European Commission requires decision on airports

The European Commission on Thursday called for new measures at European airports, including a possible overhaul of takeoff and landing slots, to handle the increase in congestion.

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said EU governments, airlines and air navigation providers had to act soon to address the problem, warning that a failure to do so could have consequences on economic growth.

The EU head office was launching consultations with the industry to see what practical measures could be taken to improve the situation.

The Commission said by 2025 more than 60 airports in the EU will be congested.

"We should both plan the construction of new airports and make every effort to better utilize the existing infrastructure," Barrot said in a statement.

Possible measures being considered also include better rail-to-airport links, promoting rail use and introducing new technologies to improve efficiency at airports.

Slot reform proposals are bound to upset national flag carriers, who guard their airport positions with care. Established airlines have in the past rejected efforts to open up the allocation of slots to new entrants, mostly low-cost carriers.

Eurocontrol, the European air safety organization, warned last December that air travelers will face severe congestion problems by 2025 if air travel continues to expand at the current rate.

It said demand for air travel is expected to more than double by 2025, meaning some 3.7 million flights per year will not be accommodated, even if the capacity of the airport network increases by 60 percent.

Eurocontrol warned 75 percent of European airports cannot build new runways because of space and building restrictions, environmental concerns and other restraints, the AP reports.

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