Last year the average length of summer air delays in Europe, in particular on flights to the top holiday destinations, increased and this summer is unlikely to prove to be an exception as European airspace reaches gridlock. The President of the Spanish Airport and Air Traffic Control authority AENA, Pedro Arguelles, said in Palma yesterday that this summer, Spanish airports, in particular those serving tourist destinations such as the Balearics, will see new delays caused by saturated European airspace. However, Arguelles said that while the delays will not be “extremely serious,” the general management and organisation of European airspace is to blame for congestion in the skies. The AENA president, attending a conference on civil aviation air traffic control being held in the Majorca capital, stressed the need for airspace to be well organised and managed. He said that nowadays, with such a high level of air traffic, it is the tourist destinations which suffer most and in particular Spain and the Balearics because the vast majority of flights have to fly through a neighbouring European country's airspace to enter the Spanish zone. This year, European air traffic is forecast to increase by 4.5 per cent and the rise in congestion will have a knock on effect on flights. One of the solutions discussed in Palma yesterday was to increase the capacity to manage Europe's air space with a much higher level of co-operation and co-ordination between the member states. Arguelles said that to start with, European airspace needs to be remodelled and a more efficient air traffic control system introduced. But Arguelles admitted that European Union member states have not yet reached a general consensus on how to restructure European airspace for the future. The AENA president warned that any restructuring programme must not be rushed into because it will affect Europe's strategic position in the global market as a whole. With regards to the argument raging over an apparent lack of AENA funding in Palma airport, the president announced that over the next ten years, some 20'000 million pesetas is to be spent on Palma's new airport.

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