Page last updated at 18:36 GMT, Tuesday, 3 June 2008 19:36 UK

Air traffic system 'wastes cash'

Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Lufthansa chief executive
Mr Mayrhuber called on European politicians to act.

The boss of German airline Lufthansa has said billions of dollars are being wasted because Europe does not have a unified air traffic control system.

Planes are having to stay in the air longer, burning expensive fuel, as they negotiate airspace over different countries, Wolfgang Mayrhuber said.

In a BBC interview, Mr Mayrhuber complained a single air traffic system had been discussed for 48 years.

He called on European politicians to stop airlines from wasting resources.

"If the honey bees were controlled by fragmented air traffic controllers we wouldn't have honey any more in Europe," said Mr Mayrhuber.

Airlines navigate almost 40 different air traffic control systems across Europe.

"We fly 6% longer routes than we should, we spend billions more than we should, we have holding patterns and we just destroy value there," he said.

Speaking during the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Istanbul, the Lufthansa boss argued that the situation could not continue for the sake of the environment and of airlines already struggling to cope with record oil prices.

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