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EUROCONTROL Traffic: Recovery, Despite the Weather

As EUROCONTROL reports, aviation’s Summer of Recovery was impacted by weather, but there are clear signs of a return to something akin to normalcy.

EUROCONTROL updates on Air Traffic Management in Europe for July 2023.

July’s traffic surged by 7% on average compared to July 2022, with the total number of flights for the month surpassing 1 million for the first time since September 2019. It’s worth noting that roughly half of the EUROCONTROL Member States reported traffic volumes at par with or exceeding those of July 2019, especially in the South-Eastern European region. 

July also witnessed extreme weather conditions across Europe. Storms caused weather-related ATFM (Air Traffic Management) delay that was more than double the figure of 2022. The primary culprits were convective weather events, such as thunderstorms, which had a prominent presence in Germany, Hungary, and Serbia. The airports that faced the brunt of these weather-induced delays included Frankfurt, Gatwick, and Munich. 

However, it’s important to note that excluding weather factors, ATFM delays per flight diminished by almost 25% to 2.5 minutes per flight, even with a 7% increase in traffic. Including the impact of unfavorable weather, these delays experienced a slight rise from 3.9 to 4.1 minutes per flight. 

ATFM delays contribute to only a small fraction of passengers’ total delays. Considering overall punctuality—which encompasses reactionary (knock-on) delays, airline scheduling delays, and ground delays—there was a slight improvement compared to July 2022. That is despite increased traffic and adverse weather conditions. However, it still fell short of the 2019 standards. 

The enhancements seen in the Network’s performance throughout July demonstrate the power of close collaboration between all operational partners. Looking ahead to August, EUROCONTROL is committed to maximizing its efforts with operational stakeholders to curtail delays and enhance overall punctuality.

Flying over storms in Europe © FCMedia 2016
Flying over storms in Europe © FCMedia 2016

Preparedness: Managing the Situation in the Skies Over Europe

Back in September 2022, EUROCONTROL formed alliances with airlines, ANSPs, the military, and airports to address pressing problems in airspace management. The foresight was clear: Summer 2023 would pose intricate challenges due to an amalgamation of circumstances. These included a notable increase in flight numbers, a reduction of up to 20% in available airspace due to the Ukraine conflict, increased structural volatility, and potential disruptions, including weather events. 

Together with its partners, EUROCONTROL identified a series of measures to tackle these challenges, including: 

  • First Rotation Prioritization
  • Strict Adherence to Flight Plans
  • Establishing Feasible Schedules, including Turnaround Times
  • Ensuring Delivery of Agreed Capacities

These proactive steps have been instrumental in maintaining a robust performance of the European air traffic network throughout this summer, EUROCONTROL states. 

Moreover, EUROCONTROL has collaborated with meteorological organizations and stakeholders to mitigate weather-induced delays. This joint decision-making approach, which transcends borders, aims to minimize the overall network impact of adverse weather conditions. This includes conducting targeted teleconferences to devise practical responses to predicted weather incidents. 

The EUROCONTROL Network Operations Plan, a constantly updated seasonal appraisal of the network situation, pinpoints areas where the available capacity falls short of the projected demand. This allows operational stakeholders in those areas to make the necessary adjustments to address any shortfall. However, it’s worth noting that this is not a tool for predicting specific delays in those areas.

Key Insights from EUROCONTROL’s July 2023 European Air Traffic Management Report

Let’s delve into European Air Traffic Management’s KPIs (key performance indicators) for July 2023: 

  • There was a noteworthy uptick in overall flights within the European network – a total of 1,018,890 flights. This represents a 7% increase from the 951,099 flights recorded in July 2022.
  • ATFM (Air Traffic Flow Management) delays per flight saw a 6% increase compared to July 2022. This rise can be attributed to a surge in weather-related delays per flight, escalating from 0.7 minutes to a substantial 1.7 minutes.
  • In terms of ATFM delays, July 2023 clocked an average of 4.1 minutes per flight.
  • When compared with July 2019, total ATFM delays in July 2023 were down by 4%, indicating a marked improvement.
  • Arrival punctuality, covering all causes of delay and not just ATFM, was two percentage points higher than in 2022, at 63.6%. However, this figure was still lower than the one recorded in 2019.

In June 2023, the core area of Europe played host to a significant military exercise. Impressively, through proactive measures from all stakeholders, delays to civilian traffic were kept below predictions. Out of a total of 293,928 flights, only 12,474 flights (representing a mere 4% of total flights) were directly affected by delays.

Network in July
 201920222023Change from 2022 to 2023Change from 2019 to 2023
Traffic1,093,734951,0991,018,890+7%-7%
Air Traffic Flow Management delay (minutes)4,393,3493,707,0314,221,925+14%-4%
ATFM delay/flight4.0 mins3.9 mins4.1 mins+6%+3%
ATFM delay/flight without weather2.7 mins3.2 mins2.5 mins-23%-10%
ATFM weather delay/flight1.3 mins0.7 mins1.7 mins+153%+30%
Arrival punctuality72.3%61.6%63.6%+2.0 pp-8.7 pp
Source: EUROCONTROL

ABOUT EUROCONTROL 

As a pan-European civil-military organization, EUROCONTROL is the driving force behind supporting the European aviation industry. Serving as Europe’s Network Manager, they employ their technical capabilities to provide reliable support to Member States and an array of aviation stakeholders. This diverse group includes air navigation service providers, civil and military airspace users, as well as airports, and aircraft/equipment manufacturers. 

EUROCONTROL works towards fortifying the European aviation landscape by focusing on safety, efficiency, scalability, cost-effectiveness, and environmental sustainability. Their collaboration with the European Union is a testament to this commitment, as they strive to bring the vision of a Single European Sky to fruition.

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