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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 15:25 GMT
Flight delays tumble despite extra security
Airport delays
Less air traffic congestion has decreased delays
Sarah Toyne

You may have to take your shoes off, be frisked by a customs officer, pack your nail file in your suitcase and arrive up to three hours before departure, but European airline delays have actually decreased since 11 September.

According to figures obtained by BBC News Online from Eurocontrol, an agency which coordinates air traffic in Europe, delays due to security were more than counterbalanced by the clearer skies of recent months.

Easing airspace congestion helped total European airline delays fall by 13% last year, and the number of delayed flights was down 11%.

Better still, more economical use of airspace - effectively adding more air "lanes" from the end of January this year - should ease congestion still further, promising even fewer delays in 2002.

Fewer, and shorter

And while the number of delayed flights due to congestion has fallen, so has the average length of delay, which overall fell 13% to just over three minutes per flight in 2001.

Flight delays can be for a number of reasons - from bad weather to late passengers or technical problems.

Aside from congestion and security-related hold-ups, the proportion of most other forms of delay remained more or less constant.

Thinner slices

One key element in reducing congestion in the future will be Eurocontrol's so-called Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) programme, which in effect slices airspace more finely, allowing more planes to fly at the same time.

RVSM, which goes hand in hand with improvements in altimetry, came into operation on 24 January.

Full delay figures are due to released later in February.

See also:

23 Jan 02 | UK
UK not OK by everyone
22 Nov 01 | Business
Round-up: Aviation in crisis
18 Sep 01 | Business
What now for tourism?
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