European Air Traffic Control: "We have to get out of Corona mode!"

Maastricht, 28 April 2022. The air traffic controllers' union Trade Union EUROCONTROL Maastricht (TUEM) expects traffic volumes in European air traffic to increase significantly in over the summer. The union warns that some air navigation service providers in Europe are not yet prepared for this. In Eastern Europe in particular, there is a threat of flight cancellations as a result of Corona austerity measures.

"Traffic intensity in European airspace will not only return to pre-Corona levels in the coming months, but will even significantly exceed them," stressed TUEM President Stefan Pille. "Air navigation service providers therefore urgently need to get out of Corona mode and rebuild sufficient buffers to handle these traffic volumes." As a result of the Corona crisis, many European air navigation service providers had planned and in some cases implemented cost-cutting measures over the past two years.

According to the traffic data of EUROCONTROL, which controls the airspace over the Benelux countries and northwest Germany from Maastricht, regular traffic there will already in April return to the level before the outbreak of the Corona pandemic in March 2020. In addition, there are two special effects: Firstly, the war in Ukraine with changed flight routes and a significant increase in military air traffic has led to a significant increase in traffic density throughout Europe. Secondly, due to a system change in the neighbouring French sector, many alternative routes will have to be flown in the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) sector in 2022. "This is a massive increase in traffic compared to the height of the Corona pandemic, which we have to cope with," says Pille.

The union considers it positive that EUROCONTROL and many European air navigation service providers have now recognised this and have moved away from their austerity course in the wake of the Corona pandemic. Nevertheless, the consequences of the austerity measures of the last two years are particularly noticeable in Eastern Europe. Many colleagues there are currently working to the hilt. In Poland, where the fronts between air traffic control staff and employers have hardened, there is a threat of cancellations in May that would have a significant impact on air traffic throughout Europe. "European airspace is highly interconnected and the infrastructure is only as strong as the weakest link," Pille emphasised. "If a sector can no longer accept aircraft due to capacity, this leads to massive delays in the entire system. The current situation clearly shows that air traffic control is critical infrastructure that must not be tied to short-term economic fluctuations."