Airlines to choose routes in Scottish airspace change

05 March 2015

Airlines will be able to choose their own direct routes through parts of Scottish airspace from today, with the introduction a new technique to cut flying times and save fuel.

The project, being led by air traffic controllers at NATS Prestwick Centre, allows airlines to plan more efficient direct routes, as opposed to being limited to the traditional ‘motorways in the sky’ airspace structure.

The first flight through the new Direct Route Airspace was United Airlines UAL989 at 03:51 this morning on its way to Frankfurt.

Up to 300 direct routes are now available, giving flight planners much greater choice on their specific flight path while allowing them to better avoid bad weather and take advantage of favourable winds. The change will help cut journey times, reduce fuel burn and save CO2 emissions.

The airspace change, which is initially implemented in two areas of upper airspace above 25,500ft to the west of Scotland, will save over 3,000 tonnes of fuel each year. Around 400,000 aircraft a year will use the new direct routes, including flights across the Atlantic, to the Canary Islands and the southern Mediterranean.

Alastair Muir

Alastair Muir

Alastair Muir, NATS Operations Director at Prestwick Centre, said: “The introduction of Direct Route Airspace is all about giving our airline customers the best available routes and allowing them to save fuel and emissions. It will also help improve the predictability of arrivals and departures at airports, which is good news for passengers.”

The new Direct Route Airspace is the first phase of introducing an entirely free route airspace environment in the skies over Scotland, and eventually the whole of Northern Europe as part of a project by the Borealis Alliance of air navigation service providers.

By 2020, airlines and business aviation operators will be able to plan and take the most cost effective, fuel efficient and timely routes across from Iceland to the Russian border rather than following pre-defined routes within each country’s airspace, saving time, money and fuel.

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