The latest in a long series of calls for improved air traffic management (ATM) in Europe has come from Airlines for Europe (A4E), whose 15 members account for 70% of the continent’s air travel.

The CEOs of A4E’s members met in Brussels Nov. 6 and expressed exasperation. After a summer marked by “unacceptable delays,” they are urging the European Union (EU) to “take immediate action to remove European airspace inefficiencies.”

Three other organizations—the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization, the European Business Aviation Association and European ATM organization Eurocontrol—signed A4E’s “Efficient Airspace Declaration.” The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations welcomed the “collaborative approach.”

En route delays, measured by Eurocontrol at 9.32 million minutes last year, are set to increase by 50% in 2018, A4E said.

“The reputation of Europe is at stake. Reform of EU airspace must be a top priority for the next European Commission [EC] and all involved national bodies,” A4E MD Thomas Reynaert said. The EC’s current term ends Oct. 31, 2019.

A4E and the other signatories pledged that projects on airspace architecture will be launched early next year. They said they will ensure Eurocontrol’s Network Manager, which looks at all operations in Europe, implements a coordinated approach. They also promise the Network Manager will define and implement measures to reach “sufficient capacity in 2019.”

The Seamless European Sky A4E envisions looks like the Single European Sky concept the EC has yet to make happen. Both aim at defining Europe’s airspace by other than national borders. Progress has been impeded by some member states who see sovereignty and overflight fees as priorities.

Working with airlines and air navigation service providers (ANSPs), Eurocontrol is targeting “quick-win” action.

“It’s really essential that all parties work together over the coming months in order to minimize potential delays next summer,” Eurocontrol DG Eamonn Brennan said.

According to Eurocontrol's statistics, however, only 5.3% of flights in the Eurocontrol area were slowed by en route air traffic flow management delays.

Recently, the A6 Alliance, an association of 18 national ANSPs in Europe, and Eurocontrol launched a joint initiative to establish a shared data-exchange infrastructure.

A4E’s move differs from the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) approach. A year ago, IATA began signing agreements with national ANSPs to advance ATM modernization in Europe. The strategy includes bypassing the EC.

 Thierry Dubois, thierry.dubois@aviationweek.com