Safely through turbulent times

DFS Annual Press Briefing
At its Annual Press Briefing today, DFS, the German air navigation service provider, is giving an insight into the situation in German airspace and an outlook on the challenges of the coming years.

Air traffic volumes are gradually recovering from the slump in traffic stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, but new and sometimes unexpected events have been impacting the work of German air traffic controllers since 2022. The war in Ukraine, combined with large-scale airspace closures in Russia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, among others, continue to impact traffic flows in Europe. At the same time, there has been a significant increase in military air traffic by at least 15-20 precent. Furthermore, the NATO Tiger Meet exercise and the European Football Championship 2024 (UEFA Euro 2024) are major events that will be taking place in German airspace, which is already very busy.

Commenting on the performance of DFS, Arndt Schoenemann, DFS CEO, stressed: “DFS is mastering these challenges with an excellent safety record and solid punctuality. We have been performing well, a fact confirmed by our national and international partners.”

Future of global air transport
Nevertheless, the DFS CEO expects enormous changes worldwide in the coming years, which will also have an impact on the work of air navigation services.

“We are seeing a rapidly growing middle class in emerging markets, extensive aircraft orders from these regions, as well as from other well-known airlines. This leads me to only one conclusion: We have to align our technology much more closely than before with the multitude of new demands, including this traffic growth.”

Situation in Germany
German airspace covers around 390,000 square kilometres, which is three percent of European airspace. However, every third flight in Europe uses German airspace and is monitored by DFS. Worldwide, there are few comparable airspaces used as intensively.

In addition to highly qualified personnel, state-of-the-art technology is essential for our work. Today, DFS is presenting what it is doing in these fields.

DFS as attractive employer and technological pacesetter
The company needs over 7,000 applicants to recruit around 140 air traffic controllers every year. Thanks to intensive recruiting, however, the company has been able to find and hire suitable young people in times marked by a shortage of skilled labour.

In the operational area, DFS is increasingly focusing on digitalisation and automation, for example through pre-calculated flight paths in trajectory-based air traffic control systems. DFS is supporting projects for the use of flexible architecture for these systems as well as the expansion of broadband air-ground communication. It is the first air navigation service provider in the world to virtualise its systems, moving from central services to the cloud. As DFS operates infrastructure critical to the functioning of the country, special attention is being paid to data security.

“We are recognised internationally as a technological pacesetter; something we are committed to. This is the only way to manage the expected growth and the requirements for climate- and noise-friendly air transport as military activities continue to increase in the coming years.”

No redundancies during the COVID-19 pandemic – solid bargaining agreement
The DFS CEO looks back on 2023 and the first half of the current year with satisfaction. He also expressly describes the current collective bargaining agreement, which was concluded a few days ago after two years of intensive negotiations, as a success achieved jointly with the collective bargaining partner.

The DFS CEO does not expect traffic volumes to return to pre-COVID levels until 2027 at the earliest. “We coped well with the COVID-19 pandemic and had the foresight not to lay off any staff. This means that we can continue to work with a qualified and committed team – we are well positioned.”

Tiger Meet military exercise and UEFA Euro 2024
The NATO exercise Tiger Meet will take place in northern German airspace from 3 to 13 June. More than 70 fighter jets and helicopters from 15 nations will take part, including six Eurofighters and six Tornados from the German Air Force. After the Air Defender military exercise last year, DFS is once again contributing its civil-military expertise.

EUFA Euro 2024 will also generate additional air traffic and requires a lot of preparatory work for our air traffic control experts.

“We are looking forward to this major sporting event. We will ensure that teams, organisers and guests fly safely to the venues. Germany will also be a great host in the air,” concluded Arndt Schoenemann at the press briefing.

Facts and figures
DFS logged around 2.83 million flights over Germany in 2023: By the end of May 2024, there had been 1.13 million flights, an increase of 6.2 percent over the prior-year period.

For 2024, DFS forecasts just under three million in its en-route area (90% of the 2019 level), while 1.7 million are expected in terminal services (78% of the 2019 level).

Punctuality improved by 50 percent in the first half of 2024 over the prior-year period: Currently, delay is an average of 0.36 minutes per flight.

Media contact: 
Robert Ertler 
Telephone: +49 (0)6103 / 707-4160   

DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (DFS), the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,700 employees as at 31 December 2023. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Around 2,200 air traffic controllers guide more than three million flights through German airspace in peak years, up to 10,000 every day. The company operates control centres in Bremen, Karlsruhe, Langen and Munich as well as control towers at the 15 designated international airports in Germany. The subsidiary, DFS Aviation Services GmbH, markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services, and provides air traffic control at nine regional airports in Germany and at Edinburgh Airport in the United Kingdom. DFS is working on the integration of drones into air traffic and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom. Other subsidiaries include R. Eisenschmidt GmbH, which markets publications and products for general aviation, and Kaufbeuren ATM Training GmbH (KAT), which provides training for military air traffic services personnel. The joint venture FCS Flight Calibration Services GmbH offers flight inspection services.