Covid-19 air traffic slump provides European opportunity for 'perfect flights' initiative and more direct routes
Fri 24 Apr 2020 – While European air traffic volumes are considerably lower due to the coronavirus pandemic, airlines and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) have launched an environmental initiative to facilitate ‘perfect flights’ through optimising flight paths. The effort is being led by the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) in association with IATA, A4E, ERA, AIRE, IFATCA and the Eurocontrol Network Manager. In order to manage traffic safely and efficiently into and out of busy airspace, ANSPs normally apply airspace restrictions to maximise capacity, reduce complexity and organise aircraft into specific flows. In the current low-level traffic scenario, most of these airspace restrictions can be lifted, which enables more direct routes and allows aircraft to fly their optimal vertical profiles, says CANSO.
“ANSPs across Europe are still playing a vital role enabling the transportation of urgent medical supplies and food, and the repatriation of individuals, but clearly traffic numbers are much lower than before the pandemic,” said Tanja Grobotek, CANSO Director Europe Affairs. “So CANSO and our partners are using this downtime to facilitate optimum flight paths that will deliver environmental and economic benefits by reducing fuel burn, emissions, noise and fuel costs.
“There is no reason right now why an aircraft should not be flying its ‘perfect flight’.”
Last Tuesday (April 21), Eurocontrol recorded 4,033 flights in the European network, compared with 31,083 flights on the same day in 2019, a drop of 87.0%. Freight operator DHL Express operated the most flights (253 movements), followed by Norwegian carrier Widerøe (204), Turkish Airlines (103) and Lufthansa (96). Frankfurt was the busiest airport (200 movements), followed by Leipzig (179), Oslo-Gardermoen (179), Schiphol (166) and Heathrow (156).
Air traffic management (ATM) can influence up to 10% of all aviation-derived CO2 emissions in Europe and there is a target to reduce this share to 2.4% by 2035. Free route airspace is one of the most significant aspect of ATM emission improvement measures and Eurocontrol claims that when all cross-border implementations have been completed, it will allow airlines to reduce their daily fuel burn under normal circumstances by 3,000 tonnes and CO2 emissions by 10,000 tonnes.
According to Eurocontrol, there were 4,162 flights in the European network on April 16, down 87% on the same day last year: