Safety remains the first priority for aviation, but European skies and airports risk saturation if nothing is done. Europe will not only have to reject potential demand, but will also be vulnerable to delays, flight cancellations and congestion costs which are set to increase by 50% come 2050.
The central problem is EU airspace remains fragmented into 27 national air traffic control systems meaning airspace is structured around national boundaries so often flights are unable to take direct routes. This mean on average, aircraft in Europe fly 42km (26 miles) longer than necessary resulting in longer journey times, extra fuel consumption and more emissions.
In comparison, the United States controls the same amount of airspace as the EU, with more traffic, but at almost half the cost.
Plans to remove national boundaries in the air and create a single airspace were first outlined in the late 1990s to improve safety tenfold, triple airspace capacity, reduce air management costs and the impact on the environment.