The deadline to create nine functional airline blocks over European airspace, a regional goal in the progress toward the Single European Sky program, has passed, and the European Commission will launch infringement procedures against states that don't have their blocks up and running.
Next spring, the government will present new accelerated measures to ensure the Single European Sky program remains on course.
According to an EU press release, the Single European Sky program will triple European airspace while cutting air traffic control costs in half. Inefficiencies in the airspace reportedly cost the European Union 5 billion euros each year. The United States, the press release states, controls the same amount of airspace, with more traffic, at half the cost. Also, where the United States has one air navigation service provider (ANSP), the European Union, due to its many border crossings, has 30. The program will also improve safety and reduce the environmental impact of aviation.
Functional airline blocks are part of the European airspace where national borders have been removed, allowing pilots to fly freely from one nation to the other more efficiently. Without these air borders, pilots can fly more direct routes. Siim Callas, vice president of the European Commission, said functional airline blocks are the cornerstone of the program.
"We will take every possible action to make the Single European Sky a reality. The costs of congestion and delays in the air are paid for on a daily basis by European citizens and business when they fly. Add to that the cost to the economy in lost efficiency and the environmental price we pay, and it is clear that the Single European Sky is too important to be allowed to fail," he said in a statement. "At a time of economic crisis, we cannot afford to live with the status quo."
The International Air Transport Association has also weighed in, pushing for compliance under the law and swift movement toward the Single European Sky.
“Whilst the FAB agreements are mostly in place, there are no signs of real consolidation or efficiencies of scale," IATA head Tony Tyler said in a statement. "EU member states have paid lip-service to European legislators and turned this key reform into an administrative box-ticking exercise and continue to operate their ANSPs in silos." - Jon Ross