HomeInternational organizationsEUSingle European sky: airlines want to simplify communication between European countries

Single European sky: airlines want to simplify communication between European countries

A single European sky with the same rules for all countries could reduce emissions and improve the situation with flight delays. But how effective and environmentally sustainable will these changes be?

At last week’s Airlines for Europe (A4E) summit, representatives from Ryanair, Easyjet, Lufthansa, and British Airways called on the European Union to reform its airspace. In their opinion, the legislation on the “single European sky” (in English – Single European Sky, SES) would allow uniting of the airspace of the continent into several blocks, which would be controlled by groups of controllers from different countries.

The joint statement notes that after the easing of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, travel around the world has recovered, making this issue more relevant than ever. Around 30,000 flights take place daily in European airspace, making it one of the busiest airspaces in the world.

Planes fly farther than they need to

To ensure the safety of passengers, thousands of air traffic controllers are needed to monitor flights to avoid congestion in the airspace. But the current system is not efficient enough. There are national boundaries in the sky, which means that aircraft pass through approximately 27 different regional air traffic control towers in a single flight.

Fragmented airspace means that aircraft do not always fly the most efficient routes. Planes fly an average of 49 kilometers farther than they need to reach their destination, according to the European Commission.

Large areas of airspace are reserved for the use of the national military but are often empty nonetheless. Eurocontrol, the air traffic control body that coordinates European flights, calls the planned change a soft pan-European air traffic control system.

Benefits for the environment

In addition, airline representatives emphasize that the potential “Single European Sky” could lead to a reduction in flight delays and communication problems between air traffic controllers. For example, the introduction of SES could help ensure that various strikes at airports would have less impact on air traffic, since if necessary, air traffic controllers throughout Europe could come to the rescue.

According to the European Commission and the aviation sector itself, thanks to SES and the reduction of unnecessary flights and unnecessary flight time, aviation CO2 emissions can be reduced by 10% or 50 million tons.

But there is also the other side of the coin. Airlines want to harmonize the European airspace to develop and strengthen European aviation, however, as you know, the more flights, the more CO2 emissions. For example, according to the Flight Emission Map, the carbon footprint of each passenger traveling from London to New York and back is 1.48 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s more than double the CO2 emissions of the average Ghanaian for a whole year.

In a joint statement, the airlines called on other European countries to increase investment in sustainable aviation fuel.

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