12/11/2011

Air Traffic control for sale?

The financial crisis is forcing some countries to try to sell their assets, including airports. Britain is even considering selling off its Air Traffic Control service (perhaps to a German company!)

A report today, Sunday 11 December, in the Sunday Times, states that the remaining public ownership part of its NATS (National Air Traffic Services) is a public asset which could be sold to private enterprise. One estimate of the amount is £500 million. One bidder could be the German state-owned DFS (Deutsche Flugsicherung). However, this news, on the same weekend that Britain is considered to have turned its back on Europe, could raise a big political storm.

This is all part of a desperate effort by many European countries to reduce their national debt. Greece was amongst the first country to offer to privatise some of its assets, including both airports and shipping ports. Other countries have been following suit. However, the idea that control of air traffic could be in the hands of a private company, perhaps belonging to another country, is likely to seem a different level of privatisation.

Britain's NATS was privatised back in 2001 by the Labour government then in power, but a rebellion in both houses of Parliament forced the government to retain a 49% stake in NATS. It is this stake which is proposed as for sale, but there could again be a strong opposition.

On the positive side, the Sunday Times article suggests that combining the British and German air space control into one authority could be a step towards reducing the plethora of national authorities which (they claim) is already struggling with the growth in traffic.

I wonder what the Swiss organisation Skyguide thinks of all this?

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