Outdated EU air traffic control system allows French controllers to threaten Irish tourism – Clune

21st March 2016 - Deirdre Clune MEP

Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South and EU Transport committee member, Deirdre Clune, has said that the EU is operating an outdated system of air traffic control based on national borders that hasn’t changed since the 1960s and that this is allowing a small number of French air traffic controllers to hold Europe to ransom. Clune went on to demand that progress is made immediately on the Single European Skies policy at EU level and called on the European Commission to make immediate changes in how we operate our European air space.

“Many families have booked holidays this week which have been effected by striking air traffic controllers in France. Whilst I respect their right to strike, Ireland should not have to pay the price for industrial unrest in France. Many flights from Spain and Italy to and from Ireland have been cancelled as they pass over French airspace.

“We have been expecting to welcome almost 3.8 million Italian and Spanish tourists between now and 2020. That represents 825,000 visitors per year from both Spain and Italy by 2020 – representing growth of +25%. Since 2000, visitors from Spain to Ireland have tripled. Spain is now the fifth most important market for Irish tourism in terms of visitor numbers and the sixth most important in terms of revenue.

“We are currently creating 205,000 jobs from Tourism and plan on growing this to 250,000 by 2025. So we cannot continue to jeopardise this growth by allowing France to close down EU aviation when they have industrial unrest. EU airlines have claimed that 9 air traffic control strike days led to the cancellation of over 3,000 flights in 2015. It is indicative of the extent to which we need to reform air traffic control management in Europe.

“The European Commission intend on creating a more efficient air traffic control system in a policy called the Single European Skies. This is a policy which proposes one authority to manage air space in Europe, not 28, and that flights can take more direct routes over European airspace, saving them fuel costs, administration costs, reducing their carbon footprint and allowing them to introduce cheaper flights.

“The European air traffic management (ATM) system currently handles over 26,000 flights daily in a fragmented manner whereby air traffic management is based on national borders. Forecasts indicate air traffic levels are likely to double by 2020 in Europe making for a very chaotic and crowded airspace.

 “Aviation contributes 1.2 billion to European GDP and accounts for every 1 in 40 of every European job. During a recent presentation to MEPs, the EU Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, said that savings of over €5 billion annually could be made from a new air traffic system for European taxpayers.”

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