Air Traffic Flow and Capacity Management (ATFCM)

The objective is to optimise traffic flows according to air traffic control capacity while enabling airlines to operate safe and efficient flights.

We start planning operations as early as possible - sometimes more than one year in advance: we consolidate the air traffic forecasts issued by the aviation industry and the capacity plans issued by the Air Traffic Control Centres and airports.
We also define operational scenarios to anticipate specific events which may cause congestion (such as sporting events, Christmas skiing or summer holiday traffic). Eventually, in case of an unforeseen event with major impact on traffic, we organise a coordinated response to the crisis.

The ATFCM activities are divided into three phases:

Strategic Phase

About one year before the flight takes place until one week before real time operations.

During this phase, the Network Manager Operations Center (NMOC) helps the Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to predict what capacity they will need to provide in each of their air traffic control centres.

In addition, a routing scheme is prepared – a structure of air routes across Europe designed to balance the air traffic flows and maximise capacity.

This also includes avoiding imbalances between capacity and demand for events taking place a week or more in the future (large-scale military exercises, major sports events, etc.).

The capacity commitments of every operational stakeholder in the network are reflected in a common planning document: the Network Operations Plan (NOP).

Pre-tactical Phase

Six days before real time operations.

The task of the Network Manager Operations Centre staff is to:

  • coordinate the definition of a daily plan aimed at optimising the overall ATM network performance and minimising delay and cost, after a collaborative decision making process involving operational partners - such as ATC units and aircraft operators;  
  • inform them about the ATFCM measures that will be in force in European airspace on the following day via the publication of the agreed plan for the day of operations. We publish this so-called Daily Plan on the NOP Portal.

Tactical Phase

The day of operations

We monitor and update the Daily Plan made the day before based on current reality.

We continue working on capacity optimisation according to real time traffic demand, and where aircraft are affected by a regulation, we offer alternative solutions to minimise delays.

Flights taking place on that day receive the benefit of the flow management service, which includes inter alia the allocation of individual aircraft departure slots, re-routings to avoid bottlenecks and alternative flight profiles in an attempt to maximise flight efficiency and make the best use of the available capacity.

In order to achieve a totally fair solution, we share the evolution of the traffic and ATFCM situation in real time and in full transparency with our operational partners, thanks to the NOP Portal.