Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here. Air Traffic Management (ATM) is one of the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today. It is vital that airlines work with our Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) partners to deliver a better service to passengers. So I have looked forward to the opportunity to address the CANSO membership.
Commercial air transport is in good shape. Passenger traffic for 2017 is up 8% to date. Even cargo is beginning to realize some green shoots of recovery. And that is supporting sustainable profits at the industry level.
But underneath, there is a looming crisis. The global ATM system is struggling to cope with today’s operations. And passenger demand will double in two decades. Even allowing for larger planes and improving load factors, that is going to result in nearly double the number of aircraft movements. Therefore, fixing today’s struggles is urgent, or tomorrow’s problems will be insurmountable.
We must do that with the understanding that a fully-optimized air navigation network is essential. And we have to work hand-in-hand so that air navigation investments deliver needed capacity, meet customer needs for quality and are affordable.
I will leave that thought – “affordability” – hanging in the air. There are many parts of the world where we believe the costs of air navigation services (ANS) are too high. But I will not bore you by listing examples. Let me simply say that we expect, and our passengers expect, air navigation charges to be reasonable and affordable.
We also expect our infrastructure partners to have a similar ruthless focus on delivering more for less, a requirement that airlines, in a competitive marketplace, need to deliver every day.
Service disruption has increased dramatically in recent years
Along with affordability, ANS services need to meet customer expectations on quality. Airlines must deliver quality services to their customers. If we do not, our customers, often through social media, quickly let the whole world know about it!
What does quality service mean in the context of ANS?
Consistency and reliability are the hallmarks of quality services. And since we are here in Europe, I’d like to spend the first part of my remarks focusing on the concerns I am sure we all share over the reliability of services on this continent. Quite frankly, it is the biggest problem child of the industry.
To be blunt, the present situation in Europe is not acceptable. Last year, more than 1.3 million minutes of delays due to strikes and system failures were clocked up.
Air traffic controllers do a very demanding job and everyone who flies should be grateful for their proficiency and dedication. But like all professions, the world evolves, technology improves and the work environment changes. Even if you believe that strikes for essential ATM services are acceptable, the scale of strikes in Europe is completely disproportionate to the modest reforms being proposed. I’m French so I speak from a great deal of very unfortunate experience. A minority of militants is damaging the reputation of the profession. And they damage the economy for everyone else.
In that context, we welcome the guidelines announced last week by the Commission on the rules regarding Public Service Obligations, and best practice on service continuity. We hope this will encourage states to take steps to guarantee connectivity and minimize disruption.
Another aspect of quality is resilience. We accept that no system is ever 100% perfect, but it is frustrating when 25% of the money paid in recent years by the airlines for modernizing European ATM infrastructure was used for other purposes. It is particularly galling when, if the infrastructure fails, the airlines pay again by having flights canceled, delayed and re-routed.
Inefficiencies impact environmental performance
Despite some improvements, Europe’s ANSPs missed the agreed flight efficiency target for the 2012-2014 period by 45%, and the performance has deteriorated further since then.
The prize of emissions reductions is particularly important in the context of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which was agreed at ICAO in October 2016. The scheme is a major step towards achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020. And as you all know, the industry—including ANSPs—is committed to going much further and cutting emissions 50% by 2050, compared to 2005. To achieve that, every excess tonne of carbon must be eliminated. Air traffic management has an opportunity to make a genuine difference, by creating shorter routes and more efficient arrival and departure paths.
SES is the big prize
These issues around delays and inefficiency are a symptom of wider failings in the air navigation system. European airspace is fragmented and there is a lack of strategic planning.
I have just returned from Mexico where we held our Annual General Meeting. The last time we were there was in 1994. At that time only 1% of the world’s information flowed through the internet, smart phones were not even a dream, and the fax machine was the state of the art in transmitting documents.
It was also the year when my predecessor twice removed presented a plan for a Single European Sky to the AGM. To say the least, the world has moved much faster than ATM reform in Europe!
You don’t need me to repeat the dissatisfaction of your customers with this state of affairs. You have heard it from every IATA DG for the last 23 years.
I would like, however, to raise awareness of the economic destruction caused by this outdated system. Put more positively, there is a huge economic prize if Europe’s ATM challenges are fixed.
We are determined to generate a greater understanding of the benefits of European airspace modernization. I’d like to now show a short video on this topic:
Modernization and reform brings jobs and economic growth for Europe
As you’ve just seen, a fully optimized and reformed air navigation system is needed because it will benefit all of Europe’s citizens. The numbers in the film sound huge—one million extra jobs and €245 billion in extra GDP annually by 2035—but if anything, they are a conservative estimate.
Delivering change through National Airspace Strategies
So how can the twin aims of reducing current disruptions, and optimizing airspace for Europe’s future benefit, be achieved? What is needed is a fundamentally different approach, embracing an all-inclusive partnership of which airlines and ANSPs would be the backbone.
To draw an analogy, when commissioning a painting, the client does not expect to tell the artist how to paint. But he does want to say if he wants a portrait or a landscape, approximately how large he wants the piece to be, and to agree a basic cost and timeframe for delivery. The same approach should govern the delivery of ANS: as funders of the system, airlines need a greater strategic input into service and investment planning.
So what are the next steps? We urgently need European governments to develop national airspace strategies (NAS). These strategies would be based on smart regulation precepts, including consultation with airspace users; a multi-stakeholder governance structure; a roadmap with SMART milestones; and supporting cost/benefit analyses. Each NAS should integrate with the wider European airspace network to maximize efficiency, deliver the Single European Sky and SESAR goals, and align with national environment and defense legislation requirements.
In addition, the airline community expects an airspace strategy to put service dependability and reliability at its very heart. This means implementing principles of business continuity to ensure service levels, build resilience into systems and people processes, design recovery capabilities into service delivery and key support areas, and guarantee contingency service using other centers or even other ANSPs where necessary.
I want to stress very clearly that taking this bottom-up approach is not about weakening the aims of the Single European Sky. We are as keen as ever that the goals of this project are met, and will continue to offer the European Commission every support. But we believe working bottom up as an industry will be complementary - and bring real benefits to European ATM performance.