Operations Performance Planning

The Operations Performance Planning activity  provides a single focal point of coordination for all capacity-related issues, both within the EUROCONTROL Agency and for external stakeholders.The Operational Performance Planning activity supports ANSPs in the establishment of realistic and robust capacity plans, to meet the SES performance targets for capacity and flight efficiency at European ATM network and local/sub-regional level.

What are the objectives?

  • To promote and maintain continuous capacity awareness throughout the EUROCONTROL Agency and European National State Authorities and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP);
  • To guide capacity planning, and enable the timely implementation of capacity enhancement measures needed to close the existing capacity gap and safely meet the forecast air traffic demand in the most cost-effective way, while respecting the environment;
  • To provide technical and operational support, through expert advice and sophisticated tools and data to stakeholders in progressing capacity enhancement planning and implementation.

Air Traffic Delays

Air traffic delays occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from bad weather conditions causing runway closure, the need for de-icing, or strong cross-winds (nobody's responsibility), to technical failure or operational problems (e.g. missing passengers) affecting flight preparation and departure (the aircraft operator's responsibility).

Airport congestion, poor slot adherence and lack of Air Traffic Management (ATM) capacity (i.e. the inability of Air Traffic Control to handle all the flights wanting to cross a particular volume of airspace within a certain time) are other important causes of delay.

The EUROCONTROL Network Manager monitors and analyses all air traffic delays through its Central Office for Delay Analysis (CODA). The Network Operations unit manages around 27,000 flights per day and plays a crucial role in optimising the use of the ATM capacity made available by Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), in full cooperation with aircraft operators.

Capacity Enhancement

Beyond day-to-day operations, the Network Manager coordinates capacity enhancement planning with ANSPs and other relevant stakeholders, in order to alleviate the most critical bottlenecks in the short term, but also to ensure that sufficient capacity will be available to meet future demand.

The Network Manager plays a coordinating role, with full support and cooperation from ANSPs and aircraft operators. Fully interactive capacity planning processes and sophisticated tools, the coordinated development of the airspace structure and the Agency’s improved management of the European network have contributed to a greatly improved performance over the last decade.


Network capacity

Where are we now?

In the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, the effective capacity of the ATM network has increased by 32% for a traffic growth of 18%, due to improved capacity planning processes, the coordinated efforts of Air Navigation Service Providers and aircraft operators and the implementation of pan-European programmes.

What can we expect?

At European network level, the ATFM delay forecast indicates that the network capacity target could, for the first time, be achieved in 2012, 2013 and 2014, provided that:

  1. Air traffic evolves as forecast by the Eurocontrol Forecasting unit STATFOR, and
  2. the capacity plans of the Air Navigation Service Providers as detailed in the Network Operations Plan 2019-2024 are not only implemented, but also deliver the capacity gains foreseen.

Even with the sharp reduction in traffic growth, it may not be possible for some ANSPs to open optimum sector configurations during peak periods, which could lead to AFTM delays higher than expected. This is due to a combination of a shortage of available air traffic control staff and social unrest at a number ACCs throughout European airspace.

Nevertheless, the lower than expected traffic growth offers a real opportunity to close the capacity gap.

To prevent delays once again escalating, the Network Manager has taken steps to ensure that:

  • Air Navigation Service Providers, particularly those that contribute significantly to network delay, review and upgrade their local capacity plans, ensuring that they are realistic - and commit to their full implementation;
  • Enhanced network procedures are being developed to ensure that the optimum capacity is made available throughout the network, and that airspace users are offered a choice of routeing that will ensure their requirements for flight efficiency and capacity are accommodated to the greatest extent possible.
  • Enhanced network procedures are in place to mitigate the effect of both localised and widespread disruption to the network, including major airspace or ATM system reorganisation, major sporting events, severe weather and industrial action, direct and indirect;
  • All ATM stakeholders contribute to and strengthen the European ATM network programmes;
  • There is full integration, at network level, of capacity planning, civil/military cooperation, airspace design & management, airport operations and ATFCM (Air Traffic Flow and Capacity Management).

ANSPs, aircraft operators, airport operators and the Network Manager will continue to work together to develop and implement meaningful and well-documented local capacity plans and network processes and procedures that will meet European ATM network requirements.

Capacity Planning Process

European ATC Capacity Planning Process

The Network Manager works closely with States, Air Navigation service Providers and aircraft operators for the enhancement of European ATM network capacity, through sophisticated capacity planning processes and tools. This is an annual cyclical process, requiring full commitment from all stakeholders and the implementation of truly collaborative decision-making processes.

The Capacity Planning Sub-Group (CAPLANSG) of the Network Operations Team meets each spring to discuss key improvements to the medium-term capacity planning process and tools. The CPSG agrees the work programme for the coming year and the development plan for the capacity monitoring and planning tool-set.

Strategic Objective: to meet the SES Performance capacity target in 2014 of 0.5 minutes average annual enroute ATFM delay per flight.

Generating extra capacity is a complex issue involving a number of different but inter-related areas – Air Traffic Control systems and infrastructure, airspace structure (route network and sectorisation), operational procedures, Air Traffic Controller working practices, rule-making, institutional arrangements, etc. This takes considerable time and money - extra capacity cannot be conjured up overnight!

The goal is to provide sufficient capacity to accommodate demand under normal circumstances over a sustained period, without imposing significant operational, economic or environmental penalties. Capacity requirements for the short and medium-term are derived on the basis of this high-level capacity objective.

The SES II Performance Scheme

The Single European Sky, second package (SES II) Performance Scheme Implementing Rule was adopted in May 2010. The SES II Performance Scheme covers the following performance areas: Safety, Capacity, Environment/Flight Efficiency and Cost. The Implementing Rule is applicable to 27 EU Member States plus Switzerland and Norway. The remaining European States have agreed to adopt similar targets.

The first reference period of the Implementing Rule covers the period 2012-2014.

The European Union-wide capacity Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is “the minutes of enroute ATFM delay per flight” and, following the recommendation of the Performance Review Body, the European Commission has set the EU-wide performance targets and alert thresholds for the period 2012-2014, including an EU-wide Capacity target of 0.5 minutes average en-route ATFM delay per flight for the whole year 2014;

Capacity Planning Process

The EUROCONTROL Network Manager translates the 1 minute strategic delay target into capacity requirement profiles and delay breakdown values for individual Area Control Centres (ACC). These quantify the capacity that needs to be provided each year to accommodate the forecast demand and contribute to the required network performance.

Individual ACC capacity profiles are the basis for cooperative planning and provision of capacity and are the foundation on which capacity planning is established at national level. The Network Manager provides support to ANSPs to work these capacity requirement profiles into the local capacity plans detailed in the Network Operations Plan 2019-2024 and also in the Local Single Sky Implementation Plan (LSSIP).

ANSPs are provided with planning tools and information, including air traffic demand and distribution over the current and future route network, different routeing options (actual/ shortest/ cheapest/ optimum), optimum sector configurations, cost data, optimum delay information, airport demand, constraints. These enable a detailed local analysis of future capacity expectations and identification of initiatives to increase ACC capacity.

ANSPs are expected to make full use of the airspace modelling and capacity assessment tools to evaluate the potential of future capacity and flight efficiency improvements, essential for the development and implementation of well-based local capacity plans.

Through the Demand Data Repository (DDR), the Agency is ensuring a more dynamic and systematic provision of data for the capacity planning and airspace design process, in a format suitable for various tools, including SAAM and NEVAC. The second phase of the DDR provides an improved traffic forecast to the Network Manager and to ANSPs, through the incorporation of real flight intentions from airline schedule and airport slot data.

Capacity Planning Process

How capacity requirements are quantified

Determination of ACC capacity requirements is an extensive process that starts with an analysis of the current traffic situation and forecast evolution, and ends with an evaluation consultation and agreement.

The process uses a set of modelling and analysis tools that assesses and quantifies how much capacity is delivered by specific airspace volumes within the current ATM system, and evaluates current and future capacity requirements, usually at ACC and sometimes sector group level. In summary, the process is as follows:

  • Step 1: In order to provide an accurate prediction of the capacity requirements of the European ATM system, it is necessary to know the current capacity offered by each ACC. A capacity baseline is established for each ACC, from which the future requirements can be calculated;
  • Step 2: The Agency produces a prediction of the future demand on each ACC over the coming 5 years, according to the expected traffic growth and distribution over the future route network;
  • Step 3: An economic analysis is carried out, balancing the cost of capacity provision against the cost of delay, on the assumption that each ACC is operating at or close to its economical optimum, and that the network target level of delay has been achieved;
  • Step 4: The Network Manager provides, for each ACC, a set of 5 year capacity requirement profiles and target delay breakdown, covering a number of different traffic growth and routeing scenarios.

The capacity profiles for each ACC take into account:

  • any existing capacity shortfall or surplus;
  • the forecast traffic evolution;
  • the impact of the route network and traffic pattern evolution;
  • the Network capacity target.

The Ops Performance Planning unit provides expert support and sophisticated tools and comprehensive data to all ANSPs, to ensure flexible and coordinated local capacity planning to meet the network targets.

NEVAC: Network Evaluation and Visualisation of ACC Capacity NEVAC is a stand-alone desktop application using Network Operations data for long-term local and network capacity planning. NEVAC is used by planners, capacity managers, flow managers and other operational staff responsible for managing ACC and Network capacity.


For further information please contact Stephanie Vincent