European Parliament Advances Single European Sky Reform for Enhanced Airspace Management and Environmental Sustainability

On the 9th of April, the Transport and Tourism Committee approved a provisional deal to enhance the management of European airspace. This agreement, a result of negotiations between the Council’s Belgian presidency and Parliament negotiators, spearheaded by EP rapporteurs Marian-Jean Marinescu (EPP, Romania) and Bogusław Liberadzki (S&D, PL), seeks to reform the existing Single European Sky regulations.

The essence of this reform lies in its introduction of performance plans for air navigation services designed to optimise the EU airspace network management. These plans are characterised by binding targets and incentives, aiming to render flight operations more efficient and environmentally sustainable. To ensure the effective implementation of these plans, the establishment of an independent advisory Performance Review Board has been proposed.

A significant achievement of the MEPs during the negotiations was the incorporation of provisions aimed at aligning air navigation services and network management with the objectives of climate neutrality. The revised rules mandate the European Commission to set EU performance targets concerning capacity, cost efficiency, climate, and environmental factors for air navigation services, with a stipulation for at least triennial service performance reviews against these targets.

Furthermore, the agreement obliges the Commission to undertake a study to delineate how charges imposed on airspace users, such as airlines or private plane operators, for air navigation services, can be structured to promote environmentally friendly practices. This could include incentives for utilising the most fuel-efficient routing options or alternative clean propulsion technologies.

This provisional deal, which emerged from informal discussions last month, has successfully passed through the Transport and Tourism Committee with a vote of 31 to 2, with one abstention. The next steps involve approval by the Council, followed by endorsement by the full House.

This initiative follows a period of stagnation after the European Commission’s proposal in 2013 to revise the Single European Sky rules. This process was revitalised post-Brexit with an upgraded proposal in 2020. Subsequent legislative updates in 2021 and trilogue negotiations have culminated in the current draft rules, marking a significant stride towards optimising European airspace management and aligning aviation practices with environmental sustainability goals.