Rules create the framework 

National laws, European regulations, international rules: DFS operates within a tight legal framework. For example, the level of air
navigation charges we can set for our services is fixed. For certain core areas, DFS must also meet predefined targets. 

DFS is a company organised under private law (GmbH) and wholly owned by the Federal Republic of Germany. Our task is to control air traffic in Germany in a safe, orderly and expeditious manner. This is what the German Aviation Act (LuftVG) demands. Article 27c(1) lists the tasks of air navigation services and is the legal basis for our work. 

However, the legal framework within which DFS operates is much more comprehensive. Among other things, there are the rules defined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). We comply with them when planning approach and departure routes, for example. In addition, there are various European regulations that aim to introduce a Single European Sky (SES). They have considerable influence on the work of air navigation service providers. 

One result of European legislation has been the establishment of the German Federal Supervisory Authority for Air Navigation Services (BAF), which has certified DFS as an air navigation service provider and monitors our work. Another impact is that DFS has had to meet defined performance targets since 2012. Since then, target values have been agreed in terms of safety, punctuality, route efficiency and costs which guide us in our work. 

German Aviation Act (LuftVG) (in German)

EU regulation 

airplane at cruising altitude

DFS in Europe

Aviation is highly dependent on international cooperation and communication. The same applies to air navigation services. Every day, many thousands of flights take place in European airspace and are monitored by air traffic controllers in the 27 EU Member States. 

It does not matter whether a flight stays within one country, flies on to a neighbouring country or perhaps even crosses several countries in Europe. Responsibility is passed from control centre to control centre, across borders and in a smooth manner.  

With increasing traffic, the busy European airspace has been placing ever greater demands on all involved. These demands are the underlying motivation behind the European Commission establishing the Single European Sky (SES) programme. 

European countries map

Single European Sky

The European Commission has established the Single European Sky (SES) programme. The goals of this programme are uniform high safety standards, more airspace capacity and good value for money. The performance targets for air navigation service providers and the rules for setting air navigation charges are a result of this programme. 

The SES programme has also involved the creation of so-called functional airspace blocks. Within these blocks, the air navigation service providers are increasingly working together and jointly seeking ways to optimise flight routes across borders. Together with the air navigation service providers of France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC), DFS is part of the Functional Airspace Block Europe Central, or FABEC for short. Significant savings for airlines have already been achieved through direct routings and the progressive introduction of freely chosen routes in upper airspace. 

An essential element in the creation of a Single European Sky is the Single European Sky ATM Research Programme (SESAR). Its aim is to harmonise the various technical air traffic management systems in use in the individual States. To this end, extensive research and development work is taking place, in which DFS is also significantly involved. The projects and their implementation are partly funded by the European Union.

SESAR projects with DFS participation

flag of European union

Financing of DFS 

Airlines pay charges to DFS to guide their aircraft safely to their destinations. These air navigation charges are incurred for every take-off and every flight using German airspace. Terminal charges depend on the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft. En-route charges are incurred as soon as an aircraft crosses the airspace. When crossing airspace, the length of the distance travelled is included in the charges in addition to the weight.  

To incentivise the performance of air navigation service providers (ANSP), European legislation has stipulated the following: If the income from charges exceeds their costs, ANSPs are allowed to keep all or part of it. Conversely, they have to bear part of the risk if the costs are higher than the income. Planning is based on traffic forecasts. If any fluctuations in the traffic volumes are outside the specified forecast range, DFS must raise or lower the charges with a two-year delay.  

Charges are the main source of revenue for DFS. However, these charges only make up a small part of the ticket price. Before the COVID-19-related slump in air transport, this was around €2.50 per passenger.  

Find out more.

airplane taking off


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