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Official: More Flights Will Clog Air Corridors; Force Delays

June 12, 1988

BONN, West Germany (AP) _ A record number of flights will clog air corridors over Europe this summer, strain heavily traveled North Atlantic routes and cause costly delays, an airline official said Sunday.

″The skies over Europe are seriously overcrowded now,″ said Herbert Leuninger, director of flight operations in Frankfurt for Pan American World Airways.

″The situation is going to get worse because this looks like it will be a record year for flights to and from Europe,″ Leuninger said.

Leuninger said the number of flights could rise 14 percent in the next three months. He said the increase could cause significant delays and cost airlines millions of dollars in fuel and maintenance costs.

″We’re already spending millions flying around in circles over Germany,″ Leuninger said.

West Germany’s Lufthansa Airlines says its jets spent more than 2,500 hours in holding patterns in 1988′s first four months, costing the company $14 million.

On May 15, Lufthansa canceled 23 flights because West Germany’s airspace was overcrowded. Many of the passengers were put onto trains or provided rental cars.

The airline also has reported incidents in which its employees have been physically threatened by passengers angry over delays and cancellations.

Pan Am’s Leuninger predicted frequent delays of two hours and more on many flights to the United States originating from Frankfurt.

Victoria Galban, a spokeswoman for Spain’s civil aviation authority, said increases in air traffic in May throughout Europe backed up flights in Spain, especially in tourist destinations such as the Mediterranean island of Majorca and Barcelona, where many holiday-goers catch connecting flights.

She said air traffic in April rose 10 percent over the same month last year.

Many flights originating in West Germany are routed away from congested areas over England, said a Frankfurt air traffic controller, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Air traffic controllers and aviation officials in West Germany have requested better equipment, airport expansion, restructuring of flight schedules and more international coordination to ease the problem.

″The problem can no longer be solved on the national level,″ said Hans- Ulrich Ohl, a spokesman for West Germany’s federal office for flight safety.

But Leuninger said flight delays will remain because airports have not been able to keep up with the surge of new flights airlines have scheduled to meet increasing passenger demand.

″We are in a competitive battle and reducing the number of flights is not the answer for us,″ he said.

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