Experts set high level goals for Europe

Shared upper airspace with common route charging will in future help deliver the shortest routes possible for airlines and avoid prolonging flights unnecessarily, according to new recommendations from high level aviation experts.

The so-called ‘wise persons group’ was set up by the European Commission to consider developments in European aviation, listen to the views of air traffic management stakeholders and produce proposals on the future direction of air traffic management in Europe.

Industry Reaction To The Wise Persons Group Report

The report comes at a time when the industry is struggling to match demand with sufficient capacity – especially in the peak summer period. In 2018 there were over 11 million flights in the European network and delays per flight doubled compared to 2017. Forecasts predict that in Europe by 2040 1.5 million flights may not be accommodated due to capacity constraints meaning that 160 million passengers will not be able to fly.

“Delays are due to problems such as underinvestment in some area control centres, which impact the entire network,” reported the Commission.

The report of the wise persons group includes 10 recommendations on how to make the European air traffic management system more efficient, flexible and sustainable in the future, including:

Short-term measures – over the next two years

  • continue with airspace restructuring measures examined in a study carried out by the Network Manager and SESAR Joint Undertaking (Airspace Architecture Study) to increase collaboration across national borders and to make better use of modern digital data, automation and communications technologies.
  • accelerate the deployment of state of the art technologies.
  • the group fully supports the short term measures starting on 25 April to minimise air traffic flow management delays which the Network Manager (EUROCONTROL) is working on together with the aviation sector.

Long-term solutions

  • an increased role of the Network Manager to make sure all air traffic managers act in the common European interest
  • improve the link between the quality of air traffic service and the price paid by those who fly i.e. organisations to put in place innovative solutions early should be rewarded.
  • upgrading the role of air traffic controllers with better support by technology, and improving synergies with military air traffic managers.
  • establish a European (Upper) Airspace System with a common route charging system to stimulate the use of the shortest routes and to avoid prolonging flights due to congestion, and consequently deliver benefits for the environment.

Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “Due to the growth of air traffic forecasts, we can expect further delays for air passengers too. That is unacceptable. We urgently need to deploy environmentally friendly solutions that allow for more flexibility, scalability and resilience. I am inviting member states, the European Parliament and the aviation community to consider the recommendations released today. We know what to do, now we need common and coordinated efforts to help make the European air traffic management system more efficient, flexible and sustainable in the future.”

Welcoming the report, Irish carrier Ryanair called on the European Commission and national governments to quickly confirm a set of new regulations to implement the recommendations.

“The Single Market in aviation is the best thing the EU has done for its citizens but aviation will go backwards unless ATC is reformed,” it said, adding that airlines were doing everything possible to protect passengers from another year of record delays and cancellations due to the ATC crisis in Europe.

The high-level recommendations will now be discussed with the European industry in the coming months. Measures will also be addressed by European transport ministers during the June Transport Council. On 12 September, the Commission is also organising, together with the Finnish Presidency, a high level conference with the aviation community to commit to the implementation of the future European air traffic management.


European Commission Wise Persons Group on European Air Traffic Control Recommendations for a network-centric approach

Recommendation 1: Confirm and strengthen EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager (NM) role by providing it with the necessary executive powers to manage the ATM network, including by managing European capacity and infrastructure based on standardised technology, while ensuring a clear division of responsibilities between the NM and ANSPs.

Recommendation 2: Fully integrate airports into the network on the basis of linking the Network Operations Plan (NOP) and Airport Operation Plans (AOP), using extensive collaborative decision making (CDM).


Recommendation 3: Implement a Digital European Sky based on an agreed roadmap building on the recommendations described in the AAS, managed by the infrastructure manager, ensuring resilience of the system.

Recommendation 4: Create a new market for ATM data service providers as recommended by AAS.

Recommendation 5: Use the performance and charging scheme to support the digitalisation of air traffic services, and public funding to support deployment only where necessary from a network perspective.


Recommendation 6: Facilitate the transition towards the Digital European Sky by reviewing current licensing and training requirements for ATCOs, with full involvement of staff representatives.


Recommendation 7: Simplify and strengthen economic regulation, while relying on a market-driven approach wherever possible.

Recommendation 8: Establish a strong, independent and technically competent economic regulator at European level.

Recommendation 9: Establish a Seamless European (Upper) Airspace System including a common route charge.

Recommendation 10: Encourage airports to procure tower services through competitive tender or contract, where operationally feasible and positively impacting users.