We’re now beginning to see a sustained return to air traffic levels not seen for more than two years, and we’re all hoping that the next few months see that continue. The latest forecasts suggest Europe’s summer traffic levels will be close to 85% of what we saw before the pandemic, with flight numbers even exceeding pre-Covid levels at certain times and in certain places. Clearly many of us are itching to reconnect with friends and family, meet business partners in person, or simply get away for a relaxing holiday in the sun.
We’re committed to safely maintaining the service levels our customers and passengers expect throughout this critical recovery period. To do that, we have been working hard with our controllers to maintain their confidence and keep their skills fresh, so they are ready for the demands of the peak periods.
Safety is always our absolute priority. We recognise that it could still take time for our controllers to fully regain the confidence of handling high levels of traffic as efficiently as they did before the pandemic. That’s compounded by routes and destinations varying as countries continue to navigate their covid-19 response, technology changes happening across Europe and, notably, wider geo-political issues which all mean aircraft aren’t following the same patterns they used to. And, of course, we’re still dealing with the impact of covid-19 and staff sickness ourselves, which means we don’t always have the level of resources we expect, sometimes at very short notice.
As the primary transatlantic gateway to Europe, it’s also vital that we work closely with Eurocontrol’s Network Management team and other Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to share information and co-ordinate our actions to help ensure the safe and smooth travel for those who are hoping to hop on a flight this summer.
Collaborating with our neighbours and the Network Manager is an everyday part of managing traffic safely and efficiently across Europe, but it takes on a new level of importance when we have unexpected or disruptive events such as bad weather or airspace closures. This summer, major technology transitions are taking place in airspace neighbouring the UK, which means we expect to see some traffic routing through our airspace that normally wouldn’t. By working together, we can help limit the disruption caused by these transitions, which are a challenging but necessary part of ensuring an efficient, non-stop air traffic control operation fit for the future in an industry that functions 24/7, 365 days a year.
Despite these challenges, we are focused on our commitment to reducing emissions. When conditions allow, we will be applying what we’ve learned during the pandemic, providing routes that are as efficient as possible for aircraft within controlled airspace, enabling continuous climbs on departure, keeping aircraft higher for longer on arrival and absorbing as much delay as possible in the cruise phase of flights rather than in stacking.
Over the coming months we look forward to supporting our operational teams and working closely with our neighbours, the Network Manager, airlines and airports with one clear goal in sight – to ensure collectively that this summer’s anticipated recovery is as successful as possible.
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