German ATC strikes capacity, stabilisation pact

DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung and German ATC union GdF have agreed on a comprehensive set of measures to help improve punctuality in German air traffic.

These measures include creating incentives for air traffic controllers to work voluntary additional shifts and retire from operational service later than currently set out in collective agreements. In addition, DFS has pledged to expand the training initiative it launched in 2019.

Last year, DFS was unprepared for the unexpectedly strong growth in air traffic which caused problems across Europe during the main summer holiday season with flights cancelled or delayed throughout Europe. At peak times, bottlenecks also occurred in parts of Germany, which is the busiest airspace in Europe with 3.4 million flight movements per year.

To help improve punctuality, DFS and the air navigation services union (GdF) have agreed on what they are calling a comprehensive set of measures. In particular, three measures are intended to help increase capacity in the short term and secure it in the long term: the option to work voluntary additional shifts for operational staff, incentives to remain in operational service for a longer time and a training initiative over several years.

“With these measures, we are making a contribution to improving the current situation in the air and ensuring that passengers reach their destination on time,” said CEO Klaus-Dieter Scheurle.

Since 1 June, operational staff have been able to take on voluntary shifts in addition to their normal working hours in return for additional compensation. This applies not only to air traffic controllers but also to other operational staff such as flight data assistants or technicians. To create a financial incentive for operational staff to work additional hours, the collectively agreed overtime supplements have been increased. DFS and GdF are working in implementing these arrangements into the relevant collective agreements in the coming weeks.

In addition, the collective bargaining partners have agreed on incentives for controllers to remain in operational service for a longer period of time, that is, until they reach the age of 57. Up to now, most controllers work in operations up to a maximum age of 55.

Furthermore, to make sure there are enough air traffic controllers in the long term, DFS has launched a training initiative. A total of 122 young people will start training as air traffic controllers in 2019. This number will increase to 146 in 2020. DFS and GdF have agreed to keep his maximum number of trainees until the end of 2023.

DFS had already implemented a number of measures to improve punctuality. One measure was to change flight profiles. Together with the control centres of the neighbouring countries, flights on busy routes have been transferred to other flight levels to free up congested upper airspace. The proportion of delays attributable to air navigation services in Europe was approximately one quarter in 2018. In April 2019, this figure fell to just under one-fifth.