Structural issues hit airline punctuality

After safety, punctuality is the most important indicator of how well the ATM sector is performing. The recent growth of air traffic proves that people choose to fly because they know the system is safe and they are confident in getting from point A to point B quickly and within the schedule published by the airline of their choice. Punctuality within the air cargo sector is even more advanced. E-commerce and just-in-time production methods depend on overnight deliveries which are the new standard in Europe. Punctuality has now reached a level unimaginable at the end of the 1990s.  But as the aviation system has been bumping up against its capacity limits in the last two years the number of delayed or cancelled flights has been rising.

In 2017, 92.9 percent of all flights (2016: 94.1 percent) experienced no delays caused by ATC as measured by ATFM en-route delays. Nevertheless, 97.4 percent arrived at their destination airports within 15 minutes of their scheduled time. Consequently, the overall delay minutes caused by flow management measures increased by 11.5 percent (2017: 69 seconds per flight; 2016: 64 seconds per flight). FABEC missed the target of 25 seconds per flight. 

The principal causes of ATC delays are shortages in capacity (42.3 percent) and staffing (15.7 percent) – both mainly due to a mismatch between unpredicted traffic and long-term staff and capacity planning. Furthermore, the impact of climate change is increasing and becoming more visible for passengers in terms of thunderstorms or airport closures as a result of snow on the runways. In 2017, 22.9 percent of all delays were caused by adverse weather. The impact of industrial action decreased substantially, causing just 10 percent of the overall delay.

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