating a European air traffic management system by 2030, the commission said.

"There is a genuine risk that we will lag behind and find ourselves unable to satisfy the rising demands of air travel, which is set to nearly double by 2030," said EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas.

"There is a lot at stake. Reducing air traffic costs and delays is worth billions of euros. If member states don't deliver, then passengers, businesses and the European economy all suffer," Kallas said, warning that 2012 would be a "make or break year."

Only five nations -- Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the Netherlands -- are on track to meet targets of cutting costs and improving flight capacity.

Britain, France, Germany, Austria and Spain are falling behind. The remaining 17 EU nations are on track to meet only one of the two goals.

The commission warned that the EU risks losing out on projected savings of 1.2 billion euros by 2014.

The EU could triple its airspace capacity, improve safety tenfold, slash pollution by 10 percent and reduce air traffic management costs by 50 percent if it succeeded in modernising the system, the commission said.

"For passengers and businesses there would be big improvements, shorter flight times, less delays and cheaper tickets. But our plans to modernise Europe's air traffic control are falling behind," Kallas said.

The European airline industry complained that the fragmented air traffic management system was having an "enormous detrimental impact" on airlines, passengers and the environments "in terms of time, fuel burn and money."

"Airlines need urgent deliverables. Member States must stop procrastinating and make progress towards a genuine Single European Sky," said Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, secretary general of the Association of European Airlines.

© 2011 AFP

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