On 29 October 2020, the Single European Sky's performance review body published its report for 2019. This report also offers an in-depth overview of the performance of air service providers in the European Union for the entire second reference period: 2015-2019.
The Performance Review Body is an advisory organ which assists the European Commission and national air surveillance authorities in the implementation of the performance system for air navigation services.
In its report, the evaluation organ proposes an analysis of several criteria concerning the field of aviation which are key performance areas for which the legislation has set targets to be achieved, thus aiming to improve the performance of air services in the European Union.
First, the report analyzes traffic levels, that means the number of flights. This number remained stable throughout the period, analyzed although the report underlines that the number of passengers as well as the distances traveled have increased.
Regarding safety, the report states that the European Union Aviation Safety Agency ("EASA") did not report any severe or fatal incidents caused by air traffic management during the entire reporting period. The report points to the improved risk analysis tools to explain these positive results. However, the report estimates that not all member states and service providers have achieved their aviation safety targets.
Environmental performance is the negative point of the report. CO2 production continued to grow, despite the improved fuel efficiency of each individual aircraft, due to traffic, volumes of passengers and routes offered to airlines. Indeed, not all Member States offer airspace users the possibility to freely choose their routing. Airlines are then forced to use fixed routes which are sometimes longer. Some airlines have also decided to lengthen their routes in order to, among other things, bypass higher charges zones.
In addition, delays did not decrease during the reference period and even reached a record level in 2018. The report notes that this increase is due to a lack of cross-border cooperation which hindered optimal productivity. However, the report underlines that the measures taken in 2019 to reduce traffic bottlenecks in the core area of the European Union have helped to alleviate the impact of staff and capacity problems faced by many providers. According to the report, long-term structural planning and capacity reinforcement for air navigation service providers would prevent many delays.
Profitability targets were met in most Member States each year of the reference period analyzed, although the report found a difference between the investments planned and those actually implemented, which seemed to indicate that some air navigation service providers had excess funding.
Finally, the report presents a number of recommendations and perspectives, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis which has had a major impact on the aviation sector. Indeed, the relaunch of air activities in the Union cannot be done without taking into account this new reality. The report specifies that this relaunch of activity will not be homogeneous within the Union, due in particular to the lack of flexibility in the provision of air services which will result in additional costs for providers who will face a lack of staff or capacity.
It also underlines that the failure to achieve environmental objectives will have new consequences, in particular on the financial health of airlines which, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been granted state aid, often conditioned by the governments of the Member States with compliance to environmental objectives.
The report concludes that the European Commission and the Member States will have to urgently adapt the third reference period (2020-2024) to take into account the health crisis in their performance evaluations related to European air traffic management. The performance review body believes that the performance targets of the SES should be revised to take into account the new structures and complexities of companies after the health crisis and asserts that the “ATM Master Plan” should provide the necessary guidance to achieve these new objectives while avoiding an increase in charges for airspace users.
The report is available at the following link: