Over 1 million flights in July but traffic affected by Europe’s extreme weather
- Brussels, Belgium.
July 2023 saw traffic 7% up on average compared with July 2022, with total flights in the month exceeding 1 million for the first time since September 2019. In fact, in around half of EUROCONTROL’s Member States, traffic levels are at or above those of July 2019 – particularly in south-east Europe.
Europe experienced extreme weather in July and the weather-related ATFM delay during this month was over two and a half times the 2022 figure. The main impact has come from convective weather (thunderstorms etc.), notably in Germany, Hungary and Serbia. At airports, the largest weather delays have been at Frankfurt, Gatwick and Munich.
Overall, without the weather element, ATFM delays per flight reduced by nearly a quarter to 2.5 minutes per flight (despite traffic growing 7%). When the impact of the adverse weather is included, they increased marginally from 3.9 to 4.1 minutes per flight.
ATFM delays make up only a small part of the total delays experienced by the passenger. Looking at overall punctuality (which also reflects reactionary (knock-on) delays, airline scheduling delays and delays on the ground), this was slightly better than in July 2022, despite more traffic and the impact of adverse weather – albeit still below the 2019 level.
The improvements in Network performance in July show that close cooperation between all operational partners is delivering good results. Looking to August, EUROCONTROL will continue to do its utmost in full partnership with operational stakeholders to minimise delays and improve overall punctuality.
EUROCONTROL has been working closely since September 2022 with airlines, ANSPs, the military and airports as it was clear that summer 2023 would be very complex to manage due to a combination of factors. These include a significant increase in the number of flights, up to 20% less airspace available as a result of the war in Ukraine, more structural volatility and potential disruptions, such as weather.
A series of actions were identified by EUROCONTROL together with the airlines, air navigation service providers, military, and airports to address the challenges. These include:
Prioritising First Rotation
Flight Plan Adherence
Realistic schedules, including turnaround times
Delivering agreed capacities
These actions have played a major role in ensuring that the European air traffic network has delivered a strong performance so far this summer.
EUROCONTROL also works with meteorological organisations and stakeholders to minimise weather-related delays using a cross-border, collaborative decision-making approach to reduce the overall network impact of bad weather – including targeted teleconferences focused on practical responses to anticipated weather events.
The EUROCONTROL Network Operations Plan, which is a weekly rolling seasonal assessment of the situation in the network and how it is being addressed identifies some areas where available capacity is currently below anticipated demand. This is done to allow operational stakeholders in those areas to make the necessary adjustments to try to address any shortfall. It is not a predictor of specific delays in those areas.
In July 2023:
There were 1,018,890 flights overall in the European network compared to 951,099 in July 2022, an increase of 7%.
ATFM delays per flight have increased by 6% compared to July 2022. This rise was as a result of an increase in weather delay per flight – from 0.7 minutes to 1.7 minutes.
ATFM delays were 4.1 minutes per flight in July 2023.
Comparing July 2023 with July 2019, total ATFM delays were down by 4%.
Arrival punctuality (within 15 minutes of scheduled time) – which reflects all causes of delay, not just ATFM – was two percentage points better than in 2022 (at 63.6%) but lower than in 2019.
In June 2023, there was a major military exercise that took place in the core area of Europe. This was successfully managed with delays to civilian traffic below predictions as a result of pro-active actions by all stakeholders. Only 12,474 flights were directly delayed out of total 293,928 flights (4% of total flights).