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Airservices capacity issues ‘lowest in 10 months’, says ATC body

written by Jake Nelson | March 14, 2024

Melbourne’s 75-metre air traffic control tower opened in 2014. (Image: Airservices)

Airservices Australia says its performance is continuing to improve following a troubled 2023.

In its February 2024 Australian Aviation Network Overview report, the air traffic management body found that only 1.3 per cent of flights for the month were affected by ATC ‘capacity constraints’, the lowest level in 10 months, with 6 per cent of arrival cancellations also attributable to Airservices.

The trend for ground delays attributed to Airservices also continued to decline, dropping four percentage points from 12 per cent in January and 16 per cent in December.

“Where [Ground Delay Program] periods were implemented, eight per cent of ground delay periods were attributable to Airservices. Additional layers of resilience and flexibility continue to be built into the air traffic services operating model to deliver month-on-month improvements,” the report read.

“This includes our recruitment program, training system improvements, refining traffic management processes and continual investment in our people experience and service culture.”


Additionally, Airservices said it has implemented “additional governance” to better balance demand with capacity and ensure ground delay program application “occurs only at those times when most needed”.

“Monitoring and reporting on the additional controls will aid our collective understanding of the effect on OTP and airborne delays,” Airservices said.

“Targeted industry engagement to increase GDP compliance also remains a focus to optimise capacity and constraint management, particularly in protecting the first rotation period given limited opportunity to recover as the day progresses and airlines’ reliance on this period for route connectivity and aircraft utilisation.”

Airservices has previously said it is continuing to invest in enhancing its service resilience by recruiting trainees, with 80 new air traffic controllers due in the 2024 financial year.

“All steps are undertaken to minimise variations to published services and limit those that cannot be avoided to shorter and low traffic periods,” it said in the report.

Airservices’ improvements come after staffing headaches last year, which saw Qantas, ATC union Civil Air, and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots all insist the organisation did not have enough air traffic controllers to meet requirements, as well as reports of 340 instances of “uncontrolled airspace” from June to April 2023 due to “staff availability issues”.

Airservices CEO Jason Harfield told Australian Aviation last year that there is no “magic number” for ATC staffing.

“We sort of tried to stop focusing on the number, but also, what’s the service outcome? Are we providing the right level of service? What’s the resourcing required and the flexibility required, for instance? That’s not a numbers game,” he said.

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