Europe-wide air traffic control strike
Jan 21st, 2014 by elisa

A Europe-wide air traffic control strike is planned for next Wednesday, which could lead to widespread flight disruption. 

The industrial action is in protest to the planned safety and savings targets of the European Commission’s Single European Sky initiative, which aims to consolidate air traffic control services across the continent.

Two organisations are staging the strikes: The Air Traffic Controllers European Unions Coordination (ATCEUC), which represents 14,000 flight overseers across 28 countries will strike on 29th January, and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) will walk out on 30th January.

Germany’s air traffic controllers are planning to strike for one hour on 29th January, in a show of support for the expected Europe-wide strike. In the UK, NATS will work as normal despite the strikes.

In a report on Air Traffic NATS chief executive, Richard Deakin, said: “NATS controllers will be working as usual in spite of the threat of industrial action in Europe. If the strikes go ahead we will work closely, as ever, with Eurocontrol and other European air navigation services to help keep people moving whenever possible.”

“We will also work with our airline and airport customers to help them manage their operations should any changes be necessary.

“Any passengers who are worried they might be affected should check with their airlines for the latest information.”

The European Commission says the Single European Sky programme will triple the region’s airspace capacity, cut costs and reduce delays.

Faster flights promised
Dec 6th, 2010 by john

Shorter, quicker and less environmentally damaging flights should be the result of a new agreement between Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland to jointly manage their air space. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has praised the European Commission for this new step towards the long-delayed Single European Sky plan.

Until now, European airspace has been divided into 27 different areas under the control of national governments. This has forced airlines to zig-zag between the different airspaces and military exclusion zones, flying longer routes than necessary, increasing emissions and costs for operators and sometimes even jeopardizing safety.

Diagram courtesy of Lufthansa

The EU ‘Single European Sky’ (SES) initiative was launched in 1999 to create a single European air navigation system by setting up nine Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs). Two have already been agreed – UK/Ireland and Denmark/Sweden – and the new central European FAB is the third and most important, as 55 per cent of all flights in Europe pass through this block.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said he hoped the new agreement will be “an inspiration for the other member states in their efforts to have all the functional airspace blocks in place by the deadline of 4 December 2012.”

The six FABs still to be set up include the ‘Blue Med’ group which will gather together Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta along with associates Tunisia, Egypt and Albania as well as Jordan and Lebanon as observers.

Despite the current financial crisis, air traffic in Europe is expected to double by 2030, increasing from the current level of 10 million flights to 20.4 million flights per year.

More ash to come?
Nov 1st, 2010 by jason

The Icelandic eruption that caused travel misery for millions of airline passengers in April could be just a hiccup compared with the potential impact of a bigger eruption, an Icelandic expert has warned.

At its peak in mid-April, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano caused the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights, affecting eight million passengers. But there could be worse to come, vulcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson told a conference to discuss how to improve coordination of the global response to another eruption. Each of the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in 920, 1612, and 1821-1823 was followed by an eruption of its larger neighbour Katla. If the same thing happens this time, Katla is likely to send up massive plumes of ash.

Nancy Graham, the director of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, called for new scientific standards to judge whether air space closure is necessary. Other speakers stressed the need for clear decision making if there is another eruption, calling for a ‘single European sky’ with air traffic in the whole of European airspace controlled by a single body.

While there isn’t much anyone can do about volcanic eruptions, it does make sense to check your travel insurance policy to see if it covers flight cancellations through volcanic activity.

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