Accelerating change of air traffic management by regional forerunners

The number of passengers and flights in Europe has dramatically increased since the 1970s. This increase has created capacity problems in the air and at airports, causing delays and associated costs for airlines and passengers. Initiatives such as the Single European Sky (SES) were taken by the European Commission (supported by Eurocontrol) to deal with this problem. However, the results of implementing the SES initiatives have not met expectations hitherto.

Within the ACCHANGE project, we analysed whether vertical integration through contracts between Air Traffic Control (ATC) providers, airports and airlines in a regional context could facilitate change from within the sector, while EU regulation could help in the standardization process. This approach is different from the present ideas about the deployment of SESAR, which is more focused on centrally steered and synchronised implementation. ACCHANGE, on the other hand, proposes a behavioural solution for the introduction of new technologies. It looks for other incentive structures and pathways to change ATC provision. To this end a number of models have been developed and applied to simulate the effects of policy changes.

The study started with an analysis of the present developments in ATC and in the aviation sector in Europe (Deliverable 2). These developments were compared to evolutions in other sectors (Deliverable 1). We focused on institutional factors, such as cost efficiency, technological innovation and regulation, and on factors hindering the change within ATC. We first developed a set of scenarios (Deliverable 3) and then developed four different models to analyse the market for ATC provision in Europe and the potential paths for change (Deliverable 4): a network congestion game, a labour union model, a public utility efficiency model and a simple economic network model. The first model focuses on estimating the effects of given scenarios. The other models focus more on explaining the present inefficiencies in ATC provision.

These four theoretical models comprehensively demonstrate that price regulation and charging regimes will continue to be a cornerstone for change but that they are insufficient as a tool to encourage change. Their scope could be extended beyond cost-efficiency targets and includes monetary compensation for targets in other key performance areas (delays, technology adoption, environmental targets and safety). Price regulation would then take the form of a hybrid price-cap. Alternative triggers for change stemming from the aviation market and the airport sector, are shown to be too weak due to low demand elasticities. We can conclude that it is necessary to change the institutional and regulatory mechanisms in order to encourage both greater cost-efficiency and accelerated technological adoption simultaneously.

The study also suggests that introducing some competitive elements can help in driving bottom-up change. This is another approach, compared to the usual collaborative approaches for ATC sector development, which have been used in the past years. In this context, the “regional forerunner” vertical cooperation seems to be the way forward as it would introduce more competition and provide incentives for higher cost-efficiency and more adoption of capacity-enhancing technology options. More radically, States could also franchise the provision of air navigation services to private companies for a pre-specified period of time using a tender system on a regular basis, which may further encourage the adoption of the Single Skies approach.

Within ACCHANGE, TML was project coordinator and responsible for the comparison with other sectors, the outline of scenarios, developing three out of four models, and drafting the conclusions.


Deliverable D1: Taking stock of parallel experiences

Deliverable D2: Air transport sector specificities

Deliverable D3: Outline of scenarios

Deliverable D4: Quantitative and qualitative assessment of scenarios for ATM

Deliverable D5: Conclusions and caveats

presentations and papers

Paper Journal of Air Transport Management

September 2016, Thomas Blondiau, Eef Delhaye, Nicole Adler, and Stef Proost wrote an article for the Journal of Air Transport Management, Volume 56, Part A, p. 19-27: "ACCHANGE: Building economic models to analyse the performance of air navigation service providers"

Workshops ACCHANGE - Brussels

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SID conference 2013 - Stockholm
ATRS conference 2014 - Bordeaux
  • Presentation by Eef Delhaye: Accelerating Change by Regional Forerunners (ACCHANGE): Taking Stock of Parallel Experience  (paper - presentation)

  • Presentation by Nicole Adler: Encouraging Change in Air Traffic Control

GARS workshop 2014 - Brussels
  • Presentation by Eef Delhaye - Accelerating Change by Regional Forerunners: Taking Stock of parallel Experiences (paper - presentation)

  • Presentation by Thomas Blondiau - Building Economic Models for Understanding ATC Performance (paper - presentation)

  • Presentation by Stef Proost - Air Traffic Control Regulation in a Union Bargaining Model Setting

SID conference 2014 - Madrid
  • Presentation by Thomas Blondiau - Building Economic Models for Understanding ATC Performance (paper - presentation)

  • Presentation by Nicole Adler – Managing European Air Traffic Control (paper - presentation)

ATM seminar 2015 - Lisbon
  • Presentation by Thomas Blondiau – Air Traffic Control Regulation in a Union Bargaining Model Setting (paper - presentation)

  • Presentation by Nicole Adler – Managing European Air Traffic Control
    Winner best paper award"

SID conference 2015 - Bologna



funded by

This work is co-financed by EUROCONTROL acting on behalf of the SESAR Joint Undertaking and the EUROPEAN UNION as part of Work Package E in the SESAR Programme


Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Core-Invest, ADSE B.V.


Eef Delhaye, Kris Vanherle, Thomas Blondiau, Griet De Ceuster


Eef Delhaye

+32 16 74.51.22
reference: 12.47