You are here

Results of the inspection ordered by the Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications regarding flight delays to and from the international airports of Bulgaria

15.08.2019

In order to carry out the verification, the Directorate General Civil Aviation Administration requires the operating air carriers from and to the international airports of the Republic of Bulgaria to notify the Directorate General Civil Aviation Administration (DG CAA) in writing within seven days about: the reasons for the delay and / or the delay on a flight from the beginning of 2019 to the present; the terms, conditions and manner of fulfillment of the obligation of the air carriers to inform passengers about their rights under art. 14 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004; the actions taken concerning passenger rights on a case by case basis and in implementation of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004; the terms, conditions and manner of notifying the relevant ground and aerodrome operators of the expected delay and / or cancellation of a flight.

Extraordinary inspections were also made at Sofia, Varna, Burgas and Plovdiv Airports, which were carried out at the end of July and beginning of August by two teams including inspectors and passengers' rights experts. During the inspections, inspectors received full assistance from the staff and services of the four airports. As part of the inspection, the inspectors requested that airport coordination centers be provided with extracts from detailed flight delay reports for July. Passenger check-in counters were checked; exits to take to planes and information desks. The documentation of the ground operators relating to the passenger services of the respective airlines (Ground Operation Manual and Ground Handling Manual - GOM / GHM) was also checked. The availability of directories of contacts for contact between ground operators and the airlines served by them was checked. Interviews were conducted with the heads of the ground-based operators' centers and their employees, as well as with designated airline representatives for the respective airports. There were no delays of more than two hours during the checks at the four airports. For the inspections carried out, detailed reports were prepared, accompanied by copies of documentation and photographs. Тhe information collected about flight delays from airport inspections indicates the following:

(a) for Varna Airport (data covers scheduled and charter flight operations for the period from 01.07 to 31.07. 2019 - 12:56 local time)

During the specified period from Varna airport 1276 flights were fulfilled, with registered delays over 120 min. (2 hours) * on departure being 46 or 3.6% of all flights. Flights with a delay between 60 minutes and 119 minutes account for 91 or 7.13% of all departures. With a delay of between 30 minutes and 59 minutes, 106 flights or 8.3% of all departures departed;

(b) for Bourgas Airport (data covers regular and charter flight operations for the period from 01.07 to 31.07. 2019 - 12:56 local time):

During the specified period from Burgas airport 2484 flights were fulfilled, with registered delays over 120 minutes (2 hours) of departure being 109 or 4.38% of all flights. Flights with a delay between 60 minutes and 119 minutes account for 167 or 6.72% of all departures. With a delay of between 30 minutes and 59 minutes, 247 flights departed or 9.94% of all departures;

(c) for Sofia Airport (data for the period from 01.07.2019 to 31.07.2019): 4797 passenger flights (scheduled and charter) completed, with a registered departure delay of up to 1 hour (60 minutes) 1145 flights completed; up to 2 hours (120 minutes) delayed - 154 flights and over two hours delayed (over 120 minutes) - 89 flights. The inquiry made on the basis of the information uploaded in the operating information system (VOC) at Sofia Airport is provided in electronic format and as a statistical sample of the airport system;

(d) delays exceeding 30 minutes and no irregularities related to the respect of passengers' rights have been established at Plovdiv Airport. This can be explained by the small number of flights - three times a week. On the day of the inspection (31.07.2019) only two flights were completed.

The following summarized conclusions can be drawn from the information gathered from the checks:

1. Causes of delays:

Among the main reasons for delays to and from airports checked, including longer delays, are route restrictions related to air traffic management capacity and adverse weather conditions. In this regard, a report from the Director General of the Air Traffic Services Authority explains that “in the summer of 2018, record levels of traffic and record delays of over 18 million minutes were registered, which is a major problem for some parts of the European air space. Delays are generated mainly in the air traffic services sectors at the control centers in Karlsruhe, Marseille, Reims and Maastricht, causing significant network-wide effect. The reasons for the delays are different - poor weather conditions, shortage of flight managers, insufficient airspace capacity, strike actions, etc.

* Delays in flights below two hours are not covered by Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 and do not lay down provisions for the obligations of air carriers in such cases. Airlines have no obligation to provide passengers with communications about their rights, which is an obligation under Art. 14 of Regulation (EC) No 61/2004 they have after the second hour of delay. However, according to domestic passenger service policies, some airlines apply good practices by providing information to their passengers even before the end of the second hour of delay.

In view of the expected delays in the coming years and the estimated annual traffic growth of about 3.5%, the Network Manager (Eurocontrol) has started implementing a number of measures since the end of April 2019. The measures shift air traffic flows from the airspace to the most busy control centers to reduce delays at European level. Shifting flows is a prerequisite for generating delays at other control centers that do not have capacity issues (as is the case with Bulgaria) and prolongs airline flights, which contradicts the concept of free flight planning on the shortest trajectories. Another common cause is the delay of a previous flight, and the circumstances may vary. There is a significant proportion of flight delays and other reasons, such as technical (defect found, sudden damage to aircraft, delayed refueling, etc.), waiting passengers, bird strikes, delayed luggage loading, delays due to security checks, late submission of flight documentation, etc.

2. Communication and coordination between the airlines and the ground-handling operators:

All ground-handling operators at the Bulgarian airports serving the airlines under the contracts concluded with them have in place and are guided in their activity by manuals (Ground Operation Manual and Ground Handling Manual - GOM / GHM), which contain procedures for irregular flights (delays, cancellation, overbooking, denied board access). Following these procedures:

(a) in the case of delayed flight, the operating center of the airline concerned shall provide information to the aerodrome coordination center, the groundhandling operator and to the representative of the air carrier at the airport concerned. This information should include both the duration and the reason for the delay; the necessary actions to be taken by the services concerned;

(b) in the absence of information submitted by the air carrier, the groundhandling operator, the representative of the operating air carrier at the airport concerned, as well as the airport coordination center (ACC), shall contact the airline's operational center via email, telephone, SITA. The information containing the addresses and telephone numbers for contact with the relevant operational centers is publicly available to interested airport services;

(c) Airport staff from the Passenger Services Division, the Ramp Agents and Load Control Division, the ACC and the Airport Representative staff of the airline concerned shall liaise with the air carrier.

All of the inspected ground staff at airports have demonstrated a high level of knowledge of the procedures and actions to be taken by them in the event of a major flight delay.

Some of the Bulgarian airlines, which have so far sent replies to DG CAA, state that they do not operate international passenger services and others that they operate exclusively charter services for passengers. Not all Bulgarian airlines have published passenger rights information on their websites. None of the Bulgarian airlines has applied its internal rules for passenger irregularities in its response. In view of the fact that Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 does not differentiate between operating scheduled or only charter flights with air carriers and whether these are international or domestic flights in an EU Member State, and due to the fact that the Bulgarian the airlines did not apply internal rules for passenger irregularities in their responses and, where applicable, a sample of IATA Delay Codes with the duration of delays and reasons, DG CAA requested the provision of such information in 7 days time.

3. Availability of check-in counters and passenger lounges at airports:

The checks found that, as a whole, check-in counters and airport lounges had information available to guide passengers on how to get to know their rights. However, with the exception of Plovdiv Airport, visualization is not sufficient and brochures are not freely available in more locations in public areas of airports. Not all check-in counters have a clear and legible message in a visible and accessible passenger area, which reads as follows: "If you are denied boarding or if your flight is canceled or delayed by at least two hours, please ask for registration or on boarding exit to provide you with the text defining your rights, especially with regard to compensation and assistance '(as required by Article 14 (1) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004). This is a recurrent violation and remedial measures will be prescribed. In the event of delay, after receiving the necessary information from the airline operating the flight concerned, the Information Service of the airports in Sofia, Varna, Burgas and Plovdiv broadcasts a notification for the notification of the passengers via the acoustic system. Flight delays and expected take-off times are noted on the information monitors. At the same time, messages do not always contain the information desired by passengers about the reasons for the delay. Although there is no legal provision on the provision of such information, it is a good practice that applies not only in Europe. At the time of preparation of this report, no information was received from 10 Bulgarian and 19 foreign airlines, which is why data collection and processing will continue. Nevertheless, based on the information received from DG CAA, the conclusions were drawn about the existence of deficiencies and shortcomings committed by the airlines. To this end, the competent authority of the Directorate General Civil Aviation Administration has ordered the introduction of the following specific measures:

(a) strict implementation of Art. 14, item 1 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, whereby operating air carriers are obliged at the check-in counter at a visible and accessible place for passengers to place a clearly legible message containing the following text: "If you have been denied boarding or if your flight is canceled or delayed by at least two hours, ask the check-in counter or the boarding exit to provide you with the text defining your rights, especially as regards compensation and assistance. " Airmen are required to ensure that this message is permanently located at designated locations;

(b) presentation of internal rules for the airline's actions in the event of irregularities, by air carriers operating within the meaning of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 with an operating license issued by DG CAA;

(c) the publication on the official websites of operators operating within the meaning of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 with an operating license issued by DG CAA information or a clear reference to information on passenger rights, including compensation when delayed. in flight exceeds two hours;

(d) the provision by operators operating within the meaning of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of an operating license issued by DG CAA to contracting ground operators with information on delays and the reasons for delays;

(e) appropriately displaying the rights of air passengers by airport operators through the flight information system. Officially distributed videos available on the EC website can be used for this purpose: https://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/passengers/campaign_en

In the ATC for available statistics for reasons related to air traffic control (so-called ATC delays or ATFM delays falling under Group 8). In 2019, there are significant problems with airspace capacity in Austria, Germany and Hungary. The graph shows the average flight delay for the regional control centers, which generated the most delays since the beginning of the year:

 

 

Delays for air traffic control reasons are generated not only in the airspace but also at the airports. The chart below shows the airports where ATCs have generated the most delays since the beginning of the year.

It should be noted that the delays above are solely related to Air Traffic Control (ATC) reasons, but they are not the only reasons that lead to flight delays. The graph below shows the ATC delay reasons for the overall delay:    

 

 

ATC delays are in the range of 1.5 - 1.8 minutes per flight, while the total delay is 6.54 minutes per flight. If added to the delays from a previous flight (reactionary delays), the average delay is 10.69 min per flight.

Note: The difference in ATC delay values reported by Network Manager and airlines is due to different measurement methods.

It should be noted that the amount of delays generated undergoes significant seasonal variations and delays in the summer are significantly higher than those generated in winter. The figure below shows the seasonal variations of the delay due to the ATC reasons. It can be seen that winter slumps (January 2019) average less than 0.5 minutes per flight, while in summer (June 2019) they are more than 5 times more:

 

The text of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules for compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of refusal of access is available on the official website of the Directorate General Civil Aviation Administration board and cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91. The regulation can also be found at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/BG/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32004R0261&from=BG 

According to Article 7 (1) of the Regulation, the right to compensation of passengers in case of delayed flight is as follows:

а)

250 EUR for all flights up to 1500 km;

 

b)

EUR 400 for all flights within the territory of the Community exceeding 1 500 kilometers and for all other flights between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometers;

 

c)

EUR 600 for all flights not covered by (a) or (b).

 

The Directorate General Civil Aviation for will continue to exert ex-post controls on air and ground operators to enforce Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 and to respect passengers' rights.

Minister Jeliazkov informed the Council of Ministers about the results of the inspection.