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Single European Sky

Since 2004, the European Union (EU) has gained competences in air traffic management (ATM) and the decision-making process has moved away from an intergovernmental practice to the EU framework. The EU’s main objective is to reform ATM in Europe in order to cope with sustained air traffic growth and operations under the safest, most cost- and flight-efficient and environmentally friendly conditions. This implies de-fragmenting the European airspace, reducing delays, increasing safety standards and flight efficiency to reduce the aviation environmental footprint, and reducing costs related to service provision. Achievements have already been made at operational, technological and institutional levels; efforts are ongoing to maximise the benefits of activities initiated under the SES framework. 

Some background statistics

  • The European ANS system (¹) covers 37 air navigation service providers (ANSPs) participating in a cost-efficiency benchmarking report, which is a business of EUR 8.6 bn with some 57 000 staff (compared to Airbus worldwide employment of 52 000) and 16 900 are air traffic controllers (ATC) compared to 13 000 ATC in the USA.
  • In 2014, the European ATM system controlled 26 800 flights on an average daily basis. 
  • As a result of the SES policy, average delays for en-route air traffic flow management are now close to 0.5 min per flight, which is a remarkable achievement compared to the heavy delays that occurred in the 1990s and 2000s.
  • On average each flight is 49 km longer than the direct flight.
  • European airspace: 10.8 million km², 60 control centres - fragmentation of airspace.
  • Estimated costs of fragmentation of airspace amounts to EUR 4 bn a year.
  • Five biggest ANSPs (DFS for Germany, DSNA for France, ENAIRE for Spain, ENAV for Italy and NATS for the UK) bear 60 % of total European gate-to-gate service provision costs and operate 54 % of European traffic.
  • As consequence, 40 % of remaining gate-to-gate costs are borne by 32 other smaller ANSPs.
  • Big divergences in the economic cost-effectiveness of the ANSPs. This approach is based on the Community method, especially the power of initiative of the European Commission (EC), the monitoring of compliance by Member States with the legislation in force and the involvement of a regulatory Committee made of representatives from Member States (known as Single Sky Committee) with its advisory and regulatory powers.

The SES legislative framework consists of four Basic Regulations (N° 549/2004, 550/2004, 551/2004 and 552/2004) covering the provision of air navigation services (ANS), the organisation and use of airspace and the interoperability of the European Air Traffic Management Network (EATMN). The four Regulations adopted in 2004 (the SES I Package) were revised and extended in 2009 with Regulation (EC) n° 1070/2009 aimed at increasing the overall performance of the air traffic management system in Europe (the SES II Package). On this basis, the Commission adopted and implemented extensive and comprehensive implementing legislation; this framework also includes more than 20 Implementing Rules and Community Specifications ("technical standards") adopted by the European Commission in view of ensuring the interoperability of technologies and systems.

Major developments have been possible due to the extensive involvement of stakeholders from the ATM community: industry partners, air navigation service providers (ANSPs), national supervisory authorities (NSAs), social dialogue with staff unions, airport authorities, the military and the certification authorities, and enhanced cooperation with Eurocontrol.

The SES framework has been supplemented by an integrated approach towards safety by the extension of the competencies of the EASA in the field of aerodromes, air traffic management and air navigation services, through the establishment of a joint undertaking (JU) on research & development, the SESAR JU (SESAR standing for the Single European Sky ATM Research) and of a SESAR Deployment Manager. A Network Manager for the European ATM network has been created, while an independent Performance Review Body (PRB) supports the Commission in the development and management of the SES performance scheme in which Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) have a key role to play.  

The overall SES objectives will be achieved through a holistic approach that encompasses five interrelated pillars: the performance-based regulatory framework, the safety pillar, the technological contribution, the human factor and the optimisation of airport infrastructure.

The SES does not stop at the border of the European Union. Its extension to third ‘neighbouring’ countries primarily relies on the EU’s policy in the field of international relations. This policy, which gives priority to the association and/or integration of third countries into the EU legal framework, also considers the added value of regional cooperation activities carried out at the level of international organisations, such as the ICAO and Eurocontrol. EU representatives are active in these organisations to ensure overall consistency between its action in the external field and action undertaken under the aegis of such organisations. Cooperative operational arrangements with ANSPs from key partners of the EU are also being promoted by the Commission as a significant task of the Network Manager in order to better manage intercontinental traffic to/from the EU and improve the performance of the European ATM network.

Report on the implementation of the Single European Sky legislation - "time do deliver"

Report from the European Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the Single European Sky legislation : time do deliver (text with EEA relevance) adopted on the 14th of November 2011   [64 KB] 

Page update 16/11/2011

Summaries of legislation

Single European Sky II

Framework for creation of the single European sky

The creation of the single European sky

A joint undertaking to develop the new generation European air traffic management system (SESAR)

Organisation and use of airspace in the Single European Sky

Interoperability of the European air traffic management network

Provision of air navigation services in the single European sky

Common charging scheme for air navigation services

Classification of airspace for visual flights

ICB Position on Future of Conformity Assessment pdf - 89 KB [89 KB]

ICB Position on EASA RMT on revision of the SPI IR pdf - 130 KB [130 KB]

ICB Position on Regulatory Response to ATM Cyber-Security pdf - 168 KB [168 KB]

Policy and other related documents

Report of the SES Vision Workshop held in Brussels on 5 May 2015   [833 KB]

Commission Staff working paper on deployment of the Single European Sky technological pillar (SESAR)  [99 KB]