European ATC services at ‘worst levels ever’, claims Ryanair

No-frills carrier Ryanair has apologised to its passengers for “excessive” flight delays and 60-plus cancellations which blamed on European air traffic control.

It said ATC “underperformance” on Thursday and Friday (June 27-28) is affecting all European airlines.

More than 30% of Ryanair’s 3,500 flights were late on Thursday because of ATC delays, it added.

This meant 16 aircraft were “out of base” on Thursday night, which meant aircraft missed their airport curfew landing times.

On Friday morning, 25% of Ryanair’s first-wave departures – 150 of 600 aircraft – were delayed due to ATC “staff shortages” and “equipment failure” in the ATC Maastricht centre, said a Ryanair statement.

Neal McMahon, Ryanair’s chief operations officer, said: “ATC services in Europe this summer are at their worst levels ever.

“Ryanair and many other European airlines are having our schedules repeatedly delayed, flights cancelled, and passengers disrupted due to the mismanagement of European ATC.”

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Wizz Air has also been affected by the ATC issues and apologised to passengers for the disruption.

“In the past few days, the European airspace has been severely impacted due to airport slot management issues caused by multiple, simultaneous weather events occurring throughout Europe,” Wizz Air said in a statement.

“These events have impaired the capabilities of air traffic control authorities and Eurocontrol to manage industry-wide traffic volumes, leading to major delays and cancellations across the European airline industry.

“As an industry, we are compelled to escalate these issues with the relevant air traffic management authorities, including Eurocontrol, to ensure proper mitigation actions are implemented to minimise disruptions.”

Ryanair’s McMahon added: “Over the last three years, Europe’s ATC fees have risen by record levels, but staffing and service levels have continued to decline.

“We call on EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to take action to urgently reform Europe’s shambolic ATC services.

“Eurocontrol DG Raul Medina must now act to deliver an efficient and effective ATC service to Europe’s citizens.

“These repeated ATC delays and cancellations are unacceptable.

“We apologise to our passengers for these repeated ATC flight delays and flight cancellations, which are deeply regrettable but beyond Ryanair’s control.”

A spokesperson for Eurocontrol said the Maastricht Upper Area Centre is facing an issue with a system that predicts the workload for air traffic controllers, so the number of flights that can be handled has been reduced.

“We very much regret the disruption that this is causing to passengers and our operational partners and are doing everything we can to resolve the situation as soon as possible,” said Eurocontrol in a statement.

It also said traffic in 2024 is 7% higher than in 2023 on average, and more delays in June have been attributed to weather than in June 2023.

“If you exclude weather and knock-on effects of weather, delays are lower than in 2023, despite the increase in traffic,” added the statement.

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