Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has cautioned that air traffic control (ATC) strikes will pose the most significant threat to travelers’ holiday plans across Europe this summer. Speaking at an aviation event in Brussels, O’Leary also predicted that passengers would not see the kind of chaos that occurred at airports across Europe last year following the pandemic’s surge in air travel. However, he warned that ATC strikes would be infinitely worse this year, with capacity restrictions on European ATC systems due to military activity over Ukraine and increased Asian traffic being funneled down across German and southeastern European airspace.
O’Leary has regularly criticized the European Commission for not addressing the issues caused by ATC strikes and delays. The Ryanair boss wants overflights to be insulated from the impact of strikes. Ryanair and other European airlines have been pushing for years for the European Commission to implement the Single European Skies project designed to streamline air traffic control services. Flight delays cost the industry billions of euros every year.
Despite some notable exceptions, national air navigation service providers have typically been siloed. They do not even use the same ATC computer systems, with the lack of interoperability a significant hurdle to achieving change. Creating the Single European Sky, where the fragmented European ATC network is transformed into so-called Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) that transcend national borders, remains just a goal.
Dublin Airport has introduced several new measures and improvements to facilities in time for this summer to make the country’s biggest gateway cleaner, more efficient, and more comfortable for passengers. O’Leary believes that summer 2023 will be materially better at airports, with security, airlines, and handling agents better staffed and prepped for the summer. However, he added that air traffic control strikes would still pose a significant threat to travelers.
A major NATO military exercise in June in Germany will also severely impact airspace availability. O’Leary believes that the European Commission needs to take action to address the issues caused by ATC strikes and delays. He believes that air traffic control will be so bad for the next few weeks and months that it might finally prod Ursula von der Leyen into doing something.
Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet, told the Airlines for Europe conference that there is a sense of good demand among consumers for travel this summer. Despite the challenges posed by ATC strikes and delays, airlines are optimistic about the summer season. However, they are urging the European Commission to take action to address the issues caused by ATC strikes and delays, which cost the industry billions of euros every year.
In conclusion, airlines are optimistic about the summer season, but they are urging the European Commission to take action to address the issues caused by ATC strikes and delays. The Single European Skies project remains a goal, but airlines are hoping for progress to be made to streamline air traffic control services. Travelers should be aware of the potential for ATC strikes and delays this summer and plan accordingly.