Action is urgently needed, emphasizes Michael Kerkloh, President of Airport Council International Europe, the association of European air-port operators. He urges decision makers after many years of talking to finally set the course for a sustainable future of the aviation indus-try.
If important decisions are not made swiftly, European aviation faces a mega-jam in the sky and on the ground. The victims will be the passengers, the air freight indus-try and the economy of the
European countries as a whole, the manager warns.
With his flaming appeal, the ACI Chief addresses both the responsible politicians in the 28 EU member states and the EU Commission in Brussels. He urges them to put the subject ‘future of the European air traffic scheme’ high on their agenda, in order to paving the way for improving and enlarging the ground infrastructure based on sustainable concepts and to finally create the long debated single European sky.
In his statement, the ACI Europe president who is also CEO of Munich Airport refers to official statistics.
According to data surveys, the 2017 registered number of worldwide passenger kilometers amounted to 4.1 billion - an increase of 7.1 percent over the previous year. The European share of the annual global total stood at 37 percent. By 2036 this number will double, forecasts predict, as will the cargo volume transported by air. Passenger kilometers is a measuring unit based on the number of passengers and their distance flown as are freight ton kilometers (FTK) in cargo.
Impending traffic chaos
Given this growth prediction, Kerkloh draws a gloomy picture by comparing the current ground infrastructure at most major European airports with the capacity needed to handle the upcoming traffic avalanche. Even today, most of the major gateways within the EU complain about slot restrictions, constraining further growth and causing delays at peak traffic times.
This is impairing the cargo business as well, at least those volumes transported in the lower decks of passenger jetliners.
In contrast to this, carriers operating all-cargo aircraft are facing a more comfortable situation, particularly integrators and their feeding partners, since they operate most-ly at night, not conflicting very much with passenger traffic. Having said this the ACI manager calls specifically upon the German legislator not to impose further night flight bans at airports with 24/7 operating license, such as Cologne-Bonn or Leipzig-Halle, among some others. These two hubs are vital for DHL Express (LEJ) and UPS / FedEx (CGN).
It’s a rather conservative approach, Kerkloh admits, “but more than maintaining the current operational status quo is politically not feasable in times like these.“
Cargo firms facing relocation
Having said this he emphasizes that scarce airport space will require moving consolidators and logistics providers outside the fence, providing their service in the neighborhood of airports. “The entire cargo logistics will have to shift to the vicinity of major gateways, which includes feeder traffic as well.“
Touching digitalization he stresses that analog infrastructure has got out of the focus lately but requires the same level of importance, be it state-of-the art facilities, intelligent management of real estate or when it comes to safeguarding and developing traffic routes enabling airport users and employees better connectivity.
SES is long overdue
He places another focus of his ACI presidency on the Single European Sky that needs to be realized fast in view of the predicted traffic growth, after decades of fruitless debate. Already today, the EU airspace is permanently overloaded not far from collapsing at times. “Germany alone accounts for 50 percent of all overflights in the EU, an extremely high concentration,” he states.
Since some time, 37 individual navigation service providers (ANSPs) are responsible for managing air traffic matters in the EU skies, divided into different areas of responsibility. An outdated, inefficient, environmentally unfriendly and costly “luxury,” prolonging each flight by 49 kilometers compared to direct flights enabled by a single sky scheme. In the 2012–2014 period, for example, European ANSPs missed flight efficiency targets by a whopping 45%, criticises IATA. Since then the situation has deteriorated even further. The estimated costs of fragmentation of European airspace amounts to €4 bn a year.
A scandalous waste of resources caused by enduring national selfishness and fear of change. Hopefully, ACI Europe with the support of the entire aviation industry can inject a new dynamism into this tenacious matter.