The demand for air transportation has grown by some 60% over the last decade and is set to double again by 2030. This increasing need for mobility is accompanied by substantial growth in air freight, demonstrating the growing market reliance upon a global economy.
This long-term trend has been resilient despite periods of economic downturn and major disruptive events and it highlights the ever growing societal and market dependency upon the supply of air transportation services.
However, there are clear indications of limitations which may endanger future mobility, growth and economic wealth. For example, a recent study on European airport capacity pointed to a shortfall in their ability to satisfy demand – which could result in as many as 5 million flights being un-accommodated by 2030. Also, the recent harsh winters and the volcanic ash crisis have, briefly but acutely, disrupted European mobility leaving passengers stranded across the planet and causing havoc to businesses and the economy. With the prospect of more disruptive events due to the impact of climate change, we must rethink our approach.
One of the avenues is a more integrated and seamless transport system. It is time for concerted actions to look ahead, building upon the successes of urban mobility, and to transform today’s disparate and, all too often, competitive transportation modes into an integrated transportation system offering innovative services to society and to the market.
EUROCONTROL, the European intergovernmental Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (www.eurocontrol.int), contributes, albeit in a rather modest manner, to this vast enterprise – laying the foundations by connecting systems which ultimately provide the information upon which customer choices are facilitated, recognising that this work is in its infancy and that many challenges must be addressed and obstacles overcome.
In the air traffic management area, seamlessness is central to the efficient handling of flights from departure to destination and at airports. Ongoing developments (in particular Network Management and SESAR) aim at further enhancing the global interoperability of airborne and ground systems, and enabling intensive exchanges of operational information among the different actors. This would also create a favourable environment for the integrated transportation system.