Shortcutting flight routes will make travel faster and cheaper

In 2019, delays alone cost the EU €6bn and led to 11.6Mt of excess CO2

Photo: EU Adina Vălean.

The Commission on Tuesday made an ambitious move that can shrink up to 10% of air transport emissions, putting forward a proposal to reform the Single European Sky initiative. It concretely deals with modernising the management of European airspace and shortcutting flightpaths. 

Introducing new actions for adapting air traffic control capacities will allow reducing additional costs, delays and CO2 emissions. In 2019, an overcrowded year concerning the air traffic, delays alone caused damages of €6bn and contributed to 11.6 million tonnes of excess CO2. Obliging pilots to fly in congested airspace rather than taking a direct flight path or using longer routes to avoid charging zones with higher rates entails unnecessary CO2 emissions, compared to optimal routes.

The proposed reform will lead to better flight efficiency, which will reduce CO2 emissions during practically all flight phases, for example by implementing a continuous descent approach, enabling direct routing.

Due to the pandemic, 2020 brought to collapse the air travel, as Adina Vălean, EU Commissioner for Transport, underlined saying that the EU needs an airspace that can handle both extremes. The proposal pushes for greater resilience of the air traffic management in the EU, adapting traffic capacities to demand.

Planes are sometimes zig-zagging between different blocks of airspace, increasing delays and fuel consumed, Commissioner Vălean, stressed pointing out that an efficient air traffic management system means more direct routes and less energy used, leading to less emissions and lower costs for our airlines. According to her, the proposal to revise the Single European Sky will not only help cut aviation emissions through better management of flight paths, but also stimulate digital innovation by opening up the market for data services in the sector. With the new proposed rules we help our aviation sector advancing on the dual green and digital transitions.

Digitalisation and decarbonisation of transport is in the forefront of EU aviation policy, with the European Green Deal, and the new technological developments such as drones as main drivers for this shift. Cutting emissions remains a major challenge for aviation and the Single European Sky clears the way for an effectively used and modernised European airspace.

It ensures collaborative network management that allows airspace users to fly environmentally-optimal routes. And it will allow digital services which do not necessarily require the presence of local infrastructure.

Strengthening the European network and its management to avoid congestion and suboptimal flight routes is among the suggested actions that should make air traffic management services safer and cheaper.

The Commission also proposes promoting a European market for data services needed for a better air traffic management and  streamlining the economic regulation of air traffic services provided on behalf of Member States to stimulate greater sustainability and resilience. Boosting better coordination for the definition, development and deployment of innovative solutions, is also in this line.

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