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Fears of Europe airport delays throughout summer due to ‘high overload’ on air traffic control

Airline passengers heading to Europe have been warned to brace for a “challenging” summer with air traffic control overloaded at some popular locations.

Eurocontrol, which manages European airspace, reported its concerns as the peak summer holiday period begins with the number of flights over the next eight weeks up almost eight per cent on the same period last year to around 33,000 a day, the Times reports.

The agency reported there would be “high overloads” on most days at Reims and Marseilles in France, as well as Athens and Budapest, with the possibility of delays or flights being diverted on longer routes.

And London, Barcelona, Brussels, Budapest, Nicosia, Warsaw and Zagreb would face the same problems on peak days such as Fridays or weekends.

File photo dated 02/09/22 of a EasyJet Airbus A320-214 (G-EZUO) passenger airliner, as more than 15,000 easyJet passengers have been hit by flight cancellations due to severe weather. PA Photo. Issue date: Monday June 12, 2023. The airline axed 54 flights scheduled to take off or depart from Gatwick airport on Sunday, with a further 55 grounded on Monday. See PA story AIR Gatwick. Photo credit should read: Nicholas.T.Ansell/PA Wire
Holidaymakers face the threat of delays or being diverted on longer routes (Photo: Nicholas.T.Ansell/PA Wire)

Raúl Medina, Eurocontrol’s director-general, said: “This summer in Europe is challenging as we have less available airspace because of the war in Ukraine and the military needs . . . We need everyone to play their part.

“Airports need to be well staffed, it is vital [air traffic services] provide enough capacity and airlines stick to their schedules.”

Last year, Eurocontrol warned that 2023 could be “the most challenging year of the last decade” due to the Ukraine conflict, possible strikes, rising numbers of aircraft and the reopening of Asian markets.

Mr Medina told last week’s Airports Council International in Barcelona that airspace had been slashed by 20 per cent due to increased military activity, leaving some air traffic controllers dealing with a huge spike in traffic from rerouted flights.

Last month, airline leaders at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) conference said they were concerned about air traffic control disruption in Europe and the United States over the summer.

Willie Walsh, director general of the IATA, said: “We have the chaotic situation where we’re seeing almost daily air traffic control strikes, which doesn’t just disrupt traffic in France but right across Europe because it forces airlines to reroute to other countries.

“I have to say this is the cause of extreme frustration for airlines.”

It comes as UK travellers planning to visit France were encouraged not to cancel their trips to the country as authorities battle to quell violence after the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old.

The Government updated its guidance for travellers to France to warn of “potential disruption” but has not advised against travel to the country.

Last month, Heathrow security staff called off a series of summer strikes after voting to accept a 15 per cent pay rise, bringing their long-running dispute with the airport to an end.

More than 2,000 members of the Unite union were set to walk out for 31 days from Saturday during one of the busiest summer periods, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

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