The Skies Are Not All Equal

When flying between two destinations, airlines not only pay to land and take-off from the departure and arrival airports but also for en-route navigation (ENav) service provided by the countries over which they fly. The charges are levied by ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers) and cover the cost of providing air traffic management (ATM) services. Within Europe, fees are collected by EUROCONTROL on behalf of its member states.

When analysing the cost of ENav services it becomes apparent that the playing field is not level. Charges can vary substantially from one airspace to another even though the “commodity” is similar. Using our new en-route calculator, we have looked at a comparison of the different costs incurred when travelling between Alicante (ALC) and Berlin Schönefeld (SXF) using different routing options – one on the great circle routing (shortest) that overflies Switzerland and an alternative route which broadly follows the great circle route but avoids Swiss airspace.

As can be seen from the map below the great circle route (as denoted by the red line) passes through Spanish, French, Swiss and German airspace, or Flight Information Regions (FIR), whereas our alternative route only passes through Spanish, French and German Flight Information Regions.

Image showing a route map

Source: En-Route Cost Calculator Module

The alternative route is just under 13 km further (under 1% more) than the great circle route, yet the en-route/air navigation charges are 5% cheaper which translates to a saving of €86 per flight. Clearly flying further incurs greater fuel burn, but even when taking this into account, at current fuel prices the cost for those extra 13km makes it worthwhile avoiding Swiss airspace. In total it is 2% cheaper to fly this alternative routing when looking at fuel and navigation charges combined.

Whilst this might not appear a significant amount, imagine an airline operating a year round daily flight between these two airports; by utilising this alternative route could save the airline around €63,000 per year on this route alone. Analysing routings network wide could potentially yield significant financial benefits for an airline.

If you would like to know more about RDC's En-Route Cost Calculator please sign up to the webinar on the 19th January at 15:30 GMT, where we will show you how to:

  • Calculate overflight charges
  • Upload flight plans
  • Create and compare several scenarios side by side to find the most cost effective route
  • Map routings
By Nick Harper / Connect on LinkedInImage of Nick Harper