A report by the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EuroControl) has found that flight delays are rapidly increasing along with the return of air traffic throughout Europe.
According to EuroControl’s 20th Data Snapshot report, total delay remains relatively low in 2021 (19 million minutes) compared with 2018-2019 (45-50 million). This is primarily because summers 2018 and 2019 were very poor for delays, with 18 and 16 minutes of delay per flight on average. Summer 2021 was seen to be lower than that but, at 10.9 minutes per flight, it is already close to the 2010-2017 average of 12 minutes. Summer 2020 had an average delay of just 4.9 minutes per flight.
Despite en-route air traffic flow management (ATFM) regulations being lower than 2019 over the summer, delays in total have been climbing again. The most common primary delays were found to be from airlines’ own processes, such as baggage loading, boarding or refueling. Airport processes (such as check-in), air traffic management and government (such as health checks) make up the remainder. The report also showed how checking Covid-19 documents was a significant cause of delays, as it added up to 0.7 minutes per flight in July 2021.
According to EuroControl, reactionary delays remain relatively low. With light traffic this summer, airlines were able to better respond to reactionary delays by building gaps into schedules, switching aircraft or accelerating processes, such as boarding, to make up lost time. As a result, the reactionary delay rate was relatively low (36% of total delays, rather than 45%).