The number of flights in Europe hit 34,476 on Friday 27 June, an all-time record. A previous peak for traffic was reached on 26 June this year with 33,895 flights. This is an increase of 3%, compared with the same weekend in 2007.
Despite intense efforts by EUROCONTROLs Central Flow Management Unit (CFMU) to minimise the impact of this number of flights on the network, air traffic flow management delays reached 4.9 minutes per flight on that day. Bad weather and system failures in some parts of Europe contributed to this high level of delay which was mainly attributable to air traffic control capacity. The CFMU is responsible for coordinating air traffic flows across Europe, ensuring that safety remains the key priority while minimising delays. Clearly, 4.9 minutes of delay per flight shows that the system has been stretched to its limits in terms of capacity, observed Jacques Dopagne, Director of EUROCONTROLs CFMU. The 2008 European Football Championship had the potential to impact adversely on air traffic capacity, so over the past months, the CFMU worked closely with airports and the air traffic services in Austria and Switzerland to circumvent this. To this end a key new feature was introduced which ensured that airspace users were fully aware on their airport slots in advance of the flight. This approach helped reduce delays and prevented flights from being refused landing permission at the last minute. It also allowed airlines, business aviation flights, airports and air traffic management to focus on providing a good service rather than having to cope with last-minute changes. As a result, the additional ATFM delays attributable to the football championship were only 1% of the total delays a much lower figure than would otherwise have been the case. By planning and cooperating fully with our partners, EUROCONTROL and the CFMU can do a lot to ensure that the travelling public is affected as little as possible in normal circumstances and during special events. Our aim is to make flying easier and air traffic management more effective, Jacques Dopagne added.