05 April 2019 (Brussels) — The weakest levels of ambition in the history of the Single
European Sky (SES) Performance and Charging scheme were approved by EU member states
this week. These performance targets will reward poorly performing Air Navigation Service
Providers (ANSPs) whilst frustrating those who are already delivering. They will not
incentivise the performance improvements the European airspace network desperately
needs, nor will they support the delivery of the Single European Sky benefits. Combined
with outdated staffing practices which do not provide the required resource levels in peak
periods – for example when European citizens and passengers go on holiday – it becomes
evident that real reform of this sector is urgently needed.
The European Commission (EC) recently commissioned an academic study to benchmark
the performance of air navigation service providers (ANSPs). The study conservatively
estimated EU-wide cost-inefficiencies in the range of 25-30%, due to ANSPs’ poor
performance. The latest performance targets (the so-called “reference period 3, (RP3)
targets”) will do little to address these inefficiencies. In fact, they will make a situation which
allowed ANSPs to generate €1.3bn in surplus (over the past 10 years) on top of their
regulated profits, even worse.
The current underspending by ANSPs on planned capital investments and staffing – already
paid for by airspace users and their passengers – should not continue to be rewarded. In
2018, this contributed to delays of more than 19 million minutes — 105% more than in 2017.
Appeasing key members states rather than challenging them on their lacklustre
performance will further burden airspace users and passengers with rising costs, even more
delays and unnecessary additional CO2 emissions.
In short, the agreed proposal waters down the current situation and exacerbates the
potential for further delays when RP3 begins in 2020. Despite investment recouped from
airspace users and their customers over the last decade – much-needed capacity has yet to
Moving forward, every participant in the target setting process needs to ensure that
national performance targets will challenge ANSPs to deliver consistent improvements or
face financial penalties. Airspace users remain committed in their support towards the
European Commission’s DG MOVE, the Performance Review Board (PRB), States and ANSPs
to identify and set ambitious targets which would enable aviation to deliver higher levels of
efficiency and thus ensure that flying remains the safest and most economical way to travel
for years to come.