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Airline boss predicts more air-traffic control delays in Europe this summer

Simon Calder’s Travel

Airline passengers in Europe face another summer of air-traffic control delays, a leading budget airline boss has warned.

Marion Geoffroy, UK managing director for Wizz Air, told The Independent’s daily travel podcast that delays caused by air-traffic control “would not be remedied” in summer 2024.

During the summer of 2023, airlines and their passengers faced frequent delays across Europe due to pressure on air-traffic control.

Shortages of controllers were exacerbated by closures of airspace over Ukraine.

“We know for sure that in July and August, we will be accumulating delays,” said Ms Geoffroy. But, she said, “buffers in the schedule” would allow the operation to stay on track.

In the summer of 2023, airlines blamed air-traffic control limitations for many cancellations – including easyJet grounding the same flight on successive nights.

Summer 2024 will see an increase in traffic of at least five per cent, according to the pan-European air-traffic coordinator, Eurocontrol.

Pressure will increase due to extra flights to and from Germany for the Euro 2024 football championships in June and July, and serving Paris for the Olympics shortly afterwards.

Eurocontrol has set out five priorities for the summer:

  • Air-traffic control to deliver the agreed capacity
  • Airlines to have realistic scheduling
  • All to prioritise the first rotation of aircraft
  • All to ensure disciplined flight plan execution
  • All to contribute to better managing convective weather

A spokesperson for Eurocontrol said: “Overall, we are seeing strong support from the entire aviation industry for this strategy and we are confident that this combined effort will pay off.”

The Wizz Air UK managing director was speaking as the latest Airbus A321neo aircraft joined the group’s fleet. The £100m aircraft, seating 239 passengers, will be based at Luton airport, Wizz Air’s main UK hub.

The arrival reduces the average age of Wizz Air’s UK fleet from 2.07 years to 1.97 years – claimed to be the youngest in Europe. The A321neo is claimed to offer a 20 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and carbon emissions, and close to half the noise compared with older planes.

Ms Geoffroy said: “Awareness of environmental footprint is important. I’ve been talking to younger generations to understand their travel habits. They want to see the world. They will look at price, but…

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