The European Commission is proposing to modernise the management of airspace to establish more sustainable and efficient flight paths that can help reduce energy use and emissions.
It is suggesting an upgrade of the Single European Sky regulatory framework, which was launched in 2004 to reduce fragmentation of the airspace above Europe and improve the performance of air traffic management in terms of safety, capacity, cost efficiency and the environment.
The Commission proposes actions such as strengthening the European network and its management to avoid congestion and suboptimal flight routes and promoting a market for data services needed for better air traffic management.
In addition, it suggests streamlining the economic regulation of air traffic services provided on behalf of member states to stimulate greater sustainability and resilience as well as boosting better co-ordination for the development and deployment of innovative digital solutions.
The upgrade of the framework is expected to help reduce up to 10% of air transport emissions.
The Commission says not adapting air traffic control capacities would result in additional costs, delays and carbon dioxide emissions – in 2019, delays alone cost the EU €6 billion (£5.5bn) and led to 11.6 million tonnes of excess emissions.
The proposal comes as the sharp drop in air traffic caused by the coronavirus pandemic calls for greater resilience of its management by making it easier to adapt traffic capacities to demand.
Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean adds: “Planes are sometimes zig-zagging between different blocks of airspace, increasing delays and fuel consumed. An efficient air traffic management system means more direct routes and less energy used, leading to less emissions and lower costs for our airlines.
“Today’s proposal to revise the Single European Sky will not only help cut aviation emissions by up to 10% from a better management of flightpaths but also stimulate digital innovation by opening up the market for data services in the sector. With the new proposed rules, we help our aviation sector advancing on the dual and digital transitions.”
The proposal will be submitted to the Council and the Parliament for deliberations.