Flight routes Brussels-GenevaYesterday afternoon I was sat in the 10ºC sunshine at 1200m above sea level sipping a beer in Châtel (Haute Savoie) after 3 days of skiing, with no sign of snow in the village. Yet climate change and energy efficiency were on my mind – it was more interesting to think of that than nurse my aching limbs, and I was feeling guilty for having flown from Brussels rather than go by train (that would have cost twice as much – sob).

But one thing was bugging me: the announcement from the pilot on the Easyjet flight from Brussels to Geneva about 40 minutes after take off – “out of the left side of the plane you can see the city of Basel”. Basel? Now my knowledge of European geography is not too bad, and I knew even then that Basel is not on a straight line from Brussels to Geneva. Having researched it now I reckon Basel is a good 100km off the direct route. Plus the flight I was on took off towards the south from Brussels, and landed from the west in Geneva, so takeoff and landing are not to blame for the route.

I hence reckon the flight I was on was one of those that suffers inefficiencies due to the lack of a Single European Sky. Now I’m not sure how that might apply to Switzerland, but 95% of the route from Brussels should be over EU-country airspace, and MEPs have come up with the figure of 12 million tonnes of C02 that could be saved if all of Europe’s 35 air control authorities were merged (more from Euractiv) and unnecessary route complications eliminated. That’s 600 times more C02 than would be saved by abolishing the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament

So what are we waiting for? Even if you’re unconcerned by climate change a Single European Sky would make good economic sense. Can national governments really say the jobs of some air traffic administrators in their respective countries, or the sovereignty of airspace are valid reasons for not doing something about this?


  1. Hi Jon,

    There are hopes the SES II would become a reality, check Martin’s blog

    Congratulations for your blog, it’s really great!

  2. I reckon you’re a bit harsh there – I have written at length about my ethical dilemmas about flying. Plus I am trying to be constructive about what to do about the issue…

    Further, were I to not fly anywhere I would get one hell of a lot more grief of a very different sort. But that’s a different story.

  3. sebastian

    Why don’t you stop flying for pure leisure, if you are worried about your CO2-Emissions?
    I am afraid, you can’t have it all…

  4. First of all I might not be right that the route we took went over Luxembourg. Secondly even if it did it would not matter as far as I can tell, since Belgian and Luxembourg airspace are both controlled by the Maastricht UAC (see this).

    As for the weather: wind was 10-20km/h from the east in Geneva when we landed, and we landed into it (i.e. apporaching from the west, and the runway is west-east). If the wind were a westerly or south-westerly then you might have a point, but on Thursday last week it wasn’t like that.

  5. Hmmm, I’m not sure that you are right here, Jon. Look at the route that you have plotted out: it passes over more countries than the direct route and, as such, I seriously doubt that airspace restrictions are to blame here.

    Have you checked the wind conditions on the day that you flew? And the position of the jetstream (the northern one winds anticlockwise so would force your flight in that reconfigured direction).


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