Air traffic controllers impede common EU airspace

By Lasse Skou Andersen and Anders Godtfred-Rasmussen.

Powerful air traffic controllers are proving to be a major opponent for the EU in its efforts to create a common European airspace.

Niels Remmer, Head of Department at the Danish Transport Authority, (photo) fears that air traffic controllers will succeed in impeding the efforts to create a common European airspace Photo: Anders Godtfred-Rasmussen
Niels Remmer, Head of Department at the Danish Transport Authority, fears that air traffic controllers will succeed in impeding the efforts to create a common European airspace

Air traffic controllers are probably not the first people to come to mind, when you think of the politically powerful. But perhaps they should be.

According to Niels Remmer, head of department at the Danish Transport Authority, and member of the EU commission committee on a common airspace in Europe, the air traffic controllers’ unions are having success delaying the Single European Sky – a directive that aims to cut costs and emissions of aviation by merging the national airspaces into blocs.

“Air traffic controllers in especially Germany and France are causing trouble. They are not interested in the common airspace, because they are afraid that they will lose jobs in the process of implementing the Single European Sky,” says Niels Remmer.

Rulers of the sky
The air traffic controllers rule the sky. They decide when the planes can leave and land in an airport, and decide if the predestined flight route can be followed. If they decide to strike, the planes are grounded, and air traffic comes to a standstill.

The fear of such a situation is a main factor behind the delay in the Single European Sky, says Niels Remmer. Other sources involved in the work with the common airspace tell a similar story.

The common airspace was supposed to be largely functioning from December 2012, but only Denmark, Sweden, the UK, and Ireland have lived up to their obligations.

‘It’s about safety’
The German air control Union (GDF) are not against the idea of a common airspace in the EU, but the organisation believes that the current goals are unrealistic, Michael Schäfer, President of the GDF, explains:

“Safety is the main issue. In its current form, the Single European Sky will mean fewer employees, negatively affecting the safety in the sky. Therefore, we find the present EU Commission goals to be dangerous and unreliable,” says Michael Schäfer.

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