By Cailey Rizzo
June 20, 2019

European travel commissioners are predicting another busy summer travel season with delays likely.

Last month, Eurocontrol, an organization representing air traffic control of 41 different countries, announced that air traffic delays this summer could be even worse than they were last year. The majority of last year’s delays were caused by shortages in staff and lessened air capacity, according to Eurocontrol. And it’s doesn’t look like these issues have been improved for summer 2019.

This year is already off to a rocky start. Last month, European airspace broke a bitter record: highest level of delay in a single day. European airspace reported 307,433 minutes of delay, averaging 14.4 minutes’ delay for every single flight on the continent, on May 9.

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“On average, over 750 flights per day had an en-route delay of at least 15 minutes, which is seven percent more flights compared to April last year,” Thomas Reynaert, managing director of the lobby group Airlines for Europe, told an aviation conference in London last month, The Independent reported.

And there’s nothing travelers can do to speed up the process. The delays speak to wider, systematic issues with the air traffic control infrastructure in Europe.

“This is a very similar situation to the shortage of pilots that we see around the world,” John Grant, senior analyst for the flight data analytics company OAG, told Travel Weekly. “There is a shortage of air traffic controllers, as well.”

In addition to the shortage, European airspace also operates differently. Instead of having one unified air traffic control system across the entire continent, flights must switch between different entities, representing each country over which they fly, which adds “organizational complexity,” to the maneuver, according to Travel Weekly. So, for example, crowded airspace in France doesn’t just affect French flights, but all flights flying over the country as they need to wait for communication as they pass overhead.

If you're traveling to and around Europe this summer, make sure to pack a book or two (and an adapter for your phone charger).

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