Air Traffic Control Engineers use screens displaying real-time panoramic views of the runways and docking gates, as they work on a non-operational trial in the NATS Digital Tower Laboratory, inside the control tower at London Heathrow Airport in west London on January 23, 2019. - Air traffic management service NATS has begun a trial at Heathrow Airport, to test if the use of ultra HD 4K cameras combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology, could be used to help improve the airport's landing capacity in times of low visibility, and improve punctuality. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)
© AFP

In your report “Air traffic chief warns of worsening European flight delays” (FT.com, April 7), Jeff Poole, director-general of Canso, claims that “European airlines’ unwillingness to invest sufficiently in air traffic control has led to record flight delays that will get worse this summer”.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Blaming EU airlines for the completely unacceptable congestion we see in our skies is absurd and insulting to our passengers.

2018 was one of the worst years on record for air traffic control delays and flight cancellations in almost a decade. Airlines for Europe (A4E) airlines cancelled more than 5,000 flights due to ATC strikes alone — with passengers suffering 19m minutes of delay (up 105 per cent from 2017) caused by additional ATC issues such as staff shortages, airspace diversions and residual backups.

Despite these shocking statistics, last week EU member states approved the weakest targets ever for air traffic controllers’ performance. These new, utterly unambitious targets will allow for even further delays, longer flight times and increased CO2 emissions over the next two years. A4E member airlines pay about €7bn a year for air navigation services. Like any paying customer, we expect a good service in return — as do our passengers.

Thomas Reynaert
Managing Director,
Airlines for Europe (A4E),
Brussels, Belgium

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