We have just published the results of our annual customer survey where airlines from across the world get their chance to review the service they’ve receive from NATS over the past 12 months.

A total of 31 airlines took part, all measuring our performance based on a variety of measures, including safety, operational performance and value.

Overall we secured a score of 8.45 out of 10. That’s our highest ever rating, with the airlines pointing to our approach to safety as well as the efforts we’ve gone to  reduce the environmental impact of aviation while also helping to cut fuel costs. Of course it’s never right to be complacent and there are many areas where we can still improve, but nonetheless it’s a good result.

Safety is always our top priority, followed closely by operational performance, so two statistics from last year were especially pleasing. Operational Delays attributable to NATS were just 2.4 seconds per-flight in 2015, which is less than a tenth of the European average, while NATS was also not responsible for a single risk-bearing Airprox.

Edinburgh Airport Tower

Interestingly the report also highlights the rise of drones, with drone related safety incidents rising from 41 to 66 during the period. It’s a sure sign of the need for the industry to come together to see how this exciting technology can be safely integrated through a combination of better education for drone pilots, regulation and technology. That’s especially true in light of the incident at Heathrow.

The year also saw the achievement of a number of technology milestones. The introduction of Time Based Separation for Heathrow arrivals has cut headwind delays by more than 60%, while the implementation of Cross Border Arrivals Management, which entered full operational service in October, is now saving up to a minute’s holding time. The first phase of Reduced Lateral Separation for aircraft flying over the North Atlantic has also increased airspace capacity and efficiency.

But as I’ve said, there were still areas where we can and need to improve. A clear and understandable focus was put on operational costs, something that we’re very aware of right across the business and NATS is committed to delivering a 21% real terms price reduction for our airline customers by 2019. We’re now also saving over 1.1 million tonnes of aviation-related CO2 each year, something that’s the equivalent of more than £109m in enabled fuel savings.

Where the airlines expressed clear frustration was around the lack of progress in modernising the UK’s aging airspace structures, with questions being raised about the level of Government commitment to what will increasingly become a pressing issue over the coming years as traffic grows.

This is absolutely a concern that we share, with our own estimates showing that without wholesale airspace modernisation by 2030 the resulting delays would cost the airlines over £1bn. Earlier this year saw the introduction of some airspace changes through the London Airspace Management Programme, but much more will be required over the coming years to meet this challenge.

This summer is set to be the busiest on record in the south east of England and airspace change is an absolutely vital issue for the future health of the UK economy and will require strong, cross-industry support to help make the case over the coming months and years.


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