The Commission strongly regrets this strike action which will result in delays and disruption for passengers.
This is a strike against improvements in safety, against improved performance and against cost efficiency to deliver cheaper airfares by lowering air traffic control costs. It is passengers, businesses and freight handlers who will all suffer because of this action. The unions, like all other stakeholders, are of course entitled to make their voice heard. And the Commission has consistently been ready to listen and take account of their views. But dialogue is the way forward.
The modernisation of Europe's air traffic control is urgent and it is long overdue. The reality is that that Europe's skies and airports risk saturation. Flights are forecast to increase by 50% over the next 10-20 years. The European airspace remains fragmented. And the cost of Air Traffic Control services remains unacceptably high. If we leave things as they are, we will be confronted with heavy congestion and chaos in our airspace. On the ground, airports will be so crowded that there will be 2 million flights unable to take off or land. Increased congestion brings with it increased safety risk- as well as delays and real economic costs. We need a system which is not permanently under strain as traffic continues to grow.
That is why the Single Sky reforms aim to modernise Europe's fragmented air traffic control. They date back to the 1990's - but progress has been far too slow. We missed significant deadlines in December 2013, and we cannot afford to continue this way. That's why the Commission put new proposals on the table in June 2013 – to accelerate the reforms and deliver a European Single Sky which will:
- improve safety tenfold,
- triple airspace capacity,
- reduce air traffic management costs by 50%,
- reduce the environmental impact by 10%.
The Single Sky project as a whole is strongly supported in both the Council and Parliament. As Transport Commissioner my job is to deliver on the Single Sky – to ensure that our citizens actually have the freedom they deserve to move around the Single Market. I think that is a freedom worth defending and working for.