Tips for Business Aircraft Ops to Europe in the Summer
Operating to popular European destinations during summer months can be challenging, as you’re often dealing with high demand/limited supply situations. For short-notice trips to busy Mediterranean destinations, it’s critical to begin preparations with your 3rd-party provider and ground handler as early as possible to avoid potential delays, repositions and day-of-operation issues. Here is what you should know:
1. Summer travel to Europe can be complex
Air traffic in Europe is much busier during summer months, especially within the Mediterranean area. You’ll be competing for aircraft parking, airport slot and Prior Permission Required (PPR) availability in the Mediterranean regions of Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Croatia. There will also be airport closures, curfews, strikes and limited hotel availability issues to consider.
2. Be aware of high-traffic areas
While northern Europe experiences less traffic, many of the Greek islands are very congested during the summer. Ibiza (LEIB) is usually very busy, and high-traffic situations are common at Nice (LFMN), Cannes (LFMD) and Barcelona (LEBL), as well as assorted Italian destinations, including Venice (LIPZ), Florence (LIRQ) and Naples (LIRN). Many Mediterranean-area locations have only a few General Aviation (GA) parking spots available. In many cases, you may be faced with drop-and-go scenarios.
3. Strikes can be an issue in Europe
Air Traffic Control (ATC) strikes occur in Europe with some regularity during summer months – particularly in France, Italy, Greece and Spain. Strike activity may cause closure of airspace and/or airports. While ATC strikes are advised via NOTAM, advance notification is, at times, minimal. In some cases, you may have 48-hour strike notification, but, in other situations, there will be only a few hours’ notice. ATC strikes can impact operations in terms of overflight, destination stops, alternate airport availability and filing flight plans. This may require schedule and flight plan revisions, adding time and resulting in delays. Such situations can be particularly complex in terms of charter (non-scheduled commercial) operations, as they may impact crew duty time and/or require unplanned overnight stays, possibly at departure points that may not have available parking. In addition to ATC strikes, there may also be strikes impacting airport fuel delivery or mass transportation strikes, which make off-airport transport more difficult.
4. Hotel availability may be scarce during summer months
At popular European destinations, hotel availability is often very limited during peak summer periods. Popular international hotel chains often sell out first, so it’s important to book as soon as the schedule is known. Prices will be higher over peak summer periods in Europe, and you may be faced with non-refundable and/or non-changeable reservations. Check with your ground handler regarding local hotel options, as some local hotels may have limited amenities. Whenever possible, it’s best to book 4-star and above for crew accommodations.
5. Fuel availability is not always guaranteed
Fuel shortages occur in Europe during summer months at both smaller and larger destinations. There may be restricted fuel uplift volumes in effect and, at times, no fuel availability for operators who’ve not reserved fuel in advance. Fuel shortages may be a result of delays in delivering product or local strike activity, for example. Weekend fuel shortages are relatively common at LFMN, and it’s recommended to fuel upon arrival if your departure is scheduled for later in the weekend, as that is when fuel typically runs out.
6. Last-minute trips involve additional challenges
For short-notice trips, it’s always best to have a Plan “B” in case your preferred destination is or becomes drop-and-go only. Many popular Mediterranean locations will not confirm aircraft parking availability until close to day of operation. This can add another layer of complexity on the day of operation, especially if hotel reservations are non-cancellable, and aircraft parking is denied last-minute. Regardless of the time of year, short-notice parking requests at locations such as LIPZ may not be possible, due to availability issues.
7. Consider airport limitations
Always check airport curfews and noise restrictions for all planned European destinations. Overtime is possible at some non-24 hour airports, but these options should be checked and confirmed in advance. Airport slots and PPRs are considerations at some airfields. For example, LFMN has airport slots in effect during summer months, and LIRN requires a minimum of 48 hours’ PPR notification and has only six GA parking spots available. Some airports give preference to local operators, and hanger availability is often not an option. Airport closures and operating restrictions may be advised on short notice via NOTAM, and you may be faced with last-minute schedule changes. Be aware that General Aviation Terminal (GAT) hours may not mirror airport operating hours. If you choose to depart LIPZ before the GAT opens in the morning, for example, additional last-minute operating complexities will most likely be involved.
8. There may be services limitations
Additional lead time is recommended for local transport and other 4th-party service requests when visiting popular European locations during summer. Always ensure that credit is arranged for aviation fuel, ground handling and other services. In-flight catering requests may require longer lead times, and ground handlers may have limited capacity to store delivered catering or food items that you may have brought onboard. You may also need to make special arrangements in order to have self-sourced catering delivered airside from a hotel or restaurant.
9. Additional reading
- Operating to Spain during Summer Months
- Operating to Italy during Summer Months – Part 1: Regional Considerations
- Operating to Italy during Summer Months – Part 2: Operating Tips
- Operating to Greece during Summer Months
- Operating to France During the Summer Months
When operating to popular European destinations during summer months, planning ahead is always the best course of action. If there’s even a chance that you may be operating to a popular Mediterranean destination, best practice to maximize operational flexibility is to request aircraft parking as soon as possible. Check curfews and closures and stay in contact with your 3rd-party provider and ground handlers to monitor parking availability and possible strike activity. In addition, be prepared to deal with last-minute schedule revisions should they arise.
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